Imagine a summer morning: a cool breeze, warm sunlight on your skin. You are walking through the forest, in silent awe at the massiveness of the world surrounding you. All of a sudden, you come across something amazing, perhaps a bright scarlet tanager or a striking zebra swallowtail. This is the reality of Wayne National Forest. 656 people have used a program called iNaturalist to log species found in Wayne National Forest. The Wayne National Forest Bioblitz recently reached 4,000 unique species logged!

A BioBlitz is a concentrated effort by community members to document the animal, plant, and fungal species they see in a defined area—in this case the Wayne National Forest. But it goes beyond that—participants are learning about their ecological community and making connections. Rural Action Environmental Education Director Joe Brehm conveys this message clearly. “The forest means everything to me, and this project has deepened my own sense of place. The forests I roam most often are in the Athens Unit of Wayne National Forest,” said Joe.

“I depend on these forests for food (hunting and gathering), firewood (you can get a permit to cut firewood in certain places), and my well-being. Because of the BioBlitz, I know there are at least 656 other people who also care about the forest enough to participate, and that is encouraging.”

Building strong communities and providing education are at the core of Rural Action’s mission, and this BioBlitz has helped work towards both of those goals. Take the case of Anna Hess, Athens County resident. Anna used iNaturalist to log fireflies she saw in her yard every day. Her posts caught the attention of researchers at a university in Florida, who were using the app to advance their own research. Anna said that the researchers reached out to her and asked her to catch a firefly and send it to them for their project, furthering their studies on different firefly populations.

You can help us continue to explore and identify the diverse wildlife of the region by joining the BioBlitz and logging species!

Join iNaturalist