My guest in this episode is Merav Vonshak. Merav is an ecologist, naturalist, and citizen science organizer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Merav is the founder of BioBlitz Club, a group that organizes BioBlitzes to raise awareness for environmental causes, often partnering with specific organizations, or simply to raise community awareness of nature that is nearby.
If you’re unaware of what a BioBlitz is – they are focused efforts to document all living organisms within a defined location and period of time. I’ve participated in a couple of these events now, and must say that I’m hooked. BioBlitzes provide a sense of exploration and discovery, they get you out in nature, and have a wonderfully enthusiastic community to learn from.
Back to Merav…prior to founding BioBlitz club, she received a Doctorate in Ecology at Tel Aviv University, and had postdoctoral fellowships at Tel Aviv University and Stanford University. She is an expert in ant biology, having studied impacts of alien ant species and human disturbance on ant communities.
Merav has a wealth of ecological information, and also a curator on iNaturalist.
In this episode we discuss the story of Merav’s formation of BioBlitz Club, some of the surprising discoveries from these events – including in highly urban areas, how to get people engaged and caring about nature, her ant research and how you can even identify ant species by smell (some smell like Banana Cream Pie!), using BioBlitzes and Citizen Science as part of a broader conservation awareness playbook, and much more.
People and Organizations
Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful – Coyote Creek is a critical riparian corridor in Silicon Valley
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority – manages many NorCal open space preserves
Books, Resources, and Things
Note: links to books are affiliate links
Links are in rough chronological order
Southern Bolas Spider iNaturalist Observation – one of Merav’s exciting BioBlitz finds
Coyote Valley – a critical habitat and corridor in Silicon Valley. This narrow valley has riparian habitat in its core, provides a crossing point between the arid Diablo Range and the marine-influenced Santa Cruz Mountains, has plenty of opens spaces perfect for raptors and grassland birds, and a large seasonal wetland.
California Academy of Sciences – resources for BioBlitzes
California Center for Natural History – contact them for more resources for BioBlitzes
City Nature Challenge – a fun competition between cities to document nature.
UC Press Galls Field Guide is out of print and now sells for $100+ on Amazon. But the same author has a Princeton Press guide that covers more species across the Western USA coming soon. Princeton Press is right up there with the best field guides in the world, so I’ve pre-ordered this one!
UC Press Field Guide to California Insects – Jerry Powell, Joyce Gross
Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates – a wonderful guide book to insect behavior.
Restoring the Little Things That Run The World – an excellent YouTube webinar by Doug Tallamy that discusses gardening for biodiversity.
Citizen Science Projects Merav Leads
Alma Bridge Road Newt Roadkill Study on iNaturalist
South Bay BioBlitzes on iNaturalist
Document nature while Shelter In Place (SF Bay Area) – “Meet Your Nature Neighbors”
Document observations at home – “Never Home Alone: The Wild Life of Homes”
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/