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Citizen Scientists Help Find Flies In Park Bioblitz

Great Basin National Park

National Park News

Great Basin National Park held its fourth annual bioblitz over three days in late June. This short term event to discover biodiversity helped the park add to its list of diptera (flies) and also provided an excellent venue for sharing the importance of insects with park visitors, staff, and volunteers.

During a 48-hour collecting period, over 50 participants collected thousands of flies. Dr. Riley Nelson from Brigham Young University led the bioblitz, supported by the Nevada state entomologist and his team. In addition, volunteers from Nevada, Utah, California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona and even as far as Oman and Germany came to the event. Additional support came from the Great Basin National Park Foundation and the Western National Parks Association.

Participants collected flies by various methods. Some used nets to sweep vegetation, bowl traps with soapy water to attract flies, aspirators to suck flies off cliff walls, and malaise traps to catch a variety of species. Bioblitz participants filled out data sheets to indicate the location, habitat, and collecting method. Everything was brought back to bioblitz headquarters, where data was entered into a computer, volunteers separated insects from vegetation, and entomologists began sorting samples.

Dr. Nelson announced preliminary results at the end of the collecting period: “We added about 20 families to the park list, including some families that we didn’t expect to get during this bioblitz.”

The bioblitz featured numerous educational programs, including a workshop, kids’ program, a campfire talk, and other talks about diptera. Highlights of the event included seeing citizen scientists in action, particularly families that collected flies while hiking and camping in the park, and a group of local children that came in to bioblitz headquarters and deftly sorted insects out of the vegetation, readying them for further identification. The bioblitz contributed to NPS Call to Action Item 7, “Next Generation Stewards,” which calls for biodiversity discovery activities to take place in at least 100 parks by 2016.

"I am very pleased with the way our fourth annual bioblitz came together,” said Andy Ferguson, the park’s superintendent. “This event has given us an opportunity to learn much more about park resources and the potential of identifying whole new species. And, think about it – how can you protect the park's resources if you don't know what you have?"

A Great Basin National Park bioblitz focusing on a different order of invertebrates in 2013 is in the planning stages.


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