Observing thousands of wild species, Wildlife Society student chapter tops ‘BioBlitz’ challenge

Mule deer dashing through a pond, kicking up spray
WSU chapter member Mason Maron was able to photograph hundreds of species for the BioBlitz challenge, including mule deer, coyotes, and many other animals and plants.

Members of Washington State University’s student chapter of the Wildlife Society are gaining recognition for their efforts to observe thousands of North American plant and animal species during an ongoing citizen science competition.

The seven chapter members took part in the Society’s Student Chapter BioBlitz, held from June through September 2020.

In a BioBlitz, student teams compete to observe and record as many species as possible in a given area and time. Hosted by the Wildlife Society Student Development Working Group, the challenge has engaged nearly 50 chapters at universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Since June, WSU chapter members have made more than 5,000 observations of 1,150 species of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and other organisms. The chapter took first place in July 2020 for most observations, and also won group challenges in August for most research-grade observations and most species observed.

Chapter member Mason Maron is ranked third in individual categories for most observations and species.

“I took part in this BioBlitz to support our chapter,” Maron said. He was already an avid user of the iNaturalist citizen science website used in the competition.

Scientists around the world can access data collected in BioBlitz competitions, and use it to study populations, track migration and habitat ranges, and more, said Maron.

“It’s done some incredible things,” he added. “New species have been discovered and species thought to be extinct have been rediscovered and photographed.”

The group’s efforts will be featured in a future edition of “The Wildlife Professional,” the national society’s magazine.

View their project, including photos and a map of observed species, at iNaturalist.

Coyote standing in a brown, grassy fieldWSU chapter officers include Devon Barbour, president; Eli Loftis, vice president; Jeffrey Lebo, treasurer; and Madysen McCarthy, secretary. Other participating members include Katie Gipson, Lea Crisostomo, and Rosemary D’Andrea. The chapter is advised by Lisa Shipley, professor in WSU’s School of the Environment.

Founded in 1937, the Wildlife Society is a national organization of wildlife and conservation professionals, scientists, and students. The society supports professional and career development, and addresses national and international issues that affect the current and future status of wildlife.

To learn more about the Wildlife Society, visit https://wildlife.org.

Find the Wildlife Society WSU student chapter on Facebook.

To contact the student chapter, send an email to wsuwildlife@gmail.com, or contact Eli Loftis at elijah.loftis@wsu.edu or Madysen McCarthy at madysen.mccarthy@wsu.edu.