A Christmas bioblitz

14 December, 2020

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Tim McNamara organised a different kind of Christmas function for the Dragonfly team this year – a bioblitz from the office in central Wellington. He was very surprised at what they found.

“I was hoping for 100 observations because we had a time limit of just 2 hours. But we ended up with nearly 200 observations and more than 100 species identifications. We have a few trained biologists in the team and their eyes really helped,” he says.

Observations uploaded to iNaturalist included common plants, birds and insects as well as interesting fungi (including a slime mould) and a rare velvet worm.

“I was really surprised by finding kōura – I’ve never seen freshwater crayfish before. I had no idea they would be present in Wellington’s Town Belt, which is effectively a large suburban park.”

Tim says it was interesting to see different strategies in action.

“A few people wanted to observe as many things as possible, and they tended to have dozens of observations. Others were more tactical, preferring to be very selective and target uncommon things. That combination of strategies enabled our team to find a wide variety of species, rather than making repeated observations of kawakawa and tree ferns (even though I love kawakawa and tree ferns!).”

One of the prizes was for the first observation to reach research grade. It was won by Katrin Berkenbusch who spotted rengarenga plants near the entrance to Central Park.

The motivation for the event was to create a social experience at Christmas that didn’t involve alcohol.

“I liked the idea of creating a shared project, a shared experience together. I’ve been contributing to iNaturalist sporadically for about 5 years but I’ve always wanted to be part of is its social side. The event really worked – if you’re nature-inclined, I recommend it as a great way to encourage your team to go for a walk together in the park!”

See the project page on iNaturalistNZ.