Social Cemetery anyone?

A couple of years ago (whilst at Science City Bristol) I was fortunate enough to have a tangential involvement in BioBlitz 2009 out at Ashton Court and to be able to consolidate that support the following year, focusing on their innovative social media activities. Since then Bristol BioBlitz has gone from strength to strength; and from Ashton Court, to Blaise Castle (2010), to Tyntesfield (2011) and this year Arnos Vale Cemetery.

That success has been amplified by the national explosion of BioBlitz’s, most of which have implicitly or explicitly linked back to Bristol’s success and approach. Just to be clear, the first BioBlitz was in 1996 and was part of the US National Parks Service, but isn’t ‘owned’ by anyone. In the same ethos, the UK national BioBlitz network might be hosted by Bristol Natural History Consortium (BNHC), but it’s an open and inclusive network. The real success of the BNHC is in being able to innovate faster and ‘better’ than anyone else.

The BNHC are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and excel at absorbing and transforming those ideas into their own innovations. They’re also extremely good at executing on those innovations so that everyone has a fantastic day out. All of which means they can be open about those ideas and share their experiences widely, knowing that they’re already working on the next one. That open sharing is a key strength; search for bioblitz (I just did using Firefox & Bing – a combination I almost never use) and Bristol’s BioBlitz features 3 times in the top 10, in positions 2,3 and 6; second only to the Wikipedia entry! The US National Parks (the originators of the idea remember) are in 4th place. Sharing your innovations works!

What else have we learned? Well, hedgehogs have footprints that look a lot like little tiny hands (see above). And that doormice can hollow out an acorn forming a ‘cup’ with an almost perfectly smooth rim. And that there at at least 454 different species of animal living in Arnos Vale Cemetery!

That’s the great thing about Bristol BioBlitz, a social day out and you can learn lots (not just about natural history). What’s not to like?

Until next year

Bristol BioBlitz

How do you get kids interested in and excited about biodiversity?

Rowan tree - BioBlitz Bristol 2009

Take them out into a rich habitat and let them catalogue everything they find! Fortunately you don’t have to go to the rain forest, one of the oldest natural parkland spaces is just south of Bristol‘s city centre at Ashton Court.

The 30 hour exercise was coordinated by the Bristol Natural History Consortium and with support from Science City Bristol and DEFRA, and working alongside the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC). I was really keen to see how the event was going and pick up ideas for future Science City Bristol collaborations. Sam was up for the weekend, the sun was shining, a perfect way to spend Saturday!

Officially I start as Manager of Science City Bristol on Wed (1 July) but since this was being supported by Science City, and it seemed like a really cool day out, I wanted to go along. Soon we’ll hopefully have mini-reports like this on the Science City website. Stay tuned for more info.

After a quick introductory hello with Berry Goddard (BioBlitz Programme Manager) and Savita Custead (Director, Bristol Natural History Consortium), Sam and I were teamed up with our expert & guide Richard. After a few more volunteers and spotters joined the group we set off to record some trees, plants and birds.

Hounds Tongue at BioBlitz Bristol 2009
Hounds Tongue at BioBlitz Bristol 2009

The first item of interest was a rowan tree. Apparently they aren’t usually found this far South but this one was making a start by the edge of the path. A bit further along the path we found a rare purple flower that turned out to be Hounds Tongue (we think) .

The last item of fauna foxed even our experts. Found near a dead beech tree the rather impressive fungus was found by one of the younger members of the group. We didn’t even try for a field identification. Back at Base Camp, Sam did have  look through a very thick book of fungi species, I used a simpler decision chart. Neither of us could figure out quite what was found.

Mystery funges from BioBlitz 2009
Mystery fungus from BioBlitz 2009

So we left it in the capable hands of the BioBlitz experts to sort out.

Unfortunately they were off having an ice cream so it entered the “pending” tray. Mind you, they logged over 560 different species so everyone was kept pretty busy over the 30hrs!

I thoroughly recommend checking out their blog which has loads of updates, images, facts, and the full run down on the day.

A huge thanks to everyone that helped make BioBlitz happen, especially the small army of volunteers and helpers.