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Wetlands Park Bioblitz to have public join professionals to catalog wildlife

At the Bioblitz at Clark County Wetlands Park, citizen scientists can observe organisms, count creatures and catalog critters.

The two-day Bioblitz event, planned for April 29 and 30, is part of the fifth annual Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival, with those events taking place at several locations across the Las Vegas Valley. This is the first time the Wetlands Park, 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, has participated, but it is the second time that the park has had a Bioblitz.

“We did one on Jan. 31, 2015,” said Crystalaura Jackson, the Clark County recreation cultural specialist who is coordinating the event. “We had 205 volunteers who did 779 observations of 109 different species.”

A Bioblitz is a timed survey attempting to record all of the living species in an area. They are done all over the world, often for 24 hours. Science professionals, naturalists and volunteer laypeople work together to collect as much data as possible in the allotted time.

“All of the participants will go out in the park and gather data,” Jackson said. “Scientists and naturalists from many partner agencies will be at stations to help the participants identify what they’re seeing. They can upload observations with or without a photo to iNaturalist, an app and website.”

Among the organizations involved in the Bioblitz are the Geographic Alliance in Nevada (GAIN), which is affiliated with the National Geographic Society, and the Environmental Awareness clubs at Liberty and Basic high schools.

Participants can record their observations on paper. They aren’t required to take photos or have a smartphone, but Jackson said it adds to the experience and provides more conclusive data. Participants without smartphones will have access to computers to input data to inaturalist.org, or they can do it from their home computer.

“Inaturalist is great because if someone takes a picture and can’t identify what’s in it, naturalists from all over the world can look at the picture and give you an idea of what you’re seeing,” Jackson said. “You can also upload sounds and evidence of animals — for instance, spiderwebs. Even if you don’t see the spider, you can put a picture on the site, which might lead to an identification.”

The Bioblitz is just one of the events taking place as part of the weeklong Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival, which the organizers say has become one of the largest educational events in the state, sparking kids’ curiosity and celebrating science and technology unique to this region. The festival is scheduled from April 29 to May 7 at Cashman Field, 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

“Every year, we’ve expanded a bit,” said Eric Larsen, the festival’s director “We’d love to expand more. We may have to look at moving the venue for the expo soon. We’ve nearly maxed out on the space we can use at Cashman (Field).”

The primary marketing tool for the event is over 300,000 brochures delivered to students throughout the Clark County School District.

One of the changes to the festival this year is the addition of online registration for several of the events because they have become so popular.

“There are more than 30 different events on Science is Everywhere Day,” Larsen said. “Some of the venues can accommodate 30 people, some can accommodate 1,000. We want to be fair to the venues and the participants, so that if something does fill up, people don’t stand in line just to find out they can’t get in.”

The Bioblitz at Wetlands Park is scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 29 and 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. April 30. A data viewing party is planned from 9:30 to 10 a.m. April 30.

Jackson said that it is likely Bioblitz will be an annual event. People interested in participating can sign up in advance at tinyurl.com/wetbiob2016.

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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