News  /  by Eden Fesseha '19  /  May 20, 2017

This past Monday, the winners of the 2017 BioBlitz were announced. In first place was Brandon Li ’19, with Sasha Syunkova ’18 coming in a close second and in third was Abe Eafa ’17. The other top ten finishers were Alex Browne ’17, Reilly Koren ’18, Emily VandenBerg ’17, Mandi Marom ’18, Shawn Olstein ’18, Greg Gidicsin ’17, and Math Teaching Fellow Noelle Niu.

BioBlitz ran from February 15 to May 15. Throughout the competition, participants uploaded pictures of organisms—both plants and animals—that they encountered to iNaturalist, a social media platform meant to showcase biodiversity. This year, BioBlitz featured the identification of 822 species and over 5000 observations, an increase of about 300 species and 2000 observations from last year. The top 50 winners will be awarded handmade bracelets or necklaces from Ecuador.

“I got a lot better at identifying plants and I think now I know a lot more about classification and habitats,” Li said, who identified a total of 248 species. Li, who has won BioBlitz for his second consecutive year, said his favorite experience in the competition was finding a fish in Ecuador that had never been pictured before.

Syunkova, who identified a total of 247 species, shared similar feelings. “I wasn’t as interested in ecology and environmental sciences before competing in BioBlitz—I always loved [being in] nature, but BioBlitz gave purpose to just walking around.”

Eafa said, “I think seeing how many species I can find by just walking around our campus really made me appreciate the biodiversity that’s around us [and] I was able to appreciate how many plants and animals you can find on campus.”

Eafa, who made most of his observations on campus, also made several observations in Bolivia while on a school trip.

He said, “[BioBlitz] encourages students to go out and explore the campus and [...] look for plants and animals.”