by Dr. Sarah Treanor Bois, PhD
Director of Research & Education at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation
It’s once again BioBlitz time on Nantucket! July is the perfect time for a BioBlitz. It’s peak growing season, height of insects, the tail end of nesting season for many birds, decent weather for beachcombing, and there are lots of people on-island to help count them all!
A BioBlitz, traditionally, is a biological survey to document every living thing over a certain amount of time in a designated area. Usually, it’s for a short period of time; 24 hours or a weekend. However, our Nantucket BioBlitz will be held for the entire month of July to catalog as many living things as possible.
The Nantucket BioBlitz has been an annual event since 2020 and is hosted by the Nantucket Land Council (NLC) and the Linda Loring Nature Foundation (LLNF). What started as a response to COVID, with nature exploration being one of the only safe activities, has morphed into a month-long deep dive into all living things on Nantucket.
Starting July 1, participants using the iNaturalist app take photos of any living thing and upload them to the database. Participants can enter a name for the species or let the algorithm suggest an ID based in the photo, location, and season. Volunteer verifiers then add an identification or confirm the ID you may have given the observation.
iNaturalist is one of the most popular nature apps in the world, helping people identify plants, animals, insects, microbes, etc. It is a joint project between the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. As of this writing, there are more than 105 million observations from around the world documenting more than 384,000 species. This huge database is used by scientists to track different aspects of nature. By recording and sharing observations, you create researchquality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.
Participating in the July BioBlitz is a great way to learn about iNaturalist (which many of us use year-round) and to learn about local biodiversity. The Linda Loring Nature Foundation hosted an online workshop last winter on using iNaturalist. A recording can still be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=hbwLjGeHPZk.
During the 2021 BioBlitz, participants more than doubled the target goal for number of submissions and number of species with total reports of over 2,200 observations and 861 species. A few highlights of observations include dog-vomit slime mold, chain-dot geometers, and Northern Harriers.
For 2022, we’re hoping to beat last year’s numbers and we’d love for you to participate. There are prizes for most observations and unique finds. Last year, the most observed species for the month was common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) which eked in a win with one more observation than the common milkweed. Which species will take the lead this year…will be a plant again or possibly an insect or mollusk that could take the lead?
To participate, head out to any location on-island with your smartphone, snap a picture of the species you see, upload to the iNaturalist app, and join NLC and LLNF for Bioblitz 2022. You can document nearly any living thing you find—fish, crabs, insects, flowers, trees, and more—to help document the many special species found on Nantucket Island.
Visit the project page at inaturalist.org/projects/nlc-and-llnf-bioblitz-2022 to keep tabs on what’s been seen where and who the leaders are. As of this writing the event has just started and there’s a tie for most observations: goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana) and yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum). These are followed closely by Black Cherry Leaf Gall Mite. I expect these to be overtaken by more showy flowers and charismatic species as the month continues.
If you want to BioBlitz with others or just learn more about iNaturalist, join one of the Linda Loring Nature Foundation’s guided walks on Friday mornings. For the month of July, they will be focusing on using iNaturalist and documenting species. Representatives from the Nantucket Land Council will also join. The walks are free, but participants are asked to register at llnf.org/events.
By taking part in the 2022 BioBlitz challenge, not only are you engaging with our beautiful open spaces and varied habitats, you are fostering a love for the outdoors for yourself, your children, and joining a community of like-minded environmentalists. To find out more and to receive updates on the results of the BioBlitz, follow LLNF and NLC on social media or sign up for their newsletters.