Bioblitz: Engaging a School Community in Citizen Science

Students were encouraged to use their cell phones, in particular, iNaturalist. On a drizzly, chilly day, the Siena student body and teachers in partnership with National Geographic divided into eleven taxonomic groups led by scientists and ventured to Sligo Creek Park to inventory plant and animal species. Cell phones in hand along with field guides and other tools, students located, identified and documented 156 different species in the Siena Bioblitz project using the iNaturalist app.


Educators look for ways to engage students in authentic tasks that provide relevancy to students. Better yet is when students can engage in an authentic task that benefits a global community. Siena combined together two authentic tasks, a Bioblitz and using iNaturalist. A bioblitz is when citizens and scientists partner to inventory plant and animal species in a specific location for a certain period of time. iNaturalist is a cell phone application that enables citizens to photograph and identify a species with a geotag. The data generated by iNaturalist is collected by the California Academy of Sciences and is available for global scientists researching a species and/or the ecology of an area.


For Siena students and teachers, the Bioblitz was an opportunity to work with experts knowledgeable about a taxonomic group, learn about the biodiversity and natural resources in their local park, be a citizen scientist and get outdoors. After the 90-minute bioblitz, student groups created a presentation of the species they inventoried in the park and presented their findings in a whole school assembly. 

Students not only learned about different species and the habitats of a taxonomic group but also learned from each other about the diverse species that inhabit their backyard park. Engaging Siena students in a Bioblitz embodied the hallmarks of 21st-century learning: experiential, authentic and collaborative.



Ocean Sanctuaries recently participated in a bio blitz sponsored by the California Academy of Science to document tidal marine life along the coast of California, called the 2017 Cal Coast Snap Shot. Bio blitzes are a great way to become familiar with local species as well as learn how to use a tool like iNaturalist. Michael Bear Citizen Science Project Director Ocean Sanctuaries San Diego, CA