Despite mobility restrictions and other limitations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, students from 15 schools in the municipality of Baras, Rizal were given an opportunity to rediscover their native biodiversity.
With the help of their teachers, parents, and conservationists in the municipality, students-explorers charted at least 10,000 plants and animals and about 2,000 different species in their backyards through the first-ever “Backyard Bioblitz.”
Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd)-Baras and the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, the first “Backyard Bioblitz” in the country was also supported by the National Geographic Society, Global Shapers Manila, and the Municipality of Baras.
Masungi Georeserve Foundation project manager Deil Galenzoga explained that the students from 15 local elementary and high schools collected and identified as many species as possible in their backyards over one week using the iNaturalist app.
“Besides aiming to foster in our youth a wonder for the natural world, the exercise also helps contribute to science. High quality data uploaded in the app become part of an open-source database used by scientists and policy-makers around the world,” ” Galenzoga added.
Wilma Sorro, a local teacher, said that the students became curious as observers. “They really enjoyed the new platform. They learned to value the smallest thing they see in their surroundings,” she noted. “They also became aware of the importance of living organisms in their environment,” she explained.
Painaan Heroes Ville Annex Elementary School with 1,783 observations and Baras Senior High School with 2,610 observations won first place in the elementary and high school categories, respectively.
Meanwhile, some of the most notable observations were Lagundi, Phanera sp., Oleander Moth, and Civet Cat. The Bioblitz is also part of the centennial anniversary celebrations of the Baras municipality.
Yannick Kuehl, senior director for Programs and Explorer Development-Asia, explained that the Philippines is one of 18 megabiodiverse countries in the world.
“Many of these species are endemic to the Philippines. There’s a lot to discover even in your own backyards. But biodiversity also threatened. We are losing some of these species forever,” Kuehl said. “We need to find solutions, take stock, and monitor change. This is why citizen science is so important. These observations will support and inform conservation actions to protect biodiversity,” he added.
Carlos Velazco, National Geographic Society Explorer, added that this is also a “unique opportunity” to do something for the world. “We are having a lot of trouble with the COVID pandemic and it’s because we don”t know about natural world around us,” he said. “Nature is not something we need to be afraid of, it is something we need look for and know about,” he said.