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Spring 2014 Personal Bioblitz
with more information and results (Botany 2014
Abstract text (Botany 2014
Personal Bioblitz: a new way to encourage biodiversity
knowledge in K-99 education and outreach.
by Lena Struwe, Allison Anholt, Joni Baumgarten,
Natalie Howe, and Nicholas Pollock.
Broad and detailed knowledge about species around
us in everyday life has decreased among the public in the
last decades. In general, we recognize fewer trees, edible
plants and fungi, vertebrate and invertebrate animals, and
spend less time on such topics in schools and universities.
Even faculty and graduate students in ecology and evolution,
the broadest fields of biology, find themselves unable to
identify everyday species to genus, and may even be
completely unaware of them. We wanted to counter such
'species blindness' among ourselves and our colleagues and
learn more about the biodiversity we see every day as
researchers, consumers, and human beings.
We arranged the World's First Personal Bioblitz at Rutgers
University (New Brunswick, NJ, USA) from March 1 to May 15,
2014, where participants discovered, identified, and listed
species they encountered during an extended time period. The
challenge was to record as many unique species as possible
per person, and to cumulatively see more than 2000 different
species. We included all organismal groups, except viruses,
and all places on earth (except locations like museums where
species are labeled). Species in food could only be counted
if eaten by participants. Identifiable remains of once
living species counted, including fossils, antlers, and
empty shells. Bird and frog calls counted even if the
species was not seen.
The result was 7270 observations from 30 participants (63%
graduate students), included 3474 unique taxa, 91%
identified to species, and 65% listed only by one person.
Personal lists included 5 to 1123 species. The most reported
species were birds (blue jay, cardinal, and robin; 18
participants). The most commonly found plant family was
Asteraceae (90 species). Dog and cat (16 observations each)
were more often reported than Homo sapiens (12 reports). 604
observations (8%) were eaten; broccoli and oranges by most
(10 reports each). The most commonly reported group was
plants (1623 species), followed by birds (791 species) and
invertebrates (513 species). Observations of organismal
groups did not strictly correspond to number of estimated
species worldwide, but appeared to be more related to
perceived charisma, body size, and organism mobility.
Overall the project was highly successful. Participants
reported highly increased ability to 'see' species in
everyday environments and to identify and classify new
groups. Participants became aware of and familiar with new
tools of species identification, which will allow continued
learning, and strongly increased their biodiversity
knowledge and eagerness to learn more.