Bring your sense of wonder to a 24-hour BioBlitz at Point Defiance Park

Curious volunteers needed for April 27-28 biodiversity census; no experience needed

If you’ve ever wondered just how many different living organisms make their home in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, you’re invited to help Metro Parks Tacoma find out.

A sense of wonder is all you need to sign up as a volunteer for the park’s next BioBlitz, a survey of all living things encountered in the park. (Volunteers also need to be 8 or older.)

This year’s BioBlitz takes place from 2 p.m. April 27 to 2 p.m. April  28. If you sign up – shifts lasts only four hours – you’ll join small teams of fellow investigators, guided by expert scientists or naturalists, who will range throughout the park and identify specific forms of life. For example, trees and shrubs, insects or birds. No experience needed, besides that vital sense of wonder and a desire to learn and help others.

You never know who you may meet at Pt. Defiance    Photo by Morf Morford
You never know who you may meet at Pt. Defiance
Photo by Morf Morford

“This is a great way to explore and celebrate the park’s role as a natural wonder that belongs to all of us and deserves our continued conservation commitment,” said Erik Hanberg, one of five members of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “We’re hoping as many as 200 people volunteer.”  

The last park BioBlitz took place in May 2011, when 164 volunteers came together and surveyed nine groups of plants and animals. Among them were fungi, fish, invasive species and both marine and terrestrial invertebrates.

Craig Standridge, community conservation engagement coordinator at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, set up the 2011 event and is playing a similar role in this one. He expects it to be an unforgettable memorable experience for all participants.

“If you volunteer, you get to be involved in a community science project,” Standridge said. “In 2011, we collected 1,353 data points that included 366 unique species of life that call Point Defiance Park home. That’s an impressive amount of data, and you can be part of the effort this year.”

At minimum, the data will help showcase Tacoma’s biodiversity and set a baseline for future studies. The information also might aid park management decisions. If an invasive weed is discovered, for example, park managers will know the exact location thanks to the volunteers.

BioBlitz volunteers must make a four-hour commitment. Please register in advance online or by contacting Standridge at (253) 404-3690. Children as young as 8 are welcome. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

All of the findings will be compiled through iNaturalist, a free app for Android and iPhone users. So if you have a smart phone or tablet, bring it along. But it’s not necessary.

The rendezvous point for the event is Science Central, located in the new Environmental Learning Center just outside the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Volunteers should dress for the weather, preferably in layers, wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and bring water bottles for use outdoors. Food and beverages will be provided at the Environmental Learning Center.

For more detailed information about volunteering, check out these frequently asked questions –

  – Metro Parks

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