A BioBlitz Retrospective: Why Everyone Counts

A young naturalist gets a lift up to view surf smelt eggs under the microscope. Photo: Kelly Keenan

Six years ago, I met Vashon Nature Center’s director Bianca Perla at Vashon Tea Shop. I had read about the center in an article in The Beachcomber and I wanted to learn more. I was looking for a new volunteer venture and as a longtime naturalist, the organization’s goals spoke to me. After we introduced ourselves, Bianca dove right into the task at hand: She wanted to hold a BioBlitz the following June—just a few months away. I had heard about these 24-hour species counts, and loved the idea of helping to launch one close to home. I scribbled notes as we sipped our tea, and I left that day with a to-do list. We were going to make this happen!

That first Vashon Nature Center BioBlitz in 2012, held at Neill Point on the south-end of Vashon, was more fun that I ever expected. From finding the first (and only butterfly) species

VNC Director Bianca Perla greets guests at the BioBlitz retrospective show on Nov. 17. Photo: Kelly Keenan

of the day with my 13-year-old—a Western Tiger Swallowtail— to viewing for the first time the transparent sci-fi-esque body of a skeleton shrimp. Though our ages ranged from 2 to 82, we were all like kids that day—playing in the woods and on the beach, discovering pond bugs that breathe by holding little bubble packets to their faces and that chipmunks thrive in certain island forests.

Attendees peruse field guides–important BioBlitz tools! Photo: Kelly Keenan

It seemed ridiculous that we were having so much fun and still doing the work of real science—witnessing and recording the diverse wildness that shares this island with us. Even Homo sapiens was counted—not above, but right alongside the finger-nail sized pond snail and the Bald Eagle. Our slogan of “Everyone counts” perfectly held the event’s delightful double entendre—at a BioBlitz, everyone counts and every one is counted.

For four more years we repeated the fun, growing our team of volunteers and supporters—and recording a total of 1,134 (and counting!) species at five different island locations.

This month we celebrated and shared the accomplishments of this community-driven citizen-science effort at an open house held in the Land Trust’s Heron Room. The “show” will be up for another few weeks, and we invite you to come view hundreds of photos of our island neighbors—web-footed, winged and shelled. Take time to read the posters to learn about the BioBlitz mysteries solved and not. Perhaps you hold one of the answers?

We will begin another BioBlitz series in 2018, and invite you to join us as we continue our quest to record—and in this way honor—as many island species as possible. At this time on Earth—on the edge of what is being called the sixth extinction—it feels more urgent than ever to recognize the brilliant, vital existence of every single being and blade of grass. Every one counts!

Attendees enjoy learning tidbits about each VNC BioBlitz on posters featuring photos of species found during each event. Photo: Kelly Keenan

 

 

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