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Cooloola Bioblitz 2022 Wrap Up

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The latest Cooloola Bioblitz took place in November 2022, so how did it go?

What is a Bioblitz? One answer is “an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area within a set time frame.” I-Naturalist, the app used to record many discoveries of Cooloola Bioblitz, offers this definition:

A bioblitz is a communal citizen-science effort to record as many species within a designated location and period as possible. Bioblitzes are great ways to engage the public to connect to their environment while generating valuable data for science and conservation. They are also an excuse for naturalists, scientists, and curious members of the public to meet in person in the great outdoors and are a lot of fun!

Groups of scientists, naturalists, artists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period. For the first time, the 2022 Cooloola Bioblitz was held in November. This allowed regular participants to see species at different life cycle stages or growth. Evidence shows success in documenting the species found in the Cooloola region and allowing the very productive networking between experts and keen amateurs that leads to a deeper understanding of interconnections within ecosystems.

The host group, Cooloola Coast Care Association Incorporated (CCAI), reported that the feedback they received from the team leaders and participants was highly positive and enthusiastic. CCAI President, Linda Tabe, said, “Clearly, professional scientists and citizen scientists alike relished their time discovering the biodiversity of the beautiful Cooloola environment.”  Linda paid tribute to event organisers Lindy and Randy Orwin and the many CCAI volunteers who helped ensure the smooth running of the event.

The Rainbow Beach/Cooloola bioblitz was born in 2018. As explained above, a bioblitz is an intensive citizen science project where each team has a scientist leader and a group of volunteers. Participants can choose between birds, small mammals, arachnids, and different types of vegetation (such as grasses or sedges). For example, at the first bioblitz in 2018, the arachnid group discovered 39 previously undescribed arachnids!

In 2022, Bioblitz teams revisited several iconic places around Cooloola, including Seary’s Creek, the Bymien track and Lake Poona, Carlo Sand Blow, the Big Blackbutt and the patterned fens. This year, Lindy Orwin organised for Bioblitz teams to have 4WD access into the heart of the national park to survey areas unexplored by previous Bioblitzes. Team leaders Greg Tasney and Scott Gavens shared their awe-inspiring skills in plant identification in the field and contributed enormously to the documentation of the weekend’s results in iNaturalist. An exciting find was a flowering specimen of the yellow hyacinth orchid (Dipodium hamiltonianum).

In 2021 and 2022, nature journalist Dion Dior led groups sketching in the field. She emphasised the value of sketching quickly outdoors, indicating the setting and vegetation. Journals by Dion were on display and revealed how sketches complement photographs. In a sketchbook, one can annotate weather, season, time of day, and other details. On Day 2, the Nature Journal group had an exciting time investigating pandanus trees with team Leader Joel Fostin. 

Randy Orwin has provided these remarkable results from observations recorded on i-Naturalist:

Observations – 2,826

Species – 797

Observers, people who created the record – 61

Identifiers, people helping us to identify the observations – 195

Research Grade Observations – 1,544 or 58.35%

Plants – 373 species or 46.98%

Insects – 225 species or 28.34%

Spiders – 76 species or 9.57%

Fungi – 42 species or 5.29%

Birds – 27 species or 3.4%

Smaller numbers fall into ray-fin fishes, molluscs, amphibians, reptiles and miscellaneous species.

Listed species – 53 observations of 17 species

  • 1 critically endangered
  • 5 endangered
  • 6 Vulnerable
  • 5 Near Threatened

The 2022 Bioblitz set a new record for the number of people who made observations and people who joined the Cooloola Bioblitz 2022 Collection Project. Randy reported that 98 participants, including 17 team leaders, were at the event.

Looking to the future, when demand for natural resources will put pressure on every ecosystem on the planet, the Bioblitz format seems a promising way to engage residents to become citizen scientists and defend their local region’s biodiversity treasures.

Article contributed by Zela Bissett, FIDO

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