Backyard Bioblitz

Have you ever wanted to carry out fieldwork like our museum staff? Join Simon Hinkley, Collections Manager in Terrestrial Invertebrates, as he explains how you can carry out fieldwork in your own backyard or even a local park.

Read on to find out how to do your own Backyard Bioblitz, which will hopefully lead you to some amazing discoveries close to home!

What is a "Bioblitz"?

A Bioblitz is a kind of field work, where different kinds of natural scientists (like herpetologists, entomologists, mammalogists, and more) get together and use observational techniques to record all the living species in a particular area at a particular time. Sometimes, the public are encouraged to watch, or even help!

What is fieldwork, and why do we do it?

Fieldwork is the collecting of specimens or information on species from a real, uncontrolled environment (instead of an artificial space, like a lab or classroom).

It means you have to go out to where the 'stuff' is likely to be living - be it in the garden, in the park, deep in the ocean or around your pot plants on the verandah! They don’t have to be species that are still living today – some people do fieldwork looking for dinosaur fossils. Anyone who is interested in nature can do fieldwork – you don’t have to be an expert. Some very important observations have been made by people who aren’t scientists.

The purpose of fieldwork is to increase our knowledge of the natural world. If we want to conserve the natural world, its beautiful sites and the species that live in it we have to know about them. We need information on where they live, how many there are, and to know if the population is increasing or decreasing. A bonus is that doing fieldwork can also be a lot of fun and you can see some amazing and beautiful things.

Why is it important to look close to home, as well as out in the bush? 

Often people think that everything that lives in or near our cities, suburbs or towns has been found and so there is no point looking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing fieldwork in man-made areas – as well as natural areas – helps us understand what can put up with living near us humans and what prefers to stay away from our gardens and houses. Plus, nature is constantly changing; when we have a drought, often birds from drier parts of the state end up coming in to Melbourne to take advantage of the water and food in the parks and peoples’ backyards.

How to do a Backyard Bioblitz 

    1. Print out the observation sheet:
    2. Think hard about what you want to achieve, how you want to go about doing it, and what effect your fieldwork might have on the animals.
    3. Prepare data collection sheets, have things like a phone or a camera handy to record photos, and make a note of the date, and time, and locations. The 'stuff' is only as good as the details that come with it - the 'stuff about the stuff', if you prefer.
    4. Think about how you will need to act to be almost invisible in the environment - this is the animal's world we are entering, so we should disrupt the animals as little as possible - remember, we are trying to observe nature, not change it.
    5. Head into your backyard, or front fence, or look through and around your windows.
    6. Don’t forget the mostly small world of invertebrates, the insects, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, slaters etc. Many of these like to hide and are very small so you may have to redirect your eyes to their mini world. Just remember, to an insect, even a small garden appears to be an enormous forest to them, so try to picture how the animals might see their environment.
    7. What kind of creatures do you see? What are they doing? Can you tell what they might eat? Take a picture, or do a drawing!
    8. Find out what species they are. Have a look at the links below – we have some common creatures listed. Plus, we have some information about common insects, birdwatching, and all sorts of great things you can see at home!
    9. Did you make some really great observations, and are you interested in contributing them to actual science? Check out the virtual Bushblitz here!
    10. Email your questions, photos or findings to [email protected]. The experts at the museum are always happy to hear from you, and to help you. If you would like help identifying your finds, contact us via our website or on Twitter!


Species you might find:

Insects and spiders




Related articles

Join the mailing list and get the latest from our Museums direct to your inbox.

Share your thoughts to WIN

We'd love to hear about your experience with our website. Our survey takes less than 10 minutes and entries go in a draw to win a $100 gift voucher at our online store!