New Species Added to Park Lists During Bioblitz at Great Basin National Park

Ranger Robb Reinhart talks with park visitors about the area’s ants during the bioblitz. NPS photo.

A "bioblitz" is an intensive, short-term effort by trained scientists and citizen volunteers to conduct an inventory of specific types of plants or animals found in a specific area. A recent effort in Great Basin National Park was very productive, but are you ready and willing to help collect hymenoptera?

We all understand that every species has a role in the great scheme of things, but let's face it, some critters are just a bit more appealing than others to many people.

The good news is that a sizeable group of volunteers accepted the challenge at the Nevada park. Hymenoptera includes wasps, bees, and ants, which were the focus of the recent survey at Great Basin National Park.

The site's third annual bioblitz was held during the first three days of August, and according to a park spokesperson, it not only helped the area add to its list of hymenoptera, it also provided an excellent venue for sharing the importance of insects with park visitors, staff, and volunteers.

During a 48-hour collecting period, over 60 participants collected hymenoptera by various methods. Some used nets to sweep vegetation, forceps to pick up ants, bowl traps with soapy water to attract bees, and light and malaise traps to catch a variety of species. Bioblitz participants filled out data sheets to indicate the location, habitat, and collecting method.

Everything was brought back to bioblitz headquarters, where data was entered into a computer and entomologists began sorting samples. Dr. James Pitts from Utah State University announced the preliminary results of the event at a closing luncheon.

“We did better than I expected,” he said. “We’ve added at least 25 families of hymenoptera and 65 species based on a very cursory examination, including several velvet ant species that I did not expect to be in the park.”

Dr. Pitts’ lab will continue sorting, pinning, and identifying the hymenoptera samples.

Important components of the bioblitz were numerous educational programs, including a workshop, kids’ programs, a campfire talk, and patio talks about hymenoptera. The science class from Woodlin High in Colorado participated for a day, and collectors aged from three to seventy collected specimens.

“I was pleased with the excellent turn out for this bioblitz,” said Andy Ferguson, the park’s superintendent. “We had volunteers from several states and top-notch entomologists. I thank everyone who helped make this event a success.”

The Western National Parks Association and Great Basin National Park Foundation sponsored lunches and raffle prizes to assist with the bioblitz effort. A bioblitz focusing on a different order of invertebrates is in the planning stages for nex tyear.

Comments

What a neat way to teach kids about biology. :-)