PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECTS: Citizen Science and the Bio Blitz Concept

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Bio Blitzes appeal to citizen scientists of all ages

Story and Photographs by Kevin Fitz Patrick

I remember coming to my first NANPA Summit in Corpus Christi and being overwhelmed by the Art Wolfes and the Robert Ketchums. Although I had been a nature photographer for more than 25 years, I had been working in a small part of the Appalachians most of the time. I had not been to Africa or South America. I hadn’t even been outside North Carolina, so how could I say I was a real nature photographer? Then I met Susan and Richard Day, nature photographers from Illinois who, at the time, shot mostly on a 63-acre property. It was then I realized that it was not about how much of the world you covered but how much you loved the place you photographed. I remember Susan telling me that it was about your niche. Finally, as I start my 70th year—my 46th as a photographer—I can name my niche!

I am a conservation and Bio Blitz photographer. The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) is an attempt to document and identify all biological species living in a defined area. The effort in the Smokies has become the prototype for species inventories worldwide and has inspired the Bio Blitz; 24-hour species inventories conducted by professional scientists in collaboration with public volunteers. The volunteers can include school children, their instructors, families and even their grandparents.

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National Geographic Bio Blitz Estes Park, CO

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Collecting at a Bio Blitz

Citizen science via Bio Blitzes is an incredibly effective, dynamic tool to bridge the gap between scientists and lay people. It aims to increase the body of knowledge about our planet. Bio Blitzes work well because they can be held anywhere—a national park, a state park, a land trust parcel, a town park, a college campus, a playground and, yes, even your own back yard! A species inventory can be large like the annual National Geographic Society-sponsored Bio Blitzes at national parks across the United States. They can also be small, focusing on one or two species in a nature center. When the help of high school and college students or even retirees is enlisted, a Bio Blitz can be held for very little money.

Over the course of 16 years, I realized I had evolved from nature photographer to conservation photographer specializing in Bio Blitzes. To date, I have attended and photographed almost 31 species during Bio Blitzes, at least half a dozen of them sponsored by National Geographic in national parks across the United States. I am documenting each event: Saguaro National Park, Arizona; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Jean Lafitte National Historic Park, Louisiana; Acadia National Park, Maine; and the list goes on.

The services I’ve created are geared to help such organizations spark the interest and imagination of the public. By translating the process of scientific investigation into more tangible images and sound, I hope to help these organizations inspire people to become “citizen scientists” and begin to view the study of biodiversity as a new and exciting adventure. For more information, go to http://allspeciesphotography.com or http://allspeciesscience.com.

Kevin Fitz Patrick is a renaissance man of the creative world having worked in theatre, recording studios, television and still photography. He’s also passed his skills on to students as a college professor. In 1999, Kevin formed All Species Photography and shifted his emphasis to documenting biodiversity and environmental education. 

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