EcoBlitz Protocol

Before Arriving to the Site

1. Get Ready to Use iNaturalist

2. Get ready to use Marine Debris Tracker

3. Prepare your students to think like a biologist/archaeologist with the Pre-Blitz Discussion Guide.

At the Site

1. Choose an area that your class will survey in both the BioBlitz and the TrashBlitz.

While the specific size of the area is not important, it is important that you measure its size (in ft2 or m2) and perform both Blitzes within the same area.

2. Mark the boundaries of the area with flags or sticks in the ground.

Measure the sides of the space, perhaps with a pre-measured string, and compute its area.

3. Plan to spend the same amount of time surveying trash and surveying biodiversity.

Teacher Tips:

Divvying up data collection

Students will collect two sets of data in the same area for the same amount of time. You may wish to have them focus on wildlife first and then return to the same area to collect data about trash in another session. Or you can have students work in groups; some students focus on wildlife while others focus on trash.

Think about how you want to have students collect data. Are students in pairs? In a small group? How will you handle getting and uploading photos? Each group will have a device? An adult? In the moment or will it be done back in the classroom?

You may want to systematically survey a location. This can be done by marking the boundaries of the area of interest, and then walking across it in a predetermined pattern from one side to the other.

Tips From Previous Teachers Participants

  • “We did both blitzes in one chunk of time with a reflection midway through.”

  • “For PK-1, the protocol is a bit different. Our explorer recommended crouching down and making a circle with your hands and slowly going over an area. We practiced this before the actual Blitz. Since my class didn’t have 1:1 technology, we front loaded by going to the garden to first identify some plants and choose what we wanted pictures of (otherwise it would get crazy). I had them make a garden book and drawings what they wanted to take pictures of. During the actual Blitz, we went to the garden with our books. The explorer and myself had iPhones. We each took a group of students. The students then showed us what was in their book and we took pics of plants with the iPhones. I think it needs to be controlled like this for younger grades.”

  • “For the trash survey, we practiced the technique of crouching down and making a circle in the front grass by the class. The explorer and I each had clipboards. The students went to the area and got on hands and knees to search. When they found something, then came up to one of us and told us if it’s paper, plastic etc. Then we check it off, then they throw it away. Again, it was important for it to be controlled. I could have given them the sheets to do independently, but I know most of them would’ve miscounted."

  • "To do the Bioblitz and the TrashBlitz in the same area, it helps to break students into groups and cover the area doing the BioBlitz first to avoid disturbing of animals that might be scared by excited people. Be careful of sharp metal or glass - let adults retrieve the sharp litter."

BioBlitz Tips

  • Remember to identify and survey multiple microhabitats and areas of plant-animal or plant-plant interaction

  • Ask yourself, is that one species of grass or multiple species of grass? Is that one species of ant or multiple species of ants?

  • Consider taking a photograph of the location you are surveying that reveals what type of habitat it is (forest, savannah, park, school-yard, beach, etc). Remember not to include student faces in any photographs.

  • Students should focus on non-cultivated plants if possible

  • Remind students about how to take good pictures--one organism per photo, no humans, enough detail so that the organism can be identified

TrashBlitz Tips

  • Count each individual piece of trash, even if they appear to come from the same source (for example, 5 pieces of broken glass counts as 5 pieces)

  • Consider laying out all of the trash you’ve collected and taking a photograph. Remember not to include student faces in any photographs.

Photos by Diego Ponce De León Barido

General Considerations

  • Be safe

  • Do not touch any wildlife

  • When taking photographs, avoid including faces of students or adults.

  • Avoid traffic hazards by watching for cars, bicycles, or other vehicles at all times.

  • Wear closed-toe shoes and suitable protective clothing.

  • Avoid handling potentially harmful items (eg. batteries, biohazards, sharps, heavy objects, etc.).

  • Use gloves or trash-grabbers when handling trash.

  • Dispose of collected trash responsibly

After Leaving the Site

1. Upload your best photographs to iNaturalist


      • Identify each observation as a Fungus, Plant, or Animal. Feel free to be more specific if you can guess what the organism is, such as: squirrel, maple tree, grass, insect, rhododendron, lichen, lupin, etc.

      • If observation is of a “cultivated” organism, mark it as such using the checkbox on the right side of the observation upload page

      • Include a GPS coordinate or approximate location for each observation. Please double check that the location you use is that of the survey site, and not of the place where you happen to upload the photographs.

      • Upload all photographs from a single account.


      • Upload any photographs of trash to iNaturalist

      • Upload any photos that contain students’ faces

      • Upload blurry or unidentifiable photographs

      • Upload photographs where it is unclear what the focal organism is (this could be specified in the description)

2. Upload your trash data to Marine Debris Tracker


      • Use the EcoBlitz list to make observations

      • Upload all data from a single account

      • Take photographs of trash all together

      • Take photographs of weird/usual/interesting trash finds

      • Fill out a description of any object you add under “other”

      • Fill out the User Survey to the best of your ability. Please be sure to include the address of your collection location.


      • Upload any photographs of trash to iNaturalist

      • Upload any photos that contain students’ faces

      • Upload blurry or unidentifiable photographs

      • Upload photographs where it is unclear what the focal organism is (this could be specified in the description)

3. Debrief your students using the Post-Blitz Discussion guide.