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BioBlitz: A Fun Way To Approach Community Engagement

February was STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) month! This past February, I wanted to do something for my community. I had previously joined the North Livermore Community Alliance, a group set up to voice neighbor opinions about what to do with an old golf course in the area. I joined to voice my opinion of transforming the old golf course into a permanent open space with trails and information about native plants and animals in the area. I attended a local meeting and learned that much of the community is in favor of maintaining an open space for all to enjoy. Because of this, I thought it would be a great idea to get neighbors out to explore the area. And what better way than to participate in a BioBlitz.

A BioBlitz is when many people come together at one time to record all the plants and animals they see in a specific area. I use iNaturalist, a great tool that allows people to take a photo and record the exact time and location. Others can identify the species in the photo. At the end of the BioBlitz, people can see what lives in the open space.

To get the BioBlitz up and running, I spoke to the leader of the North Livermore Community Alliance. She was incredibly interested and suggested I contact students at the local high schools and community college to volunteer at the event. I also spoke to someone who worked at the school district. She thought it would be a good idea for me to take the BioBlitz into a classroom.

The BioBlitz was planned for a Saturday in February and I created a brochures to teach the community how to use the iNaturalist app. This was to be printed out and handed to families at the school district's science fair, happening on the Thursday evening before the BioBlitz. I attended the fair and was given a table to talk to young students about the BioBlitz. Unfortunately, the brochures were not printed. However, I had brought along items to recruit volunteers to my job with the Living Arroyos program. I was also able to verbally inform families about the BioBlitz.

On the Friday, I became a guest teacher at an elementary school in my neighborhood. I spent about five hours there teaching several classes of third graders about the importance of biodiversity. I told them what I did for a living, sparking quite a bit of interest. One child kept asking me questions about birds and later told me that he wants to be an ornithologist. I had each child create an identification book out of paper. On each page, they drew a plant that I had placed in front of them. I told them to pay particular attention to the leaves, the color, and if they found any insects or flowers on them. I also told them to write down any scent the plant had and where they might find it growing. I told them to add drawings of plants to their book and to keep it handy whenever they ventured outside. I showed them an identification book that I had made when I was in high school that I still keep on my bookshelf today. I thoroughly enjoyed my day as an elementary school teacher!

I had to work on the day of the BioBlitz, meaning I was unable to be at the intended location. I did, however, get to work with volunteers to plant over 100 trees just upstream of the BioBlitz location. My boss allowed me to tell everyone about the BioBlitz event and I showed a few people how to use the app. We then went around and took photographs of the trees that we planted.

It was, unfortunately, raining on the day of the BioBlitz. Students from Interact, the volunteering club at one of the high schools, said that they were unable to attend. I never heard word from the other high school or the community college. A troop of boyscouts also failed to show up. Apparently, there were not many participants, most likely due to the rain.

Although the BioBlitz was not a huge success, I learned a great deal about planning an event. I was able to share the BioBlitz with the team of volunteers at my job and with the children in the elementary school classroom. Perhaps I can plan a more successful BioBlitz event in Oxford next February. Fingers crossed that it doesn't rain (although it's England, so it probably will)!


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