Monday, 29 October 2012

National BioBlitz Conference

A guest blog by naturalist, ecologist and entomologist Richard Comont who was a participant at the second National BioBlitz Conference held on 24 October 2012. Richard is working on a PhD in ladybird population ecology at CEH, Rothamsted Research and Oxford University.

Richard on stage at the 2012 National
BioBlitz conference, discussing the
naturalist's view of bioblitzes

Six AM is not a time I naturally choose to be active. But active I am, roused from the depths of slumber by the tail-end of Farming Today and quickly on the road bound for the local railway station.  Once there, the early-morning lethargy is dissipated by a Large Wainscot moth discovered snoozing at the station lights. Not long to admire it though: I’m soon en route to Bristol for the National BioBlitz Conference 2012. 

The question at this point is always the same: “So what’s a BioBlitz?” Probably the best description is that they’re a kind of ‘Time Team for wildlife’ – unleashing expert naturalists, groups of school children, and the general public on an unsuspecting area of land to find and catalogue as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. (Later, one of our conclusions will be that we need to better publicise the name!)

It’s a select group – 43 people are named on the delegate list – but as it’s running as an offshoot of a larger environmental communications conference (‘Communicate 2012’), there’s plenty of people about – TV marine biologist Monty Halls is spotted heading for the coffee stall before giving the final talk of the day, on experiences filming with Cornish fishermen for his series The Fisherman’s Apprentice.

I’m there to give two talks: one on ‘The naturalist’s view of the bioblitz’, and another publicising the Garden BioBlitz (1/2 June 2013), which I co-run with three friends.  Our idea – taking the Bioblitz concept into people’s own back gardens – using available online resources for ID (such as the Open University’s brilliant iSpot website and the Biological Records Centre’s own iRecord software to collect the records) – seemed to go down really well. At least, I’ve never spent an entire conference lunch break chatting about my talk before!
Richard leading a ladybird walk at the 2012 Oxford BioBlitz
(Photo: Science Oxford)

The afternoon is workshops – how to improve bioblitzes, and what the future holds – before Monty’s talk and the long train ride home again.  A great day out with enthusiastic people who love what they do – bring on next year’s bioblitz season!

Richard Comont

Additional information

BioBlitzes in the UK

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