BioBlitz Community Mapping for Environmental Literacy

In support of a new Environmental Literacy graduation requirement, for the State of Maryland, Anne Arundel County Public Schools has undertaken an aggressive approach to ensure every student has an authentic outdoor learning experience every year.  As part of the high school programming plan, every biology student will participate in a BioBlitz of the school site to analyze the biodiversity of that site, as a culminating component to the unit 8 project. This experience incorporates technology into the BioBlitz project by using Community Mapping from Mappler.  This technology is in the form of an application students download to their personal smart device.  The use of the app allows students to easily collect data, while providing a valuable map display, which makes the analysis process both engaging and relevant.

This project contains the following curriculum components:
  • Before conducting the BioBlitz, each biology class focuses on, and receives instruction for, one type of organism (e.g. invertebrates, land animals, plants, birds…etc.).  This prepares students to become ‘pseudo’ experts in order to give them a better understanding of the valuable contributions the organism group provides to the overall health of the ecosystem.  Students also spend this time learning about the most common organisms they might expect to see, as well as, techniques to identify species within their organism “focus” group. Preparation activities include student practice with field guides and dichotomous keys to increase the accuracy of organism identification.
  • On the day of the BioBlitz, students will use the mobile app, previously downloaded, to create data points which identify the location of each organism in their predetermined focus group.  This app is set up to provide drop down options so students can easily select a specific species. Additionally, each species screen includes an ‘unknown’ box, which allows students to upload a picture and identify the organism at a later time.  The goal is to record the presence of as many organisms as possible.
  • After BioBlitz data is collected, students are challenged to use this data to compare the biodiversity found at their school site with that of other sites within the county.  Students will be asked to pose a question and conduct further research.  For example, students might look at the data and notice that the number of different bird species identified was much higher at a different school site, as compared to their own school site.  Students will use the county GIS system to explore habitat variables for each site.  The GIS system provides information on land use, forested buffer areas, pervious and impervious surfaces…etc.
  • The culminating activity for this project is for students to propose ways to improve the habitat of their school site in order to increase the biodiversity of the site.  These proposals may then be adopted as a project for the schools’ Student Government Association or Environmental Club.
BioBlitz events allow students to:
  1. Engage in meaningful citizen science
  2. Gain an opportunity for outdoor exploration
  3. Acknowledge that biodiversity is not limited to the rainforest, but is all around us
  4. Create a database of species
  5. Promote stewardship to care for the environment!

Using Mappler Mobile, students in Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland participated in a pilot BioBlitz project.  During the event, students used the mobile app to capture photos and upload data of various species of birds, trees, invertebrates and land animals.  The data was uploaded onto interactive maps specific to each category.  More information about the pilot event can be viewed here:  Pilot BioBlitz Event 2013