Rutgers New Brunswick/Piscataway Campus
Personal Bioblitz
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Spring 2014 Personal Bioblitz

Poster with more information and results (Botany 2014 conference): link (pdf)

Abstract text (Botany 2014 conference):  link  (text below)

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.

 

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