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BioBlitz Identifies More than 80 Species New to Golden Gate Parks

The initial scientific species count as of the BioBlitz Closing Ceremony this weekend was 2,304, with well over 8,600 observations recorded over the course of the two-day event, the organizers said in a news statement today. More than 80 species were new to the parks species list. At least 15 species were identified as Threatened.

Here is the statement released by the National Park Service, National Geographic Society, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust – the four conveners of the event:

After two intensive days of exploration and documentation, the Golden Gate National Parks BioBlitz held on March 28 and 29, 2014, captured a vivid snapshot of the unique plant and animal biodiversity in the parks. Led by more than 320 volunteer scientists from across the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families and students on school field trips conducted a comprehensive inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds and other species that inhabit several national park sites including Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods National Monument, the Marin Headlands, the Presidio of San Francisco, Mori Point and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

Highlights included:

  • About 9,000 people, including more than 2,700 school children, participated in the BioBlitz and the concurrent Biodiversity Festival.
  • Over 80 species were discovered that are new to the parks’ species list, including a primitive, freshwater sponge, and sightings of 15 threatened species, including the Mission Blue butterfly were documented.
  • The initial scientific species count as of the 3:45 p.m. BioBlitz closing ceremony on Saturday, March 29, was 2,304, with well over 8,600 observations recorded over the course of the two-day event. Organizers expect this number to increase significantly over the next several months as cutting-edge testing of the collected samples continues.
  • The first-ever canopy survey of redwoods at Muir Woods provided new information about the height, age and condition of the giant trees.
  • The first observation of a gulf fritillary butterfly in the park occurred at El Polin in the Presidio of San Francisco, and the first-ever park sighting of a climbing salamander was in Muir Woods.
  • Other unusual sightings were great horned, spotted, barred and saw-whet owls; a mountain lion photographed on a wildlife camera at Rancho Corral de Tierra; and two bald eagles in the Marin Headlands.
  • The Biodiversity Festival at Crissy Field’s East Beach included a wide variety of music, hands-on science activities, talks, art and live-animal demonstrations. The festival showcased biodiversity across the Golden Gate National Parks and encouraged the Bay Area community to get excited about and involved in protecting and becoming stewards of the natural environment. Many visitors interacted with representatives of prominent science, nature and environmental organizations at more than 55 booths.

 

Western Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) at Crissy Field in winter. Photograph by Jessica Weinberg, NPS.
Western Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) at Crissy Field in winter. Photograph by Jessica Weinberg, NPS.

 

Photograph by Alison Taggart
Photograph by Alison Taggart

 

The BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom. Participants combed the park,s observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Activities included counting seals, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems across the parks.

“Today we discovered one of the most primitive, multicellular life forms—a freshwater sponge in El Polin. This discovery clearly indicates that this area has been a watershed for thousands of years as this gemmule—or desiccated version of a sponge—could only have survived on land if it had some access to water,” said Robert Kimsey, forensic entomologist and faculty advisor to the UC Davis Entomology Club, whose students made the discovery. “It is possible that this sponge has been in this watershed since before humans lived in the Presidio.” The recent restoration of El Polin in the Presidio of San Francisco is part of a larger effort to revitalize the Tennessee Hollow Watershed.

 

Photo by Chee/NPS
Photo by Chee/NPS

 

“BioBlitz puts a spotlight on the value of science in America’s national parks and offers a unique opportunity for the general public, especially young people, to learn firsthand how important science is in managing parks for the future,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, who joined BioBlitzers in the Marin Headlands and at Crissy Field on Saturday. “We hope that this experience will inspire the next generation to pursue a career in park science.”

“Watching scientists, students and the general public in the field exploring puts a smile on my face,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for research, conservation and exploration. “Scientists joined students and residents from the surrounding communities and celebrated their unique roles as members of the natural systems where they live. The iNaturalist app, paired with smart phones and pumped-up cell service courtesy of Verizon Wireless allowed us to document species like never before. This enabled more real-time tracking, greater public involvement, and a faster, larger species count.”

 

Photograph by Clay Bolt
Photograph by Clay Bolt
Photograph by Neil Losin
Photograph by Neil Losin

 

The Golden Gate National Parks BioBlitz was the eighth in a series of 10 annual BioBlitzes hosted by the National Geographic Society and the National Park Service leading up to the National Park Service centennial in 2016. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio Trust joined the partnership for this year’s event. During closing ceremonies the BioBlitz flag was passed to Cindy Orlando, superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where the ninth BioBlitz will take place on May 15-16, 2015.

The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; the second took place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; Biscayne National Park, outside Miami, was the 2010 site; Saguaro National Park in Tucson hosted the 2011 BioBlitz; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was the 2012 host park, and the 2013 BioBlitz took place at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

BioBlitz 2014 has been made possible through generous corporate support from Verizon Wireless and Southwest Airlines, and generous foundation support from the Verizon Foundation, the Evelyn Tilden Mohrhardt Fund at the San Francisco Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation and the Pisces Foundation. Additional organizational support has been provided by NatureBridge and the Point Reyes National Seashore Association.

National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since the Service’s inception; the Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.

View the highlights of BioBlitz 2014 in the Golden Gate National Parks on social media using hashtag #BioBlitz2014. For more information about BioBlitz, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz.

 

By Mason Cummings, Golden Gate Parks Conservancy
Photograph by Mason Cummings, Golden Gate Parks Conservancy
Photograph by Neil Losin
Photograph by Neil Losin
Photograph by Clay Bolt
Photograph by Clay Bolt

 

Photograph by Jen Shook
Photograph by Jen Shook

Correction: This post was edited to correct an error which stated that sightings of 15 threatened species were documented, including “Mission Blue moss”.  The species documented was Mission Blue butterfly.