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Saguaro visitors can be amateur scientists at BioBlitz

Participants will learn about park's biodiversity

Tucson's first 24-hour BioBlitz begins Friday and continues Saturday, when participants can observe and record as many plant and animal species in Saguaro National Park.

BioBlitz began in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., where it was sponsored by National Geographic. Since then, it has traveled to three other national parks.

This year in Tucson, BioBlitz will bring together more than 150 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, and organizers expect thousands of locals and more than 2,000 students. 

BioBlitz is a collaboration of the National Park Service, National Geographic, Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Children 8 and older will participate in inventory teams with their parents. For younger children, there will be activities at the "base camp."

"I am looking forward to seeing all the local school kids come out and experience what Saguaro National Park has to offer," said Natalie Luna Rose, a spokeswoman for Saguaro National Park.

"Many of them have never been to the park and I like seeing the anticipation and excitement on kids faces," she said.

BioBlitz begins at noon Friday and participants will work with biologists to count, map and learn about the 91,445-acre park's organisms, ranging from microscopic bacteria to its towering saguaros.

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Inventory activities include counting cacti, catching insects, spotting birds and examining washes and aquatic organisms to help people better understand, appreciate and protect the park.

"We want to make people aware of the amazing biodiversity that exists within the park and in their own backyards," said Darla Sidles, the park's superintendent, in a press release.

There also will be a Biodiversity Festival both days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Festival will kick off BioBlitz on Friday and will serve as the event's base camp.

The festival includes live music, food, animal demonstrations, science experiments, talks by leading scientists and educational activities.

Registration is full, but people can experience virtually it at www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Throughout the day, the site will have a streaming Twitter feeds, blogs, video clips of scientists and regularly updated photo galleries that capture the finds of participants.

Teachers, students and families across the country can participate in the event remotely by the National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip. Live broadcasts will be held on Friday from 1 to 4 p.m.  that will feature lessons about biodiversity. For information on EFT, visit www.electronicfieldtrip.org/saguaro

For schedule of events and more information visit www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz.

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Stephanie Sanchez/Cronkite News Service

The Saguaro National Park.

If you go

  • What: BioBlitz 2011
  • When: Friday and Saturday, with a festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days
  • Where: Saguaro National Park, Red Hills Visitor Center, 2700 N. Kinney Rd. 
  • Cost: Free, but registration is full. Festival is open to everyone.
  • Parking: Off-site only. Shuttles will run from Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Rd.