Tucson, AZ (February 28, 2018)—On Saturday March 3rd, from the estuaries of the Tijuana River on the Pacific coastline to the deltas of the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico, teams of professional and citizen scientists in the U.S. and Mexico will work together to focus their observational abilities on a swath of land at the center of international attention: The U.S.-Mexico border. Their goal is simple: identify as many of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that occur in the two-kilometer area of land on either side of the border line in a 24-hour period. However, the larger context within which these teams are operating is anything but straightforward.
“Our goal is to draw attention to the life and collaborative spirit that permeates the borderlands,” says Dr. Benjamin Wilder, Director of the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen), the catalyzing group behind this effort. “A lot of the current discourse in the United States glosses over what is a remarkable landscape. This community defines our region by a sense of a shared culture and an environment that does not adhere to political borders.”
Accordingly, at more than 10 sites along the border, citizens in the U.S. and Mexico will set to work documenting the diversity of the borderlands using the iNaturalist platform—a digital database that records and stores crowd sourced biodiversity information. The public will be able to follow along at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/border-bioblitz and see the data stream in real time.
“This approach to documenting the biodiversity of the border is a natural choice for us, and this project will provide an extensive, distributed effort to gather needed information,” explains scientist Dr. Sula Vanderplank, originator of the Border BioBlitz idea. “It harnesses the best qualities of our binational community—expertise across all disciplines and collaborative bonds that span the border.”
N-Gen and collaborating organizations have undertaken previous biodiversity expeditions in Baja California, which have provided crucial biological data about the possible impacts of large-scale tourism and mining operations on protected areas.
One area of focus on March 3rd will be the iconic location where the existing border wall juts into the Pacific Ocean. Teams working at Border Field State Park in San Diego and at Friendship Park in Tijuana will document what is still an important estuary habitat along an urbanized coastline. Michelle María Early Capistrán, N-Gen Associate Director and leader of the Tijuana team that will include scientists and artists, sees great opportunity in such a collaborative event.
“The BioBlitz is a way to bring people together, using science as a medium to transcend arbitrary divisions,” says Capistrán.
Several locations will be surveyed along the Arizona border, including Coronado National Memorial, where numerous sightings of ocelot have been recorded in recent years, along with jaguars in nearby areas.
“A border wall in this location would be devastating to wildlife, especially jaguar and ocelot, which have dispersed north from Sonora, Mexico with increasing regularity since 1996,” said Myles Traphagen, Borderlands Program Coordinator for Wildlands Network. “The Border BioBlitz will help put a living face to the inhabitants of the borderlands, human and other, caught in the middle of such a volatile debate.”
Individuals, families, and members of communities on either side of the border are invited to participate in this collaborative effort to document the stunning biological diversity and beauty that so many people who live in and visit the Borderlands know it to be.
Whether online or in person, March 3rd Border BioBlitz will be a day to shine a positive light on the diverse and dynamic landscape that the United States and Mexico share.
For more information and to learn how to participate, please visit http://nextgensd.com/border/bioblitz/. You can also view the flyers below.
Myles Traphagen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (520) 991-6368
Ben Wilder, email@example.com, (520) 971-2486
Sula Vanderplank, firstname.lastname@example.org, (951) 660-5769
Michelle María Early Capistrán, email@example.com, +52 222 114 2656
Sites and team leaders
Playas de Tijuana, Tijuana
Michelle María Early Capistrán, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Organizations: Terra Peninsular, Sociedad de Plantas Nativas de Baja California
Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (San Diego County)
Bianca Bonilla, email@example.com
Lead organization: Botanical Community Development Initiatives
Cienega Redonda, Tecate, Mexico
Jorge H. Valdez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Organization: Fauna del Noroeste
Pinacate Biosphere Reserve
Miguel Angel Grageda García, email@example.com
Lead Organization: Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar
Organ Pipe National Monument, Quitobaquito Spring
Ben Wilder, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Organization: University of Arizona Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill
San Luis Hills – Cerro and Arroyo el Fresnal (~5 miles east of Sasabe, AZ)
Aaron Flesch, email@example.com
Los Fresnos, Sonora
Gerardo Carreón, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Organization: Naturalia A.C.
Rancho San Bernardino
Mirna Manteca, email@example.com
Lead Organization: Sky Island Alliance, Cuenca Los Ojos
Santa Ana NWR, Alamo, Texas
Stefanie Herweck, Betty Perez, Stefanieherweck2@gmail.com
Lead Organization: Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club