Text and Images by Kevin FitzPatrick
A Bio Blitz is a short (usually one-day), intense team effort to discover as many different life forms as possible in one location. This often involves researchers and the general public working together to identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. To date, I have photographed over 45 Bio Blitzes from California to Maine and have done four with National Geographic.
For me, the Bio Blitz compasses all that I want to communicate to my audience about conservation and biodiversity and is a wonderful way to communicate with students and their parents about science! Depending on where they live, young people might get a chance to try their hand at species identification, photography, wildlife sketching, writing about nature, or the discovery of the natural history of their area. No two Bio Blitzes will be the same, as each one will be a reflection of the local environment. It is an opportunity for youth to not only enhance their appreciation of the environment through photography, art and exploration, but also to engage in true citizen science. This can be done through the iNaturalist Mobile Application, which makes use of the Encyclopedia of Life’s Species Collections, allowing participants to document species and upload their observations to a collective map that is available freely online.
Bio Blitzes also connect photographers with scientists who can help them find species that they are looking for. Bio Blitzes also give photographers the ability to expand the range of species that they have in their files. So many of us are focused on megafauna and on common species – we don’t look at the big picture (or maybe the little picture). I am talking about butterflies, beetles, insects of all sorts, frogs, salamanders, and snakes and, yes, slime molds! As the Bio Blitz Concept begins to take off around the country there is going to be a need for these kinds of images. With over 100 parks and refuges around the country now working on Bio Blitzes, it is a great opportunity to take advantage of this in your area.
I am in the process of developing a series of workshops that will address to topic of Bio Blitzes for photographers. Many photography workshops bring participants out into the woods to shoot various habitats. What they usually do not tell you is how all of the species in the habitat connect and interact with each other. My Photography & Bio Blitz Workshop will prepare the participant for attending Bio Blitzes around the country and working with the scientists to photograph the species found in those various habitats. A Bio Blitz workshop can answer your questions about the ecosystem, making you a better photographer and a better Citizen Scientist. I have worked as a professional photographer for years, specializing in nature and conservation photography when I found Meet Your Neighbours (http://meetyourneighbours.net/) a worldwide photographic initiative created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt. 1“The project is dedicated to reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps – and enriching their lives in the process. These creatures and plants are vital to people: they represent the first, and for some, the only contact with wild nature we have. Yet too often they are overlooked, undervalued. This photographic technique is the perfect way to shoot species at a Bio Blitz.” And now I have incorporated this technique into my workshops.
As a photographer the Bio Blitz compasses all that I want to communicate to especially students as well as the general about science as it has the ability to get a lot of people out in nature and working and relating with scientists. As the Bio Blitz Concept begins to take off around the country photographers will have the opportunity to shoot species that they have never thought of shooting! I hope that the workshops I envision will prepare the participant for attending these Bio Blitz across the country.
About Kevin FitzPatrick
Conservation photographer Kevin FitzPatrick has been working at documenting biodiversity and promoting the importance of environmental education for over 40 years. As a member of both NANPA and the International League of Conservation Photographers, Kevin continues to actively teach others about the importance of safeguarding the environment. His youth programs through the National Forest Service and the National Park Service help young people learn to appreciate being protectors of our environment as they participate with scientists in the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI). To learn more about his work and to find out about Bio Blitz Photography Workshops, please visit All Species Photography & Sound.