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Rocky Mountain BioBlitz:
Youth Ambassadors Blog

Rocky Mountain BioBlitz Youth Ambassadors
Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz youth ambassadors Parker, Valyssa, and Dara

Three students served as biodiversity youth ambassadors during the 2012 BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on August 24–25, 2012. Meet the ambassadors below and read about their experiences searching for life in the park.



Hi, my name is Parker, and I'm the 2012 BioBlitz Youth Ambassador for Rocky Mountain National Park! I'm very excited to represent Rocky this year. Personally, this park is my home and my favorite place in the world. I first visited this park when I was seven years old, and have fallen in love with it ever since. My favorite thing to do is caving, or spelunking. I'm an avid spelunker because of its unlimited possibilities; it's like rock climbing, except the walls are all around you, and the passages and alleyways through a cave are widely numbered. I volunteer in Rocky, assisting Junior Rangers and doing common labor jobs. I go to Niwot High School in Niwot, CO, and live in Longmont, CO.

This next BioBlitz will be the first one in a mountain landscape. I'm very excited to see how well our park is doing on the upkeep of the confirmed species list! Most importantly, I want show our youth what national parks can offer to us and how important it is to keep it healthy.


My name is Valyssa and I'm in sixth grade at Mansfeld Middle School in Tucson, Arizona. I'm 11 years old and live in Barrio Hollywood. I am outgoing and my favorite subjects are science and chorus. My hobbies are singing, dancing, roller skating, and being adventurous. One thing that makes me special is I am Native American and a member of the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe. I have never flown on an airplane and never been to the state of Colorado. I am excited to see everyone at BioBlitz 2012 and I can't wait to see the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park!


Dara has participated in two National Park Service and National Geographic BioBlitzes—Biscayne National Park and Saguaro National Park. She is thrilled to have been chosen as the first National Park Service Youth Biodiversity Ambassador in 2010. Dara is very passionate about science, and plans to become a scientist or doctor. She loves animals, enjoys all things Hello Kitty, plays lacrosse and enjoys acting. Dara is thirteen years old and lives in Connecticut. She will be entering ninth grade in fall 2012.



Before the BioBlitz began, this year's youth ambassadors were asked to write about their expectations for the weekend. Read on to learn what they were thinking.

Hi, I'm Parker, Youth Ambassador for Rocky Mountain National Park for the 2012 BioBlitz. This year is the first mountain region BioBlitz, and I am looking forward and anticipating the BioBlitz this weekend. I'm looking forward to the festival and activities done around the area. The kids supporting an army of 700 will obviously make up the majority of our volunteers this year. I'm excited to lead and motivate the groups I will be with and obviously lead them towards the best turnout of data we've seen at a BioBlitz yet.

One thing I expect a big turnout from is our water bug survey. I can't wait to see how many of the creepy-crawlies they find. Most of all, I want them to find that rascal mountain goat that has been spotted in the park. Of anything, I'm excited to analyze all the different blooms of lichen we have spread about our alpine tundra. The fluorescent colors and sizes of the blooms light up the tundra. I hope that the bighorn sheep count will stay up, as they have been dwindling the past few years. Not to scare anyone, but I'm pretty sure we'll definitely see some black bears in our count. Just remember, don't scream and run! I'm kidding, bears would be too far away in the first place, and second, we've never had a bear incident. Another thing I'm looking forward to is to see if we can find a bald eagle! I already know we had a great horned owl; so without a doubt, there have to be other birds of prey to find.

I'm sure, even at my home park, there'll be a lot of learning experiences. I'm certain there will be a large attendance at the festival; hopefully I'll see a large turnout from my friends and their families at our grand BioBlitz Festival.

The greatest thing that I'm looking forward to doing is working with our groups out in the field. Getting to work with these scientists is a once in a lifetime thing; I hope to work with the groups and be inspired with them and the scientists. BioBlitz allows average kids to experience something new and life-changing; it allows the most average city kid to have the opportunity to see what work in the field is actually like, to inspire them to go into the field of science and work in our treasured national parks, but also love it the whole way through, to enjoy the biodiversity from their hometown, and fall in love and cherish our National Park System.

My expectations for this year's BioBlitz is to have fun and to study the plants and animals of Rocky Mountain National Park. One thing I would like to learn about at this year's BioBlitz is are there Mexican Grey Wolves in Rocky Mountain National Park. Mexican Grey Wolves are one of my favorite animals and I am curious to know if they live in the state of Colorado. Since I am used to the Sonoran Desert I do not have any idea about colder climates. I only know about the climate in Arizona and about things like our monsoon season. I cannot wait to learn about a brand new ecosystem at BioBlitz 2012.

