Friday, August 24, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz: Taking Stock of The Continental Divide & Celebrating Biodiversity

Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the most expansive areas of alpine terrain in the United States as well as beautiful forests and mountain meadows.

To better understand, appreciate and protect this national treasure, the National Park Service and National Geographic Society are teaming up to host a 24-hour BioBlitz species count and a two-day Biodiversity Festival, Aug. 24-25, 2012. Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, the BioBlitz will bring together 200 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, thousands of local citizens of all ages and nearly 1,000 students from around the state. Together they will comb the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting elk, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique national park. In this extraordinary experience open to the public, participants are invited to work with experts to count, map and learn about the park’s diverse organisms, ranging from microscopic bacteria to towering pines.

To be part of an inventory team, you must register online beginning Wednesday, July 25. While children ages 8 and older may participate in inventory teams with their parents, there will also be age-appropriate activities for younger kids at the Biodiversity Festival to be held at the Estes Park Fairgrounds, 1209 Manford Avenue. The Biodiversity Festival, which will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 25, will feature music, live animals, science demonstrations, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, food and art. This free event is open to “explorers” of all ages. Members of the public can even “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in select activities. No registration is required for the festival. For a schedule of events, go to National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, who is scheduled to attend, said, “The BioBlitz offers each of us, especially young people, the opportunity to discover and connect to nature.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the National Park Service’s 96th birthday on Aug. 25!” Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker said, “This will be a great family event, and we invite everyone who knows Rocky, or wants to know the park better, to get involved. There is amazing biodiversity that exists within the park and in our own backyards. We hope locals and visitors will participate in this one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect even deeper with this special place.” “We expect to reach new heights at Rocky,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of Research, Conservation and Exploration. “We will have leading scientists from around the country and the region to help citizens explore the park like never before. One of our BioBlitz scientists, Dr. William Miller, just published about a new species he discovered at the Biscayne BioBlitz in 2010. We look forward to working with Dr. Miller, other amazing scientists and the public to make new discoveries — personal and perhaps scientific — and appreciate the rich biodiversity in the park and our own backyards.”

The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz has been made possible through the generous support of foundations and corporations. Through National Geographic’s partnership efforts, the 2012 presenting sponsors are Verizon Wireless and GEICO. Additional corporate and foundation support comes from Southwest Airlines and the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation. National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since it helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century. The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz is part of the organizations’ latest joint venture.

It is the sixth of 10 annual BioBlitzes that will be held at national park units around the country, leading up to the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016. The first annual BioBlitz took place in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The others have been at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009; Biscayne National Park in Florida in 2010; and Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011. Smaller-scale events throughout the year happen at various national parks across the country, and information about these can be found here.