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Fieldwork

USGS Scientist Participates in National Geographic’s BioBlitz 2014



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On March 28–29, 2014, more than 300 professional scientists, 2,700 school children, and countless citizen scientists participated in BioBlitz 2014—an attempt to find and identify as many plants and animals as possible within a 24-hour period in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), located near San Francisco, California. The event was sponsored by National Geographic, the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Presidio Trust. Teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members worked together to fulfill the goals of BioBlitz: (1) discover, count, map, and learn about the living creatures in the park; (2) provide scientists and the public an opportunity to do fieldwork together; (3) add to the park’s official species list; and (4) highlight the importance of protecting biodiversity in these extraordinary places and beyond. The biological inventories were conducted in the Giacomini Wetlands at Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, Muir Beach, the Marin Headlands, Crissy Field, the Presidio, Mori Point, Rancho Corral de Tierra in Montara, and other nearby locations.

Map of the San Francisco Bay area, showing sites
Above: Map of the San Francisco Bay area, showing sites where microorganisms were collected for identification during BioBlitz 2014. [larger version]

Crissy Field served as the headquarters of the 24-hour BioBlitz species count and a 2-day Biodiversity Festival that featured food, live music, and hands-on exhibits open to the public. Adjacent to the festival at the Crissy Field Center, some scientists were busily identifying what they, or others, had brought back from their field excursions. This was also the meeting place where many scientists and park rangers led the public on nature walks to participate in the species counts. BioBlitz partnered with iNaturalist, an organization that created a smart-phone application to help keep track of what, where, and when species were encountered. This application can be used by the public to document their findings, and it connects them with scientists who are capable of identifying the species that they find.

Mary McGann, a micropaleontologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was asked to identify the microscopic organisms, primarily the one-celled animals called foraminifera, that were present in sediment samples collected during the BioBlitz. She participated in a cruise on San Francisco Bay aboard the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) motor vessel (M/V) Rincon Point on the morning of March 28, collecting bay sediment at five sites in water depths between approximately 2 and 12 meters (6 and 40 feet), one in the south part of the bay and four in the central bay near Crissy Field (see map). While McGann was on San Francisco Bay, volunteers and personnel from the National Park Service were collecting muddy sediment from Bolinas Lagoon and the Giacomini Wetlands of Tomales Bay, and beach sand from Baker Beach, Stinson Beach, Ocean Beach, Rodeo Beach, and Crissy Field. McGann spent that afternoon and the next few weeks identifying what had been collected.

Scientists process sediment samples from San Francisco Bay onboard the SFPUC’s motor vessel
Above: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) biologist Patricia McGregor (left) and USGS micropaleontologist Mary McGann process sediment samples from San Francisco Bay onboard the SFPUC’s motor vessel (M/V) Rincon Point. The San Francisco skyline is visible in the background. Photograph courtesy of Patrick Conroy, SFPUC. [larger version]

McGann made more biological “observations” than anyone else in BioBlitz 2014, identifying 117 distinct microorganisms. These included foraminifera (one-celled organisms with shells composed of calcium carbonate or sand grains), thecamoebians (amoebas with shells composed of sand grains), ostracods (tiny crustaceans sometimes called “seed shrimp”), radiolarians (one-celled animals with siliceous shells), diatoms (one-celled algae with siliceous shells), and sea urchin spines.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge during sediment sampling
Above: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s M/V Rincon Point during sediment sampling on San Francisco Bay. USGS photograph by Mary McGann. [larger version]

Thanks to the efforts of McGann and the other participants, this BioBlitz event was able to identify a record number of species in the GGNRA. A total of 2,304 different species were identified from 10,812 images uploaded from phones and online. Of these species, 80 had not previously been recorded as living in the region’s parks, and 15 are endangered species.

foraminifer Trochammina inflata Ostracod Radimella aurita
Foraminifer Elphidiella hannai Foraminifer Trochammina hadai Uchio
Above: Light micrographs of (clockwise from upper left): foraminifer Trochammina inflata (Montagu, 1808) from Giacomini Wetlands, Tomasini Creek, Tomales Bay, California [larger version]; ostracod Radimella aurita (Skogsberg, 1928) from site 1, south San Francisco Bay, California [larger version]; foraminifer Elphidiella hannai (Cushman and Grant, 1927) from Crissy Marsh, San Francisco Bay [larger version]; and foraminifer Trochammina hadai Uchio, 1962, from site 1, south San Francisco Bay. Trochammina hadai is an invasive microorganism that originated in Japan and was introduced into San Francisco Bay in the early 1980s. [larger version]

BioBlitz 2014 is only one in a series of species inventories sponsored by National Geographic. A BioBlitz is being conducted in a different national park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service Centennial in 2016. In 2013, the BioBlitz was held in Louisiana at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, in 2012 at Rocky Mountain National Park, in 2011 in Saguaro National Park, in 2010 in Biscayne National Park, in 2009 at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, in 2008 in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area, and in 2007 in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. In 2015, the BioBlitz will take place in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on May 15–16.

On the 100th anniversary of the death of John Muir, a naturalist credited with the creation of the National Park System, it was fitting that National Geographic and the National Park Service chose to hold BioBlitz 2014 in the GGNRA, which is near Muir’s historic home in Martinez, California, and includes several areas named for him. Covering a 116-square mile area visited by more than 14 million people a year, this unique environment encompasses everything from beaches to redwood canopies 116 meters (380 feet) high, with diverse biological resources that should be studied and protected for years to come.

To learn more about BioBlitz 2014, visit the BioBlitz 2014 website.


Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Scientist Examines Foraminifera Collected from Remote Clipperton Island
Jan. / Feb. 2014

Related Websites
iNaturalist
iNaturalist
BioBlitz website
BioBlitz

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in this issue:

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Field Investigations of Hurricane Sandy's Impacts on Fire Island, New York

Seafloor Mapping off the Delmarva Peninsula

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Fieldwork
Tripod Brings Data from the Deep Seafloor of the South China Sea

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Coastal Streams in Central California Reflect the Region’s Drought

USGS Scientist Participates in National Geographic’s BioBlitz 2014

Outreach
Twenty Years of Ask-A-Geologist

Awards
Advancing Data Sharing Capabilities—2014 DeSouza Award

Staff & Center News
Postdocs Contributing to Climate-Change Studies

Feds Feed Families Food Drive

Publications
Sept. / Oct. Publications

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