Every year, National Geographic helps put together a BioBlitz event, with the host park changing each time. This year, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the host for the 2015 BioBlitz. The BioBlitz is "a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible," as described by National Geographic.
As a way to help bridge science and culture, the 2015 Cultural Festival was held in conjunction with the event. On May 15th, the first day of the event, scores of students, teachers, and volunteers visited the festival after going out in the field and identifying natural resources. Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization was there to host a number of the students by playing a Firewise Plant Game Show. Students were shown a few different plants that ranged from "good," "ok," or "bad" Firewise plants. The "future landscapers" had to help us determine the ranking score for each plant, many of which were native to Hawaiʻi.
The second day of the event, May 16th, brought in a different audience: the general public. Thousands swung by the festival, many of whom stopped by our booth to learn about wildfires in Hawaiʻi and how residents could use native Firewise plants to help protect their homes from wildfire. Visitors were intrigued by the plants, including ʻihi oʻahu (delicate succulent with beautiful purple flowers), ʻohelo papa (native edible strawberry), and ʻalaʻala wai nui (a peperomia with fuzzy leaves and branches that protect it from the sun).
We also had a few keiki dress-up in wildland firefighter gear donated by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Each young firefighter was able to take home a Polaroid photo (yes, they still exist!) with the active Kilauea Caldera in the distance.
The unique event drew upwards of 5,000 people, making it one of our most visible events, yet.