The Humboldt County coastal region is home to thousands of plant and animal species, and several organizations hope local folks can help gather information about the area’s flora and fauna using their eyes and their smartphones by participating in the “SnapShot Hum Coast Bioblitz,” which begins Monday and runs through Aug. 31.
During this “physically distanced” event, people are encouraged to visit any coastal locations in Humboldt County, take pictures of their observations and upload them to the “SnapShot Hum Coast” project in the iNaturalist App, a user-friendly program for the “nature-curious or knowledgeable naturalist.” Once recorded, other users can confirm the species or offer an alternative identification.
No experience is required to get involved in this free, all-ages event.
“A bioblitz gives community members the opportunity to explore and connect with the landscape, learn to identify local species and to contribute useful, research-quality data that scientists can use to understand more about our unique region,” said Michelle Kunst, program/projects manager for the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust, which is hosting “SnapShot Hum Coast” along with Friends of the Dunes, Humboldt Baykeeper and the North Coast Redwoods District of California State Parks.
Carol Vander Meer, director of community engagement for Trinidad Coastal Land Trust, noted: “(This) is a great activity for households. Please remember to keep at least six feet away from people outside your household and always bring a mask for situations where this may not be possible. We encourage youth to practice their observation skills by pointing out plants and animals they’ve never learned before.”
This local event is part of the annual Snapshot Cal Coast, a statewide effort to record coastal biodiversity, put on by the California Academy of Sciences.
Locally, there are hundreds of possibilities of things to take pictures of over the next few weeks, according to organizers.
“During low tide, people can photograph intertidal creatures such as sea anemones, sea stars, and nudibranchs. Coastal dunes are a great place to photograph wildflowers, such as yellow sand verbena, beach buckwheat and seaside daisy. Our coastal forests support a wide variety of lichens, and don’t forget pollinators like the ten-lined June beetle, California sister and common buckeye butterflies,” Vander Meer said.
Organizers say the goal of this two-week bioblitz is not only to have fun exploring nature, but to collect data that will help create a snapshot in time of biodiversity along the local coast.
“The Humboldt County coast has a rich diversity of habitat types — from coastal dunes, conifer forests, mudflats, salt marshes, rocky intertidal and riparian environments. This array of habitats then supports a rich diversity of plant, animal, and fungi species,” said Vander Meer.
Bioblitz events have been taking place locally for the past several years.
“The Trinidad Coastal Land Trust has been doing an annual bioblitz at Baker Beach. Friends of the Dunes has done several bioblitzes as well,” said Kunst.
She added: “Our primary goal is encouraging people to engage with natural spaces by learning about the plants and animals that call the coast their home. In addition to heightening community awareness and knowledge about the diversity of our coast, the information collected serves as a ‘biodiversity snapshot in time,’ or a species list that scientists and land managers can access to learn more about the presence of rare plants, species migrations or behaviors influenced by climate change or the introduction and spread of non-native species.”
Information uploaded to iNaturalist can serve as a comprehensive species occurrence list for scientists and land managers anywhere — locally, nationally and even globally, Kunst said.
“High-quality photo data uploaded to iNaturalist becomes part of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, which is an open source database used by scientists, land managers and policymakers around the world,” Kunst said. “iNaturalist data from the California coast can be analyzed using the Dynamic Observatory of Biodiversity Cal Coast website, which utilizes the vast amount of information on the occurrence of organisms throughout the year gathered in efforts like bioblitzes. This information can then be analyzed to give insight to biodiversity and biodiversity changes. Many are interested in using iNaturalist to learn about ecosystem changes linked to climate change. For example, iNaturalist has been used to observe the northward migration of the Hopkins rose nudibranch, a colorful sea slug generally limited to Southern California waters, but now has appeared along the North Coast, possibly linked to warming water temperatures. iNaturalist has also been useful for observing the extent of sea star wasting disease, which caused a major die-off event of the certain predatory sea stars, and is thought to be associated with changes in ocean conditions. Additionally, the iNaturalist database has the potential to be utilized by managers of Marine Protected Areas to learn more about the impact and success of marine protection policy.”
For more information about “SnapShot Hum Coast,” visit trinidadcoastallandtrust.org or go to https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2637971063086929&external_log_id=79f61582-368d-4033-8013-3dfe7a24fb0c&q=SnapShot%20Hum%20Coast.