The National Park Service is something that defines America. The parks are special not only to Americans, but to visitors and citizens from other countries. The parks hold biodiversity, the history of our ancestors, and people's happiness. Without them, I bet most people wouldn't know what beauty is in nature, how there are so many things out there for people to discover and appreciate. Every national park is different. It can be the climate, animals, or plants that make them different.

When I go to the 2012 BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park, I expect many things to be different from the 2010 and 2011 BioBlitzes at Biscayne and Saguaro national parks. The Rocky Mountains won't have humid weather like Biscayne and dry heat like Saguaro. The Rocky Mountains have weather like Connecticut, cold through winter and beginning of spring but hot during the summer. Rocky Mountain National Park has an alpine terrain while Saguaro is a desert and Biscayne is an aquatic landscape. I look to forward to seeing and learning about animals like moose, mountain lions, and albino ground squirrels. Animals like moose and goats have strong hooves so they can easily climb the rocky terrain. To survive during the wintertime, these animals have thick furry coats to trap in their body heat and keep them warm. Plants I want to see while exploring the Rocky Mountains are the monks hood and stinkweed. When young stinkweed leaves are crushed, it gives off a smelly odor. I like how plants get their names based on one of their features like the stinkweed. I am not very knowledgeable about insects but I would love to learn how some of them adapt in the wintertime.

The national parks are full of biodiversity—a variation of different life forms. There is a lot of biodiversity in the national parks. Some even undiscovered by scientists. That is why National Park Service and National Geographic hold BioBlitz. At BioBlitz scientists, students, teachers, and families can discover wildlife. When I go to 2012 BioBlitz every day there will be new discoveries and many new and exciting things for me to learn too!


Rocky Mountain BioBlitz—Day 1

On the first day of the BioBlitz, the youth ambassadors visited the booths at the Biodiversity Festival, attended the opening ceremony, and headed out for an inventory of macroinvertebrates in an aspen forest. They shared some thoughts about the day.

NPS Director Jarvis speaks at opening ceremony
NPS Director Jarvis speaking at opening ceremony

Parker: Some "Scribblitz" about BioBlitz
Today is the first day! I'm sitting in the opening ceremonies, in the Ponderosa stage, just anticipating the start of the event! There's 100s of local kids here making the rounds and learning about their park. Many of them are learning and participating in the activities around the Biodiversity Festival. It's exciting to see and meet everyone motivated to help the cause. There was a group that enrolled in community college and visited BioBlitz for their school assignment. They were excited to be involved, and that's what mattered! Here at the Biodiversity Festival, one of my favorite things was seeing my volunteer buddies at Discovery Days and plant identification at the BioBlitz backyard.

The opening ceremony was a blast! Seeing the important faces and figures of the National Park Service and National Geographic, which both helped fund and develop BioBlitz, speak about what they thought BioBlitz was about. The way they explained it, it was to pass on the torch for future generations to preserve it for their grandchildren.

Searching for aquatic life
Searching for aquatic life

Valyssa: Day 1
I started the day with breakfast. It was good! But now it's time to get busy. BIOBLITZ!

I learned that for a millipede, milli stands for thousand. Then with centipede, centi stands for a hundred. There are about 60 legs on a centipede and 100 legs for a millipede. Another interesting fact about what I learned about elks was that when their antlers fall off, the minerals in them are a good food resource. The minerals are important for small mammals' diet.

Girl kicking into a kick net
Working the kick net

Dara: Day 1
In the Rocky Mountain National Park, I visited the elk booth and learned from a ranger that there aren't any more elk predators, the wolves, because people would hunt them. Since there are barely any predators, Rocky Mountain National Park is overpopulated with elk. Rangers have created exclosures, which are fenced areas where the elk cannot go. The rangers had to do this because the elk are eating all of the vegetation. They are doing this to see if the elk are changing the vegetation in the area where they're in the park.

My first inventory at BioBlitz was the water invertebrates at Beaver Meadows. I learned that macroinvertebrates are the base of the food chain and help scientists know if water is good quality, and they are very cool! I learned about the supplies used to capture the water invertebrates like the D-net and the kick net. I also learned about macroinvertebrates like the stone fly and the caddisfly. We used the D-net and the kick net to capture the stone- and caddisfly. I got to wear rain boots and kick dirt to capture the macroinvertebrates.

