Arlington's BioBlitz: Help Record Our Hidden Natural Treasures

Published on May 11, 2017

Remember Mom this Sunday. Then do something great for Mother Nature next week.

Arlington County is seeking dedicated volunteers to support its May 20 "BioBlitz," a quick-but-intense wilderness exploration that will produce a catalog of our natural holdings spotted within a 24-hour window.  Think of it as a snapshot of the common-to-rare wildlife that can be found hiding in plain sight within our borders.

[caption id="attachment_12139" align="alignleft" width="178"] Recording nature in Arlington.[/caption]

County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas explains that the BioBlitz "certainly won't produce a complete record of what lives in Arlington" but it will provide "a vital look at what can be found before the search clock runs out. If you get enough snapshots, then you get a clear picture of what's out there."

The May 20 BioBlitz will kick off a larger and longer survey of Arlington's natural resources, which will help the County update its Natural Resources Management Plan. That plan, aimed at enhancing, preserving and protecting Arlington's natural foundation, was adopted by the County Board in 2010.

[caption id="attachment_12138" align="alignright" width="224"] Only a single small colony of red salamanders remains in Arlington. (Photo by Greg Zell)[/caption]

"You can't manage and preserve what you don't know you have so a BioBlitz is crucial," Abugattas says. "We use older records to see how those plants and animals are doing now - and to get an idea of how our current plan is working. Hopefully, we also find new flora and fauna that can influence our update."

County staff and contracted experts will assist in the BioBlitz documentation but most of the work will be done by volunteers as they explore various County parks. Teams will use the California Academy of Sciences' open-source based iNaturalist application to collect most of their data including significant photographs.

The field base will be at Barcroft Park, with additional survey sites at Glencarlyn, Long Branch, Gulf Branch, Tuckahoe, Fort C.F. Smith, Bluemont, and Potomac Overlook parks.

Experts have been identified to lead searches for mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, macroinvertebrates, birds, plants and some insects, such as bees. Most teams will be conducting inventories from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but a few, including the birders, will get an earlier start.

The citizen science of the BioBlitz includes two training opportunities next week:

For more information including how to volunteer to lead a BioBlitz team, contact Alonso Abugattas at or 703-228-7742.