Our 2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Every year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz event where we gather experts, enthusiasts and lifelong learners together to document every living organism we can find in a given area. This year, we are looking forward to another iNaturalist BioBlitz during which you can wrangle a group of friends, or participate while socially distanced. In 2020 we launched our first iNaturalist exclusive BioBlitz, and we were blown away to find that 97 observers documented 2,618 organisms and 1,186 unique species, including at least one that has never been documented in Madison county! 

To add to the fun, this year we are hosting a tri-county smackdown-style competition between Jackson, Watauga, and Transylvania counties! We think these are the most biodiverse counties in the MountainTrue Service Area. Help us crown the champion!

What: MountainTrue 2021 BioBlitz
Where: Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 5-20

Scores will be tallied by county and by individual, with prizes and bragging rights in store for winners (note: you must sign up using the form below to be eligible to win). Scoring categories for counties will include numbers of observations, species, and participants, while scoring categories for individuals will include overall best observation as well as numbers of observations, species, birds, arthropods (including insects!), and fungi. Submit the form below to register to participate and be eligible to win!

If you’re already familiar with iNaturalist, scroll down for specific instructions on how to join our BioBlitz Project. You will also receive the project info when you sign up to participate using the form below.

iNaturalist is a citizen-science tool used to collect and verify data on biodiversity. Individual users upload observations, which are checked by other users and experts, and then added into a massive database of information. This data becomes publicly available, making it useful for scientists, researchers, students and enthusiasts to use for various purposes and projects. It is one of the most popular tools out there, with over a million users, and has useful functions for any level of learner, from novice to expert.

Anyone with a smartphone or computer can use this app by downloading it on the app store or visiting iNaturalist.org. They have great video tutorials for both first-time and experienced users on their Getting Started page. The basics are simple: take a photo of a living thing, upload it, and iNaturalist can help you identify what it might be. The more pictures you add, the better it works. For the best identification, try to take up-close shots of different parts of the plant or animal. Once your files are uploaded, other people from around the world can confirm your identification or take a guess if you have no clue. And if you’re a botanical enthusiast, you can help others learn by identifying their uploads!

If you’re looking for an even simpler version of this interface, there are multiple spin off apps that are generally designed to help kids and students engage with the natural world. Seek is an app that gives more guided (and simplified) instructions. EcoExplore helps kids make their own observations, and offers ipad rentals through local libraries to make citizen science more accessible. Both of these programs upload their data to the iNaturalist platform, and all can be used for our BioBlitz!

With just a single picture, iNaturalist can often help you narrow down what you’re seeing. Each suggested species comes with identification information that can help you confirm your find and know what to look for next time!

Whether you’ve used iNaturalist hundreds of times or have never heard of it, we’re hoping you’ll join us in this year’s BioBlitz. We are thrilled to host this regional competition to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity, bringing forth county pride and natural curiosity for a BioBlitz like none before. Sign up below to participate. Happy hunting!

Specific Instructions for Joining our 2021 BioBlitz Project:

The first step is to create an account with iNaturalist. This is easily accessible on the app or web browser, and your account will be viewable under the “Me” tab on the app, or the upper right corner on the website. 

Once you have an account and are logged in, you can start joining projects. Please sign up for all three counties to track the competition. Search for MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz in the main search bar at the top of the website.  Once you’ve found our project, hit “Join” in the About section on the website view. On the app, you can either search for this project through the search bar in the “Explore” tab, or on the “More” tab, under “Projects.” It may be necessary to scroll down to make the search bar visible on the “Projects” page. Once you’ve joined, you should be able to follow along and see what observations others are making!

Link for Jackson County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-jackson-county-nc-bioblitz

Link for Transylvania County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-transylvania-county-bioblitz

Link for Watauga County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-watauga-county-bioblitz

Our iNaturalist Project is designed to capture all observations uploaded in all three counties between June 5th and June 20th — even if you haven’t joined our specific project. This allows us to capture uploads from the EcoExplore and Seek apps as well.

If you are having difficulty accessing our Project or have other questions, please contact josh@mountaintrue.org. We’re here to help. Thanks for learning with us!