The BioBlitz invites members of the public to contribute their photographs of freshwater fishes observed in the natural environment around the world. The photographs, along with details including location of fish observation, date and description of specimen and habitat, are uploaded and recorded on an online network. Often referred to as ‘citizen science’; the BioBlitz is an effort to connect members of the public, who are enthusiastic naturalists, with the scientific community. Thus, helping us better understand the distribution and occurrence of species as well as educating and engaging the public in freshwater fish conservation.
The BioBlitz will give people the opportunity to be directly involved in wildlife monitoring, a crucial step in conservation action. With more than 15,000 freshwater fish species (and with numbers continually growing!), the more people ‘on the ground’ carrying out observations and recording what they have seen, the better. This information can assist the scientific community, with not only monitoring distributions, but also describing new species. It is important to note that the BioBlitz will be a crowd-sourcing social network and not a data archive – i.e. individuals are part of this network and share information on species observations, which the network then verifies or helps to identify.
iNaturalist is fully integrated with and can harness photographs from Facebook and Flickr making it easy to turn photographs posted to these sites into observations. Once verified as research-grade, iNaturalist passes them observations on to data archives, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Encyclopedia of Life. Furthermore iNaturalist is well integrated with the IUCN Red List as it incorporates Red List taxonomy, range maps and conservation statuses; making it an effective conservation tool. It is the only citizen-science effort displayed on the official IUCN Red List (http://www.iucnredlist.org).
A key step in developing the BioBlitz is recruiting volunteers to act as Curators to verify species submitted by members of the public. We need proactive and enthusiastic volunteers to make this project a success.
Are you interested in the new Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz and is it something you would like to be involved in?
Do you have expertise in fish taxonomy?
Do you have expert knowledge of a taxonomic group or fishes found in a particular geographic region?
Are you willing to commit time to verify species identifications?
If so, we would love to hear from you! With the amphibian and reptile bioblitzes, many specialists have benefited from engaging with postings of observations in their area of interest. For example, you could subscribe to receive an email summary of all reports of threatened cichlids from Bolivia. These highlights can lead to important research collaborations. One Curator for the Amphibian BioBlitz first spotted what he later confirmed to be a new species (the Andean poison frog, Andinobates cassidyhornae) from a photograph shared by an amateur through the BioBlitz. Observations can be identified to coarser taxonomic levels such as genus or family, which is often the case for observations of cryptic species or poor quality photographs.
If you would like to volunteer as a Curator or if you have any questions, please get in touch at [email protected].
To give you a feel for what the Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz will look like and how it will work, take a look at the Global Amphibian BioBlitz presented by the Amphibian Specialist Group here. In the first two years of the Amphibian BioBlitz, 1,459 taxa had been recorded (20% of amphibian species); an impressive start! We hope to mimic this success and bridge the gap between conservation scientists and the general public in our efforts to conserve freshwater fishes.