Diving into a BioBlitz

By Heather Creech

A coastal community coming together to gather data and educate those who will inherit the planet from us. Photo courtesy: Laurene Stefanyk

One gorgeous spring weekend in May, the residents of two small islands in British Columbia got together for something more than coffee. Loaded up with cameras , notebooks, and sample bags, adults and school kids on Mayne and Galiano Islands spread out in order to document all the plants and wildlife across their islands. This was their first joint abioblitzaaan event where people work together to add to the knowledge of local biodiversity and enrich their own appreciation of nature.A

In an unusual step, the Mayne and Galiano Conservation Associations invited divers to join them. The divers were to seek out the life in the surrounding ocean while other participants climbed through woods, photographed birds, and spied into tidal pools.

BioblitzA inA aA Box

Bioblitzes are typically land-based events, following guidelines such as Bio-Blitz in a Box ( www.bioblitzcanada.ca ). A But regrettably, those guidelines are nearly silent on how to include a subtidal component that surveys what is happening in the near and offshore zone. Most suggest only that afor blitzes on the coast, consider inviting local diving clubs and marine societiesa. The guidelines offer little else in the way of tools and methods for the marine component, and there are few examples out there of how organizations have included marine data gathering in a blitz. Mayne and Galiano were in somewhat uncharted province, understanding that collecting subtidal data would have unique logistical, security, and scientific challenges.A

So why did they bother including the marine zones in their bioblitz? Organizers have suggested that a subtidal component has helped people better understand the full picture of the diversity in and around their community. And the collect of marine data can support scientific monitoring already taking place: A as one organizer said, aThe bioblitz has connected the marine scientific community more closely with local divers and the general publica.A

Although challenging, the organizers believed tackling a full-scale blitz from the treetops to the reefs was worth it. A number of important lessons have been learned that may prove useful to others who want to get the bigger picture of the natural world around them 😛 TAGEND

BeA clearA onA theA purpose for the subtidal section and how it fits with other bioblitz activities.

Solid objectives were established for the divers: to add to existing data sets about species within established marine preservation zones; to assess habitat; and to create a baseline of biodiversity as input to measures for protection against pollution. However, most bioblitzes also have an education component: this was not as clearly stated for the divers, although they were keen to show other participants what they were finding through photos and samples.

PlanA wellA inA advance for the event and have designated aleadsa on the day.

The organizers prepared a thorough protocol for divers, outlining safety issues and emergency contacts, techniques, sampling places, and categories to be used. Social media was used extensively to encourage divers is participating in. In future, they may consider designating a alead divera to coordinate the rest of the diving group.A

The survey techniques should ensure that the dataA collectedA willA beA usefulA for science.

The organizers permitted considerable variation in data collection: on some sites, divers were to use a modified version of the REEF( Reef Environmental Education Foundation) roving diver methodology( which lets divers to explore a site freely, recording as many species as they can with their approximate abundances ); other sites had pre-existing transects that the divers were to follow. One scientist felt that in future, a stronger experimental design behind the sampling attempt might add to the validity to the data collected.A

Know how you planA toA analyze and use your data.

Both the Mayne Island and Galiano Island Conservancies hope to use the data for long-term monitoring. The organizers intend to compile the data sheets into a master species list and rest assured that photos are uploaded to iNaturalist. More detailed analysis, however, is up in the air: if hour and resources permit, a student will do some post processing and merge findings with their historical records.

If your coastal community is planning a bioblitz, encourage them to add a subtidal component. It will enrich the communityas understanding that local ecosystems donat stop at the shoreline. And the exert will provide data for tracking habitat and species over the long term, connecting what is happening on land with the vibrant life offshore.A

Heather Creech is a citizen scientist with ReefWatch, dividing her time between Victoria, BC, and Adelaide, South Australia.A To contact her: citizensciencereport @gmail. com

The post Diving into a BioBlitz appeared first on DIVER magazine.

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