Bring on the biodiversity!
How can we determine whether an ecosystem has a good amount of biodiversity? One of the easiest ways is just to look. Use your observation skills and tools you have around your home to check on ecosystems around you. You can find ecosystems anywhere: lakes, ponds, grass fields, parks, and even in your backyard.
* All materials listed are optional. You do not actually need any of these items to do a bioblitz. All you need is something to write with and write on and of course your own observational skills. BUT if you do have the items listed below, they will help you take a closer look at the ecosystems around you.
- Pencils (colored or regular), markers, pens, etc
- Clipboard/hard book/cardboard
- Magnifying glass
- Insect nets/ D-nets
- Old tupperware – make sure to small holes in the lid
- Phone or camera
- Bell observation sheet
- Minnesota mammal guide: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/index.html
- Minnesota reptile/amphibians guide: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/reptiles_amphibians/index.html
- Minnesota fish guide: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fish/index.html
- Minnesota insect guide: https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-type-and-region.asp?thisState=Minnesota&thisType=Bee * some insects on this guide are invasive species*
- Minnesota plant guide: https://webapps15.dnr.state.mn.us/restore_your_shore
- Minnesota bird guide: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/birds/index.html
- Choose your location that you plan to study. You do not need to be in a forest or by a lake to do a bioblitz. You can check for biodiversity near a park, playground, or even by one tree or bush. You might be surprised by what you can find in such a small space.
- Before you leave, make a list of everything you want to do and take a long with you. Do you plan to collect specimens? Are you going to draw or take pictures with your phone? Check your list and materials before heading out.
- Be aware of where you are going to visit. If there are a lot of bugs, you might want to wear bug spray. If it is a sunny day, it would be advisable to wear sunscreen. Check the weather and dress accordingly.
- Head out to location, but make sure you have something to write with and write on. You will want something hard to write on, so if you have clipboard USE IT. If you do not have one, a hard book or cardboard would work just as well.
- Once you reach location, determine how much of an area you want to cover. The bigger the area, the more time you will need to spend there.
- After you have decided on the size go search for life. Remember this includes plant life as well. Plant life is a good indicator of biodiversity and it is also easy to study because it can’t run away.
- When it comes to studying animals, be aware the louder you are and the quicker you move, the less animals you will. Be quiet and go slow.
- If you would like to collect specimens, only collect invertebrates. Invertebrates include: insects, spiders, mollusks, and worms. They are an organism without a backbone. DO NOT collect amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals. Removing these types of animals can cause extreme changes to small ecosystems and many of these animals may spread diseases to you.
- If you do decide to collect a specimen to study at home, remember that you must bring that specimen back from where you took it.
- Use your tupperware to carry your specimen, but be sure that you have included small holes on the lid.
- Stay away from insects that can sting or bite. Best would be to just take a picture or to draw the insect.
- After collecting your data, head back home. If you have taken some specimens with you, study them carefully at home and return to the original location when finished.
- Try to answer the following questions:
- Was there a lot of different plant life in the location?
- Was there a lot of different animal life in the location?
- Why do you think there was or wasn’t a lot of different kinds of life?
- Was the ecosystem you observed biodiverse? Why or why not?
- How do you think you could help with biodiversity in this particular ecosystem?
- If you would like, you can take the data you have collected and input into iNaturalist. This is a website/app that tracks biodiversity in numerous ecosystems around the world, and they use information gathered from observers like yourself to help create protective areas and solve biodiversity issues.
- Either use the Website: https://www.inaturalist.org/ or the app available in any app store.
What can we learn about the world around us by observation?