What is a BioBlitz?

A BioBlitz is a period of intensive and collaborative cataloguing of the organisms living in a specific area. Some BioBlitzes are open to the public, but our 2021 BioBlitz is for Macaulay sophomores and invited guests, and will be done remotely following public health guidelines. You will not need to leave your neighborhood–or even your home!–to participate. Instead of the 24-36 hours we usually spend on a BioBlitz, our 2021 Remote BioBlitz will take place throughout the month of September.

When is the BioBlitz?

The 2021 Remote BioBlitz takes place for the entire month of September 2021.

Where is the BioBlitz?

The 2021 BioBlitz is taking place remotely. That means the BioBlitz is wherever you are!

You will not be asked to participate in any group gatherings or activities due to COVID-19, but if public health guidelines allow for it, we may offer some optional outdoor activities. If you have any questions, or are being asked to do something that doesn’t feel safe for you, let us know at bioblitz@macaulay.cuny.edu.

Who should attend? Do I have to sign up?

The 2021 Remote BioBlitz is for Macaulay sophomores (that’s the class of 2024). If you are a Macaulay sophomore, this is a required event and you must register in advance. Registration will open in August 2021.

How do we collect information?

We will use a program called iNaturalist to record information. Please create an account with iNaturalist. Android and iPhone apps are available, so if you have one of those, please download the app. You can also use iNaturalist through a web browser. iNaturalist creates geotagged, time-stamped observations when you use it to take photos of organisms (or upload photos from your photo library). You can obscure the exact location of your observation if you have privacy concerns.

What happens to the data we collect?

Data will be used in your Seminar 3 classes and by scientists and others who study the various forms of life you will encounter. Ecological data is sometimes important for policy decisions. Data will also be available on this web site for public use.

I have another question.

Contact Lisa Brundage. Include your name in the subject line.

My species identification skills are weak. How will I know what I am looking at?

iNaturalist is a program and app that uses both built in species suggestions and community crowdsourcing to identify and verify observations that users make. The app can make a suggestion for you about the species, or you could put in something broad like “bird” or “plant.” (The built in suggestions are not always correct, especially if the photo isn’t great, but they are often on the right track.) Other users will then be able to look at your observations and suggest, correct, or verify the identifications. Of course if you are certain of what you have observed, add as much detail as you can. And if you are good at identifying species in our area, try your hand at verifying observations others have made. Once enough members of the community agree on the species identification, the observation is marked “research grade.”

If you are particularly interested in birds, there are also some other free apps that can help you. eBird is a free app and database for documenting birds. You can use it to explore the bird observations in your neighborhood or NYC in general. Merlin Bird ID is a free app that helps you to identify birds. When you open Merlin Bird ID, it will ask you to install a specific “Bird Pack” so that you don’t have to download the whole database. Choose US:Northeast for the birds relevant to the BioBlitz.

I’m concerned about animal welfare. What can you tell me?

For the 2021 Remote BioBlitz, we will only be observing animals visually. Do not handle (or even attempt to handle) wild animals!

If you are interested in animal welfare at a typical Macaulay BioBlitz, here is some information that about that.

Many of the animal species we observe during the BioBlitz are only visually observed, or recorded through some other non-invasive means, such as track plates or infrared cameras. Some species, such as turtles, fish, and bats, are caught in specialized nets or traps, and released, unharmed, after they have been identified. All vertebrate animal trapping and handling activity is regulated by permits from the DEC and from CUNY’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). In most cases, only taxon leaders may directly handle animals, and all taxon leaders will be able to explain the procedures they use to identify and study animals, and why it is important to do so.
A small number of insects and spiders and potentially some mollusks (such as slugs) are trapped and humanely euthanized so that they can be studied in a lab. (If you have specific questions about procedures, you can ask a taxon leader.) Taking samples to a lab allows for more accurate species identification, which is an important part of studying the area’s ecosystem. If you want to be on a team with only vegan activity, you may indicate this when you register.
If you want to know more about why it’s important to collect specimens, check out this video.

I want to participate, but do not feel comfortable going outside during the pandemic.

We understand! We will provide guides so you can participate from inside your home. Visit our Observing from Inside page for a list of possible observations you can make from home.