Coordinated California Coastal BioBlitz set for June 2016

Dust off your rubber boots. Dig out your Chacos or Tevas. Grab a tide table and a friend. Get your cameras and smartphones ready!

Over the week of June 4th-June 12th we need you to get out to the coast, search for as many plant and animals as you can find, and share photos of your discoveries on the website and app, iNaturalist.  

Snapshot Cal Coast is a statewide effort to document our coastal biodiversity and hold a series of bioblitzes up and down the California Coast, focusing on intertidal zones in marine protected areas (MPAs). With funding from the Resources Legacy Foundation, the California Academy of Sciences will be working with the MPA Collaborative Network and other partners to create a ‘snapshot’ in time of what species are where along our coast.

We are planning over 15 bioblitzes, covering at least one MPA in each coastal county. However, any observation from the California coast will be counted and part of the data shared with scientists, natural resource managers, and well, everyone – the data are open and public so everyone can see what we find. 

You can explore on your own, or join a bioblitz near you – please contact us at snapshotcalifornia@calacademy.org for more information, or sign up to participate here

What is a bioblitz?
Bioblitzes bring people together to document biodiversity in one place at one time, recording observations of plants and animals using smartphones or digital cameras and uploading results to the biodiversity recording and social networking platform iNaturalist. These events connect people of all backgrounds to the outdoors, inspire everyone to protect biodiversity, and at the same time generate invaluable data.

Working together, we can learn a lot more about our coast. We are off to a pretty good start here in the Golden State – click here to explore all of the observations made with iNaturalist along the entire California coast over the past nine years. In a typical grassroots, one day bioblitz, together with ~50 volunteers we make 1500 observations of about 250 species in 3-4 hours. So, over these few days in June, we could add 14,000 observations and for the first time generate a coast-wide snapshot of California Coastal biodiversity.  

Here are a few examples of fun and successful bioblitzes:

Why bioblitz?
We have never attempted a coordinated bioblitz on this scale with specific questions in mind. This series of coastal bioblitzes and individual observations will gather data critical to understanding and managing marine species, build awareness of the biodiversity of the California coast and the MPA Collaborative Network, bring together local community in support of marine stewardship, recruit new volunteers, and be really fun.

Together we will increase knowledge of California’s ocean and coastal habitats and their wildlife populations. We will foster collaborations among state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and tribes, and engage a broad range of California’s communities in activities that promote coastal conservation and connect us to nature and each other. This series of events will also work to build and expand our community of citizen scientists and stewards who can collectively advance scientific research and protection of California’s marine resources. The resulting data will be invaluable to managers and scientists for determining long-term trends, and we will be the first to use tools such as iNaturalist at scale to monitor California’s MPAs at the same moment in time.

What are we looking for?
Our goal is to document as many species as possible, from as many places as possible. We are, though, specifically interested in a handful of species and groups. These taxa are things that are affected by emerging diseases, introduced species, species with limited data on their ranges, or species whose ranges are affected by changing oceanic conditions and habitat modification.

We have put together a list of ‘most wanted list’ based on our own questions, and in consultation with others in the scientific community, The Ocean Science Trust, The Coastal Conservancy, and California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Click on each species name to see the existing observations of each species in California on iNaturalist.

Snapshot Cal Coast Most Wanted Species

  1. All starfish species; especially Leptasterias spp., Pisaster brevispinus, & Pycnopodia helianthoides with special attention to wasting symptoms in all species
  2. Purple sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus,  including any evidence of balding
  3. Barnacles; Megabalanus californicus and Tetraclita rubescens
  4. Nudibranchs, especially Felimare californiensis, Flabellina iodinea, Okenia rosacea, & Phidiana hiltoni 
  5. California spiny lobsters, Panulirus interruptus, molts and live animals
  6. Oysters; Crassostrea gigas & Ostrea lurida
  7. Seaweeds, especially Postelsia palmaeformis, Saccharina sessilis, Sargassum horneri, & Undaria pinnatifida
  8. California mussel beds, Mytilus californianus
  9. Starburst anemone, Anthopleura sola
  10. Red bryozoan, Watersipora spp.

How to get involved:

  • Sign up here to be kept up to date on bioblitz events near you. 
  • Would you like to gather people to make observations? Contact us about organizing your own event at snapshotcalifornia@calacademy.org
  • Learn more about iNaturalist and how to get started with an account and make observations. 
  • Get out on the coast during the week of June 4th-12th, make and share the records of the plants and animals you see, especially things on our most wanted list.
  • Spread the word!  Share this post on social media.

The project will utilize the MPA Collaborative Network we have all worked so hard to create and maintain—creating opportunities for Californians of all ages to contribute to scientific research and MPA monitoring and to connect to nature, each other, and our important MPA network. Go Team!

Remember: Sign up here to be kept up to date on bioblitz events near you.
If you have any questions or thoughts contact Rebecca Johnson and Alison Young at snapshotcalifornia@ calacademy.org