Grassroots Bioblitz: What is it?
A grassroots bioblitz is an event where local volunteers organize and conduct an intensive survey of the biological diversity of a park or other natural area. Participants record observations of as many different organisms as possible – everything from algae to alligators. The event typically lasts for a few hours to a day, and observations are recorded through a smartphone application.
Variations of this model have been used to run more than two dozen bioblitzes by both Nerds for Nature and the California Academy of Sciences. It works!
10 steps to a successful bioblitz
1. Pick a partner (6+ weeks out)
- A local park group/friends of has built in knowledge, enthusiasm, and reach. Work with them!
- Get them excited and support their involvement. That’s where your local knowledge and lots of turnout will happen.
2. Pick a park (6+ weeks out)
- Ideally it’s accessible for lots of people
- And the agency is on board -- make sure of that! Since collecting specimens is totally optional, getting agency buy-in should be easy, but event permits might be required. (Too much red tape? Pick a different park.)
3. Pick a date (4+ weeks out)
- A weekend
- Early birding is great, but it’s a good idea to have a midday shift or afternoon, so more casual folks feel welcome.
- One kind of ticket, keep it simple.
- Use iNat’s Bioblitz project type with EventBrite integration. Here's some nice documentation on that from iNat. (Note they even describe an easy method to use their search filters for a super-informal blitz without fancy project page and EventBrite. If you're just getting into iNat, this is a good option for a test run.)
- Make this your one SINGLE destination for the event. We have found this really useful: Registration, in-event progress, and final results all in one place. Plug all your partners there, and focus all your efforts there. Don’t create multiple web destinations and dilute your marketing.
5. Find a wrap location (2+ weeks out)
- With cell reception, power, maybe food, definitely wifi. This is where you’ll make sure everyone uploaded their sightings and you show off results on a big projection. We’ve used libraries (often free and excellent), education centers, and pizza places. The main purpose is to provide closure and help newbies who might give up on the upload process b/c it’s too frustrating or confusing.
- Make sure you can get a projector and use it to show off cool photos and stats.
- If you can get WiFi, great. If not, consider a Karma portable hotspot.
6. Recruit experts and team leaders (2-3 weeks out)
- Knowledge is good
- Enthusiasm, friendliness, and comfort with iNat is essential! Knowing how to take an identifiable photo is often more valuable in a leader than taxonomic expertise.
7. Get the word out! (2-3 weeks out)
- Post to social media! Link straight to iNaturalist Project Page.
- Email to your own and your partner’s lists! This is crucial! Link straight to iNaturalist Project Page.
- Write a press release (optional), link to iNat, add photos, and send to local journalists, events calendars (most newspapers and news websites have these, plus there are sites like upcoming.com, and zvents.com), nature nonprofits (most have newsletters!) Link straight to iNaturalist.
- Most RSVPs come in last two weeks, especially the final week. This is normal.
- Did we mention you should link straight to iNaturalist? It’s important that people have a single, unambiguous place to go to sign up and get info.
8. Divide up the park. Get or make maps if you need them (2 weeks out)
- If you’re doing a zone map (useful to get distribution in a large park, but a bit of a pain), this is the time to make your printed map and iNat guide. Or just point people to an existing park map.
- Send out reminder emails (3 and 1 day out)
- Hint: Use Eventbrite’s handy emailer!
- Keep it short. People won’t read a long email. Here’s an example.
- Link back to iNat Project Page for the nitty gritty
9. Bring stuff to the event (0 days out!)
- Printed maps
- Sign-up sheets/release forms if needed (avoid if not, just more friction that eats of blitz time). Bonus points if you export the attendee info from Eventbrite preregistration and import it into your sheet. Many fewer handwritten emails to decipher!
- Name tags
- Wrap session: Projector, laptop, extension cord, portable hotspot (if needed), array of field guides, and prizes if you want (though these have proven mostly extraneous).
- Bring snacks! Not too many. Don’t go nuts on that front, but a little is nice.
10. Have fun!
Want more? Read our much more detailed Bioblitz Recipe Book!