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BioBlitz 2011: Desert Festival Celebrates the Science of Life

Saguaro National Park, Arizona–Thousands of students joined more than 150 leading scientists in the Saguaro National Park, Arizona, today, to make an inventory of all the plants and animals in the 91,445-acre sanctuary. More than 100,000 schoolchildren were expected to join via the Internet on a National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip.

Saguaro National Park flanks the city of Tucson on both the east and the west. It is a remarkable example of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, including exceptional stands of saguaro cactus, critical rare riparian areas, unique wildlife and impressive desert mountain ranges, the National Geographic Society said in a news release about today’s event.

National Geographic and the National Park Service have teamed up to host 10 annual BioBlitzes that will be held at urban national park units around the U.S., leading up to the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. Today’s event is the fifth BioBlitz in the series. The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California was the BioBlitz site in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; and last year’s BioBlitz was held at Biscayne National Park in Florida.

The Saguaro National Park BioBlitz is a 24-hour species count and a two-day Biodiversity Festival, today and tomorrow. “The Friends of Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are also collaborating in this exciting event to discover, document and celebrate all that lives in the 91,445-acre park,” National Geographic said in its release.

“Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, the BioBlitz will bring together more than 150 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, thousands of local citizens of all ages, more than 2,000 students from the greater Tucson area and more than 100,000 schoolchildren who will join via the Internet on a National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip. Together they will comb the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting cacti, catching insects by day and night, spotting birds, exploring washes, examining aquatic organisms, and observing and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique national park.”

Photo of saquaro cactus by David Braun/National Geographic News

 

The National Geographic BioBlitz website features a streaming Twitter feed, blogs, video clips of scientists and regularly updated photo galleries that capture the finds and experiences of participants. Teachers, students and families across the country are encouraged to participate in the BioBlitz experience remotely via the National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip (EFT). Live EFT broadcasts will be held today at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (ET) and will feature lessons about biodiversity and how these important activities can be done in everyone’s backyard. The Saguaro EFT, made possible through support from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, will also be available for post-event viewing. For more information and to register for the EFT, go to www.electronicfieldtrip.org/saguaro.

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