On September 7th, 2019, several members of the CCS team, including Chris Jadallah, Mackenzie Carter, Maryam Ghadiri, and Peggy Harte, participated in the 2019 California Biodiversity Day bioblitz. We joined at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, located between Davis and West Sacramento. Biodiversity can be thought of as all of the different types of life on earth, from the largest mammals all the way to the smallest bacteria. California is a biodiversity hotspot, due to the wide range of habitats and climates across the state. As part of the celebration of California’s biodiversity, the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Academy of Sciences conducted 10 bioblitzes across the state. Bioblitzes are events where members of the community, naturalists, and scientists come together to record as many species as possible in a given area during a specified time frame.
The Yolo Basin was once an 80,000-acre wetland and home to a tremendous variety of species, many of which remain today. In the early 1910’s, the floodplain was converted into a bypass using a system of weirs aimed at preventing flooding in the Sacramento area. Human intervention dramatically changed the landscape, affecting wetland species and prompting ecological restoration projects. Today the Yolo Bypass Wildlife area encompasses 25 square miles of mixed-use land, including nearly six square miles of restored wetland and related habitat. For the bioblitz, participants explored the area, documenting species using cameras and cell phones. Volunteers with different ages and backgrounds scoured the grounds for identifiable plants, animals, and fungi using the iNaturalist app. This app from the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic was designed to make documenting wildlife easy for anyone. We used iNaturalist to identify species, and everyone was able to submit their photographs to our project — Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area bioblitz. Our data also became publicly available, and can be used by scientists and land managers to understand the distribution of animals, fungi, and plants for land management and policy decisions.
Afterwards, participants uploaded their observations to iNaturalist and convened to review the results. Our project had 1241 observations collected by 47 volunteers, with 255 different species identified. The most identified plants included rough cocklebur, chickory, and field bindweed. For animals: the most identified insect was the variegated meadowhawk; the most identified bird was the house finch; the most identified mammal was the river otter; and most identified crustacean was the red swamp crayfish. While being in the outdoors identifying different species is a fun activity, bioblitzes also connect local people with their natural areas and inform scientists what organisms are living where and during what times. The CCS team had a wonderful experience participating in the California Biodiversity Day Yolo Bypass Bioblitz and would like to thank organizers at the Yolo Basin Foundation, along with Alison Young and Rebecca Johnson, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences. Alison and Rebecca are also collaborators on our LEARN CitSci project, a four-year international research endeavor to understand how young people develop Environmental Science Agency through their participation in community and citizen science. Read more about this work here.