Metro Parks seeks volunteers for 24-hour BioBlitz at Point Defiance Park

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Families with children as young as 8 are encouraged to volunteer. All that is needed is a sense of wonder. Photo courtesy of Metro Parks Tacoma

Point Defiance Park is a vast ecosystem where hundreds of plants and animals live and call home. Metro Parks Tacoma wants to focus a 24-hour period of time on documenting exactly what those species are, but the agency is in need of help from the community.

“It’s important for park managers to know what kind of animals are here; if we discover new animals, that informs future studies,” said Craig Standridge, community conservation engagement coordinator for Metro Parks. “We couldn’t do this work without our community members to volunteer. There are not enough scientists to do the research. That’s why we need citizen scientists to collect the data. We want the community to be excited and inspire them to be involved in the natural conservation of their neighborhood.”

Metro Parks is seeking community volunteers to participate in small groups aided by expert scientists and naturalists during the 24-hour BioBlitz event taking place from 2 p.m. Friday, April 27 through 2 p.m. Saturday, April 28. Volunteers must commit to a four-hour shift.

The last BioBlitz occurred seven years ago in May 2011 when 164 community volunteers collected 1,353 data points, which included 366 unique species calling Point Defiance Park home.

“That’s an impressive amount of data, and you can be part of the effort this year,” Standridge said. “If you volunteer, you get to be involved in a community science project.”

Metro Parks is hoping to enlist upwards of 200 volunteers this year. Families with children as young as eight are encouraged to participate. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

“So far, 120 have expressed interest in volunteering, and we have about 70 that are fully signed up,” Standridge said at press time. “A lot of the groups have kids between 8 and 16.”

A group of five seniors from Tacoma Science and Math Institute, located at Point Defiance Park, is taking on BioBlitz as a legacy project. The group is hoping to recruit the majority of students and staff at the school to participate in this year’s BioBlitz and then encourage the high school’s senior class next year and each year moving forward to organize a school-wide BioBlitz. A Tacoma-community BioBlitz, ideally, would be every five years.

“The BioBlitz project is important because it helps us figure out what’s currently in the park,” said Curtis Ganung, a senior in the group. “Hopefully next year BioBlitz will be within SAMI.”

Standridge said there will be 20-30 scientists and naturalists assisting small groups of community volunteers. Naturalists are from Metro Parks. Scientists will be from public organizations and museums like the Burke Museum and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Data will be compiled though iNaturalist, a free app available on Android and iPhone.

“We will be displaying results live in real time within the Environmental Learning Center,” Standridge said. “After the event, we will put the information on the Metro Parks website about what we found.”

To register to volunteer, visit metroparkstacoma.org/bioblitz/ or call Standridge at (253) 404-3690. Volunteer applications will be accepted through 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

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