Friday, May 30, 2008

BioBlitz to document species in Los Angeles area

"BIODIVERSITY" may not be a word generally associated with the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles, but an upcoming event rooted in the city's more rustic spots may change all that.

BioBlitz, an annual event organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Park Service, will make its first appearance in California this weekend.

For 24 hours beginning today at noon, teams of scientists and naturalists will be leading members of the public out into the wilderness to begin recording as many species of living organisms as possible.

"The idea is to get people -- and kids in particular -- aware of the nature in their own backyards," says John Francis, vice president of research, conservation and exploration at the National Geographic Society. "With the increasing distance between people in general and the natural world around them, this is one way to awaken an interest in nature, by providing a bridge through the park system and to people who are experts in studying nature."

The event has the vibe of an outdoor science fair combined with a pedigreed and ambitious science experiment. Some 120 scientists from across the country -- experts in everything from ocean to land, flora to fauna -- will lead a 200 teams, each with 10 to 12 people, through predetermined sections of several state parks for a few hours at a time. Each team will look for something specific -- a species of plant, butterfly, bird, creepy-crawly -- and all the information will be photographed and documented.

The project will give participants a hands-on opportunity to locate and catalog myriad specimens from nature.

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