GigaBlitz June 2011
In as much as our species can be defined by features such as our opposable thumbs, language, technology etc. - it is our fascination with, and understanding of, biodiversity that has been the defining trait of humanity for millennia. But what is biodiversity? Is it the 'wild' world far from anthropogenic change? Is it only a measure of the number of species surrounding us? Is a natural environment a more biodiverse one? As we have accelerated along a technological trajectory, our links to this natural world have been frayed and sometimes forgotten. But what has not changed is that nature and biodiversity remain nearby, and remain there for us to explore and be inspired by. Our own species is one embedded within Nature and not separate from it. The Nearby Nature process was one where we hoped to use the Gigapan technology and network of users to explore their nearby, everyday spaces in a way that was shared and shaped by that user community.
Nearby Nature GigaBlitz is a large, celebratory collection of life on the planet during a one week span that aims to more deeply explore, document, and celebrate the diversity of life in local habitats. It is similar in concept to a BioBlitz, an intensive survey that attempts to identify all living species within an area at a given time. But instead of sending a bunch of volunteers into a park or nature preserve to do a count, GigaBlitz asks people to create high-resolution panoramic images of their backyards, nearby woodlots or adjacent vacant lots. Participants around the world can then access these images, crowdsourcing the process of species identification.
About eighty people participated in the inaugural GigaBlitz during the June 2010 solstice and uploaded images from fifteen countries to the Gigapan website.
We are proud to feature here the Jury's eight favorite images: From a European organic vegetable garden surrounded by 100 year old buildings in a small medieval village to a working Brazilian watercress plantation and again to moors and ponds under some of the busiest motorways in Europe. From North American floating peat mats and bike paths through old growth forests to commemorative gardens of Mexican biodiversity to unappreciated diversity underfoot in Malaya.
The next Nearby Nature GigaBlitz will take place during the December solstice. We will be accepting entries between the dates of Monday December 19 and Sunday December 25. It is our hope that this next round of Nearby Nature can extend from the participatory success of this first iteration into more rigorous documentation and identification of the species and individuals within each panorama.
Alex Smith is a professor of molecular ecology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. His interests include biodiversity, cryptic species and working in both field and laboratory to integrate field and molecular biology into questions of ecological and evolutionary importance to conservation.
Ken Tamminga is professor of landscape architecture and on the ecology faculty at Penn State University. His interests include ecological design and restoration, riparian urbanism, and regeneration of degraded social-ecological places. His work in inner-city Pittsburgh, Ghana, and the low Himalayas seeks to promote community/landscape co-resilience in the face of climate change and other stressors.
Dennis vanEngelsdorp is a Sr. Extension Associate at Penn State University. His research interests include honey bee epidemiology and pollinator health. He is the director of the Beeinformed.org partnership, and will join the entomology department at the University of Maryland in January 2012.
This project was produced by Mary Jo Daines. Since 2008, Mary Jo has worked in the CREATE Lab helping scientists around the world use Gigapan to document and communicate their research with their peers and the public.
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