By PATRICIA SIMPSON
The month of April saw two of the most important data-gathering events on iNaturalist for southern California scientists: Border BioBlitz 2021 and City Nature Challenge 2021: San Diego County.
2021 marked the fourth year of the Border BioBlitz, an event held through the month of April (April 1 to May 3 this year), which gathered observations from counties adjacent to the entire US/Mexico border. The project aims to paint a picture of the biodiversity in the area. The data from this recurring event can then help scientists identify species that might need better management and can strengthen the call for collaboration between minds on both sides of the border.
This year, the Border BioBlitz gathered a record 23,791 observations. Most of them (over 19,000) were made in San Diego County and about 1,750 observations were at Mission Trails Regional Park.
The Western Fence Lizard was the most-observed species in the park during this year’s Border BioBlitz. Kudos to our magnificent citizen scientists who joined the project and hit the trails through the month of April to help bolster scientific data!
The 2021 City Nature Challenge was held April 30 to May 3. As last year, it wasn’t a contest between all cities worldwide, due to the pandemic. People were encouraged to stay local and follow health guidelines. Still, the project amassed over 15,000 observations from 798 observers in just four days. Nearly 1,050 observations were made in the park.
The data gathered through these events is extremely important to scientists and wildlife preserve managers. From year to year, the data may answer some important questions: Are certain threatened species recovering or are some increasingly difficult to find? Are there invasive species getting “out-of-hand” and is there a need for intervention to stop or limit their spread? Are some known behaviors changing due to climate variations or catastrophic events such as wildfires? Are local or migratory species changing their habits because of habitat fragmentation or climate change? And many more.
The reality is that many scientists are often stuck behind a desk, organizing research projects, writing grants, analyzing data, writing papers for scientific journals and so on. iNaturalist has offered them a new way to gather data and it is free!
And I don’t know about you, but the fact that a “simple Jane” like me can hit the trails, take photos, post them on a simple online platform (or just use the app on my phone), and know that I’m helping scientists make a difference — all of that tickles me to no end. You can do it too!
— Patricia Simpson runs the iNaturalist program at Mission Trails Regional Park where she is a trail guide.