October 19, 2009
1,100 species were documented in just 24 hours!
Some of the Yellowstone area’s top researchers and scientists, along with more than 400 visitors, assembled in the Park in late August for “a modern-day Lewis and Clark exploration” of species in Yellowstone. The Yellowstone National Park BioBlitz -- a 24-hour inventory of all living organisms -- recorded more than 1,100 species of plants and animals in the northwest corner of the Park, and provided many opportunities for fun learning.
A BioBlitz is an event in which teams of scientists, students, and community members find and identify as many local species as they can within a 24-hour period. The concept of a BioBlitz was first developed by renowned Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson to catalog organisms around Walden Pond, the historic site of Henry David Thoreau’s famous dwelling. Since then, many states and other countries have now conducted similar events, and one of the most publicized took place in New York’s Central Park.
While much of the research in Yellowstone is focused on large mammals like wolves, bears, and bison, national park managers would like to better understand ecosystem dynamics. Documenting the species existing in Yellowstone at a single point in time, and then comparing this data to future inventories, can be very helpful. For instance, it can provide an opportunity for early detection of threats to native species such as invasive species or impacts of climate change.
The 125 scientists, Yellowstone staff, and volunteers participating in this first-ever Yellowstone BioBlitz started their search on August 28, and focused on a survey area of 1,237 acres between Mammoth Hot Springs and Indian Creek. During the next 24 hours, they documented more than 1,100 species of flora and fauna ranging from mushrooms and snails, to bats and snakes.
Following the 24-hour collection period, visitors gathered outside the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth on August 29 to learn about the results of the inventory, and to take part in hands-on activities for all ages. They watched a 3-D bug show, played a bird-call memory game, viewed live birds of prey, explored skulls and animal tracks, and inspected some of the Park’s tiniest species under microscopes.
Young visitors participated in Yellowstone's Wildlife Olympics and had fun testing how their own abilities measured up to those of wildlife found in the Park. Children compared their broad jump abilities to the snowshoe hare’s, their balance to the heron’s, their sense of smell to the grizzly’s, and their 50-yard dash to the antelope’s. All participants were winners and were awarded a “Wild About Yellowstone” temporary tattoo.
Photos courtesy of Bianca Klein