#7: Dr. Merav Vonshak – Outreach and Education with BioBlitzes

#7: Merav Vonshak – Outreach and Education with BioBlitzes Nature's Archive


My guest in this episode is Dr. 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.

Merav Vonshak

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

BioBlitz Club – Merav’s organization – lots of good California field guide resources and information on upcoming events. Also see Merav’s Facebook Group.

Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS)

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

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)

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

Merav’s Spring and Fall galls of California pamphlets

Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates – a wonderful guide book to insect behavior.

Xerces Society’s Webinars

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

The Jasper Ridge Ant Survey

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

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

2 thoughts on “#7: Dr. Merav Vonshak – Outreach and Education with BioBlitzes

  1. Dr. Vonshak – I am a member of a group of volunteers trying to rescue newts which cross Chileno Valley Road in northern Marin County. We are struggling to find a permanent fix so volunteers don’t have to be out on the road at night in the rain. We are also trying to raise public awareness about this problem. We understand that there is a similar newt crossing problem at the Lexington reservoir in Santa Clara county. There are also other groups dealing with amphibian problems. It occurs to us that it may be beneficial to all of us to organize a Working Group via zoom where we could compare notes and hopefully develop some solutions. I would be interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks – Ed Nute


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s