Inaugural Great Southern BioBlitz a huge success

Biodiversity Month was different this year for the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC), with COVID-19 restrictions limiting the opportunity to run several activities. Instead, the Great Southern BioBlitz was formed, bringing together citizen scientists from across the Southern Hemisphere to observe the local flora and fauna in their own backyards.

Biodiversity Month runs throughout September and citizen scientists are encouraged to upload their observations of biodiversity to the online database, iNaturalist. More than 3,000 people took part this year, making over 90,000 observations of more than 12,000 species!

Southern Caracal – Image Credit Gigi Laidler

GORCC Environmental Education Program Coordinator Pete Crowcroft said participation in the BioBlitz was greater than anything the organisers could have anticipated.

“The incredible response from South America took us all by surprise, with hundreds of new users to iNaturalist documenting their observations to the website. Lima in Peru had 229 participants with 6,485 observations, the Huila region in Columbia with 114 participants taking 3,506 observations, Quito & Pichincha in Ecuador had 144 participants with over 2,000 observations, and Brazil had nearly 2,000 observations including 168 species of birds.”

Swallow-tailed Hummingbird in Brazil – Image Credit Diogo Luiz

“At home on the Surf Coast, we have been participating in the BioBlitz for a few years, with modest but steady increases in participation and observations each year. We totalled over 400 species for this BioBlitz which is our best result yet. This year some new observers joined in, including the legendary local Marg Macdonald who wrote the book on local plants and orchids, and contributed 40 observations.”

Biscuit Seastar, Tosia australis

“Everyone should be proud of this incredible effort. We’ve managed to come together, digitally, during one of the most drastic and challenging years of our lives.”

One of the main driving forces behind the spring timing of the project was so participants could observe the flowering plants. Along with Grampians National Park, the Surf Coast is one of the best places in Victoria to see wildflowers. A total of 240 plant species were seen including 31 orchid species.

To see the observations found throughout the Surf Coast and Southern Hemisphere check out iNaturalist’s website: www.inaturalist.org/projects/great-southern-bioblitz-umbrella

Great Southern BioBlitz 2020

September is Biodiversity Month and we’re encouraging everyone to get out and record the biodiversity of their backyards and local area. Over the weekend of the 25th – 28th September, the Great Southern BioBlitz will be held – a friendly competition to see which places can observe and record the most biodiversity. This year the event is international, with South America and Africa also taking part to make wildlife observations. 

The purpose of the event is to highlight both the immense biodiversity spread across the southern hemisphere in the flourishing springtime, and to engage the public in science and nature learning.  

GORCC Environmental Education Program Coordinator Pete Crowcroft has been working to organise the event with some other keen naturalists from around Australia.

“We wanted to create a biodiversity survey, or BioBlitz, for people in the southern hemisphere during spring, when the natural world is on full throttle,” Pete said.

Leopard Seal

“Flowers are blooming, insects are emerging, birds are singing, and reptiles are coming out of their winter hibernation. It makes sense for Australia and for the rest of the southern hemisphere to observe life at this time of year.”

Pete said the response from other countries has taken the team by surprise.

“We were really pleased when so many different countries in South America wanted to take part, we were really only expecting Australia to participate.”

“We have run September BioBlitz’s in the past, just for the local Surf Coast region. Last year we had a great result spotting nearly 400 species for the month. This year, competing against not only other areas in Geelong and Australia, but the southern hemisphere! I’m hoping people will get out in force to make observations of our many thousands of different species in this amazing biodiversity hotspot.”

Ringtail Possum

“Usually we would be running activities to celebrate the month and having people get together to explore, but unfortunately we can’t do that this year. It is important that everyone complies with COVID safe regulations when participating in this BioBlitz, and also observes any sensitive species with care and respect, and a leave no trace approach,” Pete said.

To participate you will need to download the iNaturalist app onto your device, or upload pictures directly from your PC onto the website. If you take a picture of any plant or animal and upload it during the weekend, it will automatically be counted for the community, hopefully pushing the Surf Coast up the international leaderboard!

For more information and to get involved visit the Great Southern BioBlitz website: https://greatsouthernbiobl.wixsite.com/website or www.inaturalist.org which hosts a number of how-to videos in the help section.

The project website can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/great-southern-bioblitz-2020-surf-coast