‘BioBlitz’ Aims to Identify and Record Biodiversity in Common, Commonwealth Avenue Mall and Public Garden

The Young Friends of the Public Garden is currently undertaking a “BioBlitz” with the intention of engaging the public to identify and record 2,500 observations of biodiversity and 400 different living species during a one-month period in the Boston Common, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Boston Common.

Dr. Colleen Hitchcock, a professor in the biology department and environmental studies program at Brandeis University, outlined the initiative Tuesday during a virtual instruction session. She said that 1,500 observations of biodiversity and 257 species had already been recorded in the parks since just launching the BioBlitz days beforehand.

Visitors to the three parks can participate using iNaturalist – an app and website (iNaturalist.org) that Dr. Hitchcock said “was conceived as a Facebook for naturalists.”

After participants makes their initial species observation using iNaturalist, they can document it, usually by photographing it, as well as provide information on who they are and where they made the observation. This evidence can include images of species tracks, feathers or waste, “or any evidence of living creatures,” Dr. Hitchcock said.

The visitors are then asked to name the species to the best of their ability, Dr. Hitchcock said, or get it to the family or genus level using automated recognition technology.

Dr. Hitchcock said the information is then disseminated to the Encyclopedia of Life, as well as the Global Diversity Information Facility (GBIF) – a research infrastructure that houses this data.

“The primarily goal is to connect people with nature,” Dr. Hitchcock said of the BioBlitz, “and people just need to get out for an hour or two to record these species.”

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