Parker looking into a net
Checking the D-net

Parker: Aspens and Macroinvertebrates
So we ended up at Upper Beaver Meadows to count and discover about macroinvertebrates and the Aspen Ecosystem. Ginger (our guide) taught us three things about why these macroinvertebrates are important, but I assume the other two [ambassadors] already are in the process of listing them. It was cool to see stonefly and caddisfly larvae in the water. I learned (out of embarrassment, of course) that mayflies have 3 tails, while stoneflies have 2! I saw a toad, a remarkable achievement. I showed my buddy, Miles, how to find larvae under a stone, but he probably paid more attention to the trout minnows.


Rocky Mountain BioBlitz—Day 2

The second day of the BioBlitz was a busy one for the ambassadors. They started off with an aquatic macroinvertebrate inventory and then traveled up to the alpine tundra to look at vascular plants. They ended their day at the closing ceremony, where they were interviewed by park staff.

Man studying aquatic species in a tray while wading
Taking a close look at macroinvertebrates

Parker: A Day at the Ranch
Traveling to McGraw Ranch in a '92 Jeep Wrangler might just be my dream ride. The shakes and jiggles of the car shock through me to result in a feel of "the classic Jeep ride."

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the National Geographic team and a few rangers and interns I worked with this summer. And on top of it all, I probably got the classiest pair of boots ever!

We jumped into the local streambed and got to work. When I say "work," I mean having a blast catching aquatic macroinvertebrates. I seemed to catch a ton of worms, none of which are the ones in your gardens. While I did catch other macroinvertebrates, I kept thinking of how scientists do that every day. They study the birds and bugs and plants and mammals and reptiles and amphibians; and after all that, it sounds really cool and exciting and refreshing and, most of all, inspiring. That's why it's so cool to get all these kids out here to work and learn in the outdoors WITH scientists and professionals.

Girl kneeling and listening in tundra
Receiving instructions for the alpine plant inventory

Valyssa: Day 2
Today I went to the alpine tundra ecosystem. The tundra grows above treeline, so there were just rocks and low-growing plants. The tundra gets most of its water from snowmelt. One animals that lives in the tundra is the pika. The pika is in the rabbit family, but it has small ears. The small ears help keep the pika warm.

We also went to McGraw Ranch to study macroinvertebrates in a pond and a small stream. The small stream seemed like it had more macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrates can show us if the water is clean and healthy.

Girl looking for invertebrates in tray of vegetation
Searching for macroinvertebrates

Dara: Day 2
Today during the second day of BioBlitz, I went to the McGraw Ranch to find water invertebrates. With a net, I found mayflies, aquatic roly polies, and black fly larvae. I learned how to tell the difference between different flies like the mayfly. The mayfly has three tails, which form into the shape of an "M."

Then I went to the alpine tundra to do a vascular plant inventory. I learned how all plants above the treeline are low to the ground because it's really cold and there aren't any trees to protect them from the wind. I also saw grasshoppers and other interesting bugs. There were also big amounts of elk scat on the tundra, which indicates that there were many elk on the tundra. They go there in the summer to feed.

Man carrying plant inventory equipment
Hiking in tundra

Parker: A Hike in the Alpine Tundra
For another activity on the last day of the BioBlitz, we traveled up to the alpine tundra to inventory the vascular plants on top of the world. There are so many varieties of plants up there! We heard plenty of scientific names of the plants. My favorite flower, not in bloom at the time, was the old man of the mountain. Usually it looks like a sunflower on the alpine tundra, dubbing it the "alpine sunflower." I also learned that sedges have edges and grasses are round. The second one isn't so catchy, but I guess I'll remember it. The best thing is that I learned that granite is igneous.


What's Next?

Woman showing species totals
Revealing species totals at the Rocky Mountain BioBlitz

The 2012 BioBlitz inventories wrapped up promptly at noon. At the closing ceremony, organizers announced the event's grand totals: nearly 2,000 students, almost 200 scientists, 45+ exhibitors, about 5,000 attendees, and...489 species! This number will grow over time as scientists continue to identify the species they found over the 24-hour blitz.

To conclude the ceremony, Rocky Mountain National Park's superintendent passed the official BioBlitz flag to the next host park...Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisana. The ambassadors hope to see you there in May 2013!


Last Updated: January 03, 2017