Inside the BioBlitz: A Key Part of Global Conservation

You can call it a biodiversity study, a biological inventory, or a biological census, but the term BioBlitz—coined by the U.S. National Park Service in 1996—may be the best at capturing the energy of this super-important, super-fast tally of species.

Our recent Global Discovery Expedition to Vietnam can be considered a BioBlitz, as our team of scientists traveled to the Sao La Nature Reserve—within the Annamite Mountain chain—in the Thua Thien Hue province, along with a team of Vietnamese scientists, to study, document and catalog a wide variety of species during the span of a few days.

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The primary goal of a BioBlitz is to get an overall count of species in a specific area by going out into the field for a limited time, around the clock, and documenting as many living species as possible - mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and plants. We identify, photograph, collect samples, and bring them back to the camp, where we catalog them and, ultimately, create a comprehensive list of species for a given location. Then, we release the animals back to the location where they were found.

While the list may not be a complete inventory, it becomes the basis for one, and it can show us if a particular area, species, or group would benefit from more in-depth study.

Vietnam itself is a biodiversity wonderland. Home to 10,000 species of land-based animals, 39 types of wetlands, 20 marine ecosystems and more than 11,000 marine species, Vietnam is among the world’s most biodiverse countries.

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PHOTO © Greater Good Charities

From photographs and field notes to watercolor illustrations, everything we collect and create is data that gets shared among the scientific community—but not just with biologists, geographers, and other scientists, but volunteers, students, and other organizations focused on conservation.

The data we compile in any BioBlitz—including our recent expedition to Vietnam where we cataloged more than 90 species of bats, snakes, turtles, pangolins, and more—may identify a range extension for a particular species, meaning we’ve found it in a location, elevation, or habitat that it’s not normally found in. Or, we might find a species in a color phase that was not known to exist before. This in-the-field learning shows us how fluid our understanding is of so many species, and may even tell us that what used to be thought of as one species may now be two, three, or four.

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PHOTO © Greater Good Charities
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PHOTO © Greater Good Charities
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PHOTO © Greater Good Charities

The data points we collected during our Global Biodiversity Expeditions BioBlitz” efforts can help conservation efforts, allowing us to better understand the species we find, their habitat, the ecosystem, and the world in general.