May 31, 2008

Scientists Continue Research Through Night

Sunset came to BioBlitz at around 8:00pm last night and as some of the last groups headed out for field collection an intrepid group continued to record, identify, georeference, and blog straight on through dawn.

Even between 1:00 and 2:00am there was still an eager, but somewhat bleary eyed crew of NG Staffers and volunteers at the scientific tent at Paramount Ranch. Just up the road a few hundred yards several entomologists using sodium lights and a white parachute like backdrop, attracted a diverse set of moths for collection.

Temperatures quickly cooled off and the NG Maps team of Jess Elder, David Wright, and myself made frequent rounds to the food tent for coffee to keep warm. "We've georeferenced and uploaded hundreds of photos taken by teams throughout the day." remarked Elder, "By the time the sun comes up will be ready for the next influx of research."

Now at 6:00am ... a heavy dew is covering most of the surfaces. The bustle of activity is beginning to heat up again. And soon, the sun will peak out from behind the foothills and warm the few of us here up!

Looking at the current species tally board which ran all night, the count is approaching 700 with plants accounting for nearly 65% of the reported finds from the first 18 hours.

More to follow as we march towards the close of BioBlitz Santa Monica!

May 30, 2008

Song Bird Recordings

Earlier this morning William Hoese, a professor from Cal State Fullerton, walked by the maps booth with a microphone and digital recorder. Prof. Hoese had just captured songs from a male sparrow.

David Wright and Jess Elder of NG Maps, toured him through Metalens, which is being used to map the BioBlitz scientific findings. A few minutes later Hoese returned with a group of Hale Elementary Students, who posted comments about their collection efforts.

At 2:48 the first species counts came in from the morning collections... 105 distinct so far!

BioBlitz is Underway :: Opening Ceremony

BioBlitz is underway! Just a few minutes prior to noon a variety of speakers ranging from John Francis (vice president of National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration) to US Congressmen Brad Sherman. Over 1300 school children hit the field at precisely noon, spreading out to cover all the corners of the park.

For those interested here's some geographic detail on our location:

UTM: 11S 0338015 - 3776217 Elevation: 722'

Welcome to BioBlitz!

Greetings from BioBlitz! Throughout the day (and night) we will be posting photos, videos, and updates from BioBlitz in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. If you're in the area - come on down to Paramount Ranch - our command HQ.

What is BioBlitz?

BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of scientists, volunteers, and community members join forces to find, identify, and learn about as many local plant and animal species as possible. is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service centennial in 2016.

Besides live blogging here on Contours - be sure to visit our other BioBlitz Blog, with near real-time geostories, plus map-referenced photos, videos, and more!

May 26, 2008

GPS Navigation Day - Sandy, Utah

REI in Sandy, Utah is holding a GPS Navigation Day this Saturday, May 31st.

Spend a day outdoors and a few hours indoors with REI GPS experts and National Geographic Map Expert, Jeff Caulfield, learning how to use your GPS unit in conjunction with TOPO! digital maps.

Registration is required. Details here.

May 22, 2008

GeoWoodstock - the Ultimate Event for Geocachers

Geocache games, presentations by the REI Outdoor School staff, and much more await you at GeoWoodstock VI in Wheatland, California this Saturday.

Jeff Caulfield, our GPS and navigation expert, will be manning the NatGeo Maps booth, so please stop by!

More info here.

May 20, 2008

Go On Assignment with National Geographic at BioBlitz

Ever dreamed of going On Assignment with National Geographic? If you live in Southern California, now is your chance! Starting Friday May 30th at noon and running for 24 straight hours, National Geographic and National Park Service scientists and naturalists along with thousands of volunteers will comb the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area and conduct a thorough inventory of plants and animals.

Volunteers can choose from a variety of 4 hour shifts that will team up with an expert and track down specific species. If you love bugs, or prefer hunting for allusive night time creatures - now is your chance! Space is limited so register now.

Visit the National Geographic Maps Team at BioBlitz

If you make it out to BioBlitz, be sure to track down Fran Marshall, Dave Wright, Jess Elder, and myself! We'll be using NG Map's MetaLens multimedia mapping system to capture, record, and map species observations found by the scientists and naturalists. Throughout the event Dave and Jess will be crafting an ongoing “greatest hits” GeoStory (a map-based multimedia slideshow) for the NGS BioBlitz blog that will highlight the diverse species found throughout the event.

Stopping by the Maps tent will give you the chance to try your hand with GPS receivers, digital cameras, and the latest in map technology - plus it might even land you an appearance on the BioBlitz Blog or the TOPO! Explorer Community page for the event.

In addition, the Maps division recently completed a major revision to our Trails Illustrated map of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA. This update was timed specifically for BioBlitz and done in collaboration with local agencies. For those that frequent this amazing park, or those just getting introduced to it, this map is a must have. We will have sample copies on display and the Santa Monica Mountains Nature Association will have copies available for sale.

See you in Santa Monica!

May 11, 2008

Navigating the Colorado Front Range

Jeff Caulfield of NatGeoMaps brings his renowned Navigating with Maps & GPS clinics to Colorado's Front Range this week. Clinics are at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Attendees will receive a disk with Map & GPS Skills and other useful information.

REI Lakewood, Tuesday, May 13th

REI Fort Collins, Wednesday, May 14th

REI Boulder, Thursday, May 15th

Jeff will show you, step-by-step, how to use a GPS with a map to plan your next day hike or backcountry adventure. He'll discuss the features of different GPS models, and give you tips on how to use these features in the navigation process.

May 10, 2008

Puzzling Maps

Looking for a way to pass the time this weekend? Click on the image.

May 3, 2008

Been thinking about buying TOPO! state series?

Now's a good time thanks to the REI Anniversary sale thru May 11.

I was doing demos at a local REI store today, and realized some folks under 30 aren't as familiar with USGS topographic maps as are most of us older types. Simply put, they are the most detailed map set for the United States. We scanned all 55,000 sheets, seamed them together, and sell them in state sets to load on your PC or Mac. You can customize the maps by adding your own trails, text and symbols and importing tracks and waypoints from your GPS.

There is so much information on USGS topos that will never appear on computer-generated maps. That's why we went to the trouble to make the best scans of those maps, so when you print them out at home they look as good as the originals. Perhaps even better with our added shaded relief. Even if you use a GPS in the field, the experts tell you to take a printed map. It won't break or run out of power, and it gives you a better perspective on where you're going than a 4 inch screen.

We're about to make those maps even better, with our National Recreation Database at You can preview it in beta today, and it launches in less than a month. There will be many thousands of miles of trails to download and add to your maps (170,000+ miles as of today), along with Forest Service roads, public land boundaries, recreational points of interest and much more. All free additions to your TOPO! maps.