Ranger Ramblings: Citizen Science — We need YOU!

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Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a scientist? Does the thought of participating in scientific field work excite you? Would you like to see science in action?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in luck! It’s bioblitz season in Colorado Springs, and this year’s focus is Stratton Open Space.

National Geographic defines a bioblitz as an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. A bioblitz is also known as a biological inventory or biological census with a primary goal of obtaining an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi and other organisms that live in a place.

The Trails, Open Space & Parks stewardship program started hosting bioblitzes in 2017 to get a snapshot of biodiversity within parks and open spaces around Colorado Springs. Over time, these “snapshots” will be compared to reveal how the areas’ ecosystems are changing and can provide insight into management practices. TOPS is a city sales tax that contributes one penny on every $10 purchase to our trails, open space and parks.

For bioblitzes in Colorado Springs, data is collected using the iNaturalist app. This free public app maps and helps identify flora, fauna, and fungi. The process is simple: snap a picture of what you see (or record what you hear), work with the app to identify the plant or animal, then save your observation. That’s it! All observations in the project area are saved and stored for future analysis. The really cool part is that you don’t have to identify what you found, you can save your mystery observation and the iNaturalist community will identify it for you.

This year’s bioblitz is Aug. 27-29 at Stratton Open Space, and it includes something for everyone. The event kicks off Friday evening with a guided hike near the South Suburban Reservoir to monitor bat acoustics with Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Daytime hikes will be offered on Saturday and Sunday for those who would like to learn more about wildlife in the open space. Family-friendly activity booths will be set up in the Ridgeway trailhead parking lot for those looking to learn more about the scientific community in and around Colorado Springs.

Prefer flying solo? Simply download the iNaturalist app and make observations during your hike. Registration is required for the guided hikes. Visit ColoradoSprings.gov to sign up.

The real beauty of a bioblitz is that it provides an opportunity for everyone in the community to get involved with science and experience a park or open space in a new way. Help paint the picture of Stratton Open Space as a citizen scientist.

Gillian Rossi is the park ranger supervisor for the Trails, Open Space & Parks Stewardship Program. This content first appeared in the Gazette’s Cheyenne Edition and is reprinted here with permission from Pikes Peak Newspapers. It is part of a monthly column titled, “Ranger Ramblings.”

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