Great Lakes BioBlitz: Gotta catch 'em all!

Have fun finding and sharing Michigan biodiversity - the variety of wild, living things in a given area.

Picture showing people outside with words: Find and share about Michigan biodiversity! Great Lakes Bioblitz,  and with dates 4/22-5/20/2021

Did you know that more than 3,500 species of plants and animals live in the Great Lakes basin, including 170+ species of fish? Kicking off on Earth Day (4/22), community scientists (this could be you!) across Michigan (and other Great Lakes states/provinces) are invited to explore and share what’s living (the biodiversity) in their community through the Great Lakes BioBlitz.

Natural areas provide important ecosystem services - supplying many ecological, social, and economic benefits. Habitats in these areas are sometimes home to rare species. Learn more about rare Michigan species with the online Michigan Natural Feature Inventory tool

Why explore what’s living (the biodiversity) in your community?

Keeping track of where species are found  in different areas over time is critical to alert scientists and managers (e.g. land managers, fishery or  wildlife biologists) to any changes, especially loss of species. Knowing which species are found (or not found) in a particular area can also guide future research and management efforts. In order to have enough information to make these decisions, scientists and managers need help, according to Alexa Warwick,  Ph.D., the Wildlife Engagement Specialist (MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife) working jointly with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and MSU Extension.

By involving community members in data collection efforts, like a BioBlitz, researchers can collect more data - expanding the reach and potential impact of a project. It also helps further community learning while exploring the outdoors. As journalist and author Richard Louv states, “We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. And touch. And hear.” Learn more online about past Michigan BioBlitz efforts - including COVID-19 adjustments.

Participating in a BioBlitz is also a good way to engage in an outdoor activity. It can provide teachers and families with a tool to engage in making observations and learning about wild living things in the world around them. Teachers, youth, and their families can participate directly in an online community of observers. Participants can make observations in Michigan and see how many observations are being made in other states connected to the Great Lakes basin.

Taking part in the Great Lakes BioBlitz Challenge

Through the Great Lakes BioBlitz, participants will use iNaturalist to post photo observations of as many wild, living things in a specific area over a short period of time. If you are not sure which species you observed, other iNaturalist users can help with identification by reviewing your uploaded photo. Learn more online about the Great Lakes BioBlitz (including educator resources) and how to contribute data, or contact Marte Kitson at or 218-726-8305.

A Great Lakes literate person is someone who understands, appreciates, shares about and helps to protect the Great Lakes resources and the watersheds that feed them. As a collaboration through the regional Sea Grant-led Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) education network, BioBlitz participants can directly explore how the Great Lakes support a broad diversity of life and ecosystems (Great Lakes Literacy Principle 5) and how much remains to be learned about our Great Lakes [and natural environments] (Great Lakes Principle 7).

CGLL partners will also share additional weekly challenges throughout the Great Lakes BioBlitz on both the CGLL website and iNaturalist project page. Youth photographers (18 years old or younger as of 4/22/21) are encouraged to participate in the 2021 Great Lakes BioBlitz Photo Contest, which is led by Wisconsin Sea Grant. Winning photos will be featured in the 2022 Great Lakes BioBlitz campaign. Deadline for photo submission is May 26, 2021.

Michigan Sea Grant and Minnesota Sea Grant help to foster economic growth and protect coastal Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. Michigan Sea Grant (collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension) and Minnesota Sea Grant (a systemwide program of the University of Minnesota) are part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

This article was prepared by MSU Extension educators, Meaghan Gass and Brandon Schroeder under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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