Bioblitz makes citizens into scientists

Children lead the way, recording beach and bush birds, insects and plants using Naturewatch online tool.

Children lead the way, recording beach and bush birds, insects and plants using Naturewatch online tool.

BIOBLITZ: A group of Gisborne students from the YMCA holiday programme and Gisborne Home School Group took part in a bioblitz at Kaiti Beach on Friday. Rylin Rasmussen, 8, Tony Cornwell, 9, Leia Selwood, 10, Jakahn McCrae-Marino, 10, and Leo Hill, 10, were among the aspiring scientists. Pictures by Liam Clayton
CITIZEN SCIENCE: Mark Tutty, at right of picture, explains to Manawa Harrison, left, and Kaitiaki Lloyd, centre, how to use the online Naturewatch programme to record the different living species at Kaiti Beach.

AROUND 30 Gisborne children are equipped to be citizen scientists after a holiday bioblitz programme at Kaiti Beach this month.

The students split into four groups during the day and recorded more than 40 different species of birds, insects and plants on the beach and nearby bush, using the Naturewatch online tool.

A bioblitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. The children took pictures of their findings and uploaded them on the Naturewatch website to create a record of the biodiversity in the area.

The bioblitz involved children from the YMCA holiday programme and Gisborne home school, and was co-ordinated through Tairawhiti Environment Centre and the Gisborne Department of Conservation branch.

DoC community engagement supervisor Charles Barrie said the holiday programme was to both teach the children about biodiversity in the area and about using the Naturewatch tool.

Their main task was finding living creatures on the beach and surrounding bush, including plants, snails, insects, crustaceans, crabs, hoppers and limpets.

Later they checked tracking tunnels to see what sort of predators were present in the area, including rats, stoats and hedgehogs. They had a range of tools to observe and record their sightings, including microscopes and a laptop.

Real-life Pokemon Go

The online tool and the bioblitz was like a real-life version of Pokemon Go, Mr Barrie said.

“Why spend all of your time staring at a screen chasing Pokemon when you could be on your way to discovering a new species of beetle?”

Citizen scientist Mark Tutty, a fan of the Naturewatch website (and iNaturalist app for smartphones) was on hand through the day to help the children use the online citizen science tool.

“The tool is like a guided bush walk. If you find something and wonder what it is, you can take a picture, upload it and, depending on how complicated it is, from five minutes to a few days later you will have an answer from people all over the world logged into the website. It is like having a troop of scientists behind you, all trying to be first to answer back.”

Mr Tutty started using the tool to gain more knowledge of plants in Gisborne’s botanical gardens. Given the diverse range of species he had online citizen scientists from as far as Mexico helping him identify plants.

“Everyone can be a scientist, you can even use it in your own backyard,” he said.

“It used to be just scientists doing the work and publishing results and the public were not involved. But now the public can see how scientists come to those conclusions in their reports and appreciate it. It is great to be involved in the process and engaged in science. We get better knowledge of biodiversity as we gather more data.”

More bioblitzes

TEC volunteer Jamie Foxley said they are keen to promote more bioblitzes using Naturewatch and members of the public getting involved in citizen science, to improve knowledge of biodiversity in the region.

“For the kids it's like being detectives. They try to find as much as they can while still learning.”

Kaitiaki Nick Tupara of Ngati Oneone opened the day with a korero about the cultural and environmental importance of the area.

He hoped activities like the bioblitz would draw Ngati Oneone people out to do similar things in the landscape.

“It's good to get to know what's out there.”

While Ngati Oneone had entered a co-management arrangement with Gisborne District Council over Titirangi to encourage native regeneration, he believed the work should include Tuamotu Island and Kaiti Beach.

DoC and the Tertiary Education Commission encourage the public to sign up to Naturewatch (naturewatch.org.nz) and log any plants and animals they find on Kaiti Beach (naturewatch.org.nz/projects/kaiti-beach-bioblitz-2017) or elsewhere in the region.

Since the bioblitz other keen nature watchers have made more observations at Kaiti Beach, bringing the total number of species identified to 86.

AROUND 30 Gisborne children are equipped to be citizen scientists after a holiday bioblitz programme at Kaiti Beach this month.

The students split into four groups during the day and recorded more than 40 different species of birds, insects and plants on the beach and nearby bush, using the Naturewatch online tool.

A bioblitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. The children took pictures of their findings and uploaded them on the Naturewatch website to create a record of the biodiversity in the area.

The bioblitz involved children from the YMCA holiday programme and Gisborne home school, and was co-ordinated through Tairawhiti Environment Centre and the Gisborne Department of Conservation branch.

DoC community engagement supervisor Charles Barrie said the holiday programme was to both teach the children about biodiversity in the area and about using the Naturewatch tool.

Their main task was finding living creatures on the beach and surrounding bush, including plants, snails, insects, crustaceans, crabs, hoppers and limpets.

Later they checked tracking tunnels to see what sort of predators were present in the area, including rats, stoats and hedgehogs. They had a range of tools to observe and record their sightings, including microscopes and a laptop.

Real-life Pokemon Go

The online tool and the bioblitz was like a real-life version of Pokemon Go, Mr Barrie said.

“Why spend all of your time staring at a screen chasing Pokemon when you could be on your way to discovering a new species of beetle?”

Citizen scientist Mark Tutty, a fan of the Naturewatch website (and iNaturalist app for smartphones) was on hand through the day to help the children use the online citizen science tool.

“The tool is like a guided bush walk. If you find something and wonder what it is, you can take a picture, upload it and, depending on how complicated it is, from five minutes to a few days later you will have an answer from people all over the world logged into the website. It is like having a troop of scientists behind you, all trying to be first to answer back.”

Mr Tutty started using the tool to gain more knowledge of plants in Gisborne’s botanical gardens. Given the diverse range of species he had online citizen scientists from as far as Mexico helping him identify plants.

“Everyone can be a scientist, you can even use it in your own backyard,” he said.

“It used to be just scientists doing the work and publishing results and the public were not involved. But now the public can see how scientists come to those conclusions in their reports and appreciate it. It is great to be involved in the process and engaged in science. We get better knowledge of biodiversity as we gather more data.”

More bioblitzes

TEC volunteer Jamie Foxley said they are keen to promote more bioblitzes using Naturewatch and members of the public getting involved in citizen science, to improve knowledge of biodiversity in the region.

“For the kids it's like being detectives. They try to find as much as they can while still learning.”

Kaitiaki Nick Tupara of Ngati Oneone opened the day with a korero about the cultural and environmental importance of the area.

He hoped activities like the bioblitz would draw Ngati Oneone people out to do similar things in the landscape.

“It's good to get to know what's out there.”

While Ngati Oneone had entered a co-management arrangement with Gisborne District Council over Titirangi to encourage native regeneration, he believed the work should include Tuamotu Island and Kaiti Beach.

DoC and the Tertiary Education Commission encourage the public to sign up to Naturewatch (naturewatch.org.nz) and log any plants and animals they find on Kaiti Beach (naturewatch.org.nz/projects/kaiti-beach-bioblitz-2017) or elsewhere in the region.

Since the bioblitz other keen nature watchers have made more observations at Kaiti Beach, bringing the total number of species identified to 86.

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