Connecting to Nature in Urban Las Vegas: RRAS BioBlitz Events

Past the Great-tailed Grackles calling from the parking lot at the Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center, a robber fly devours a Western bumblebee in a screwbean mesquite. Photographing the predator is a group of wide-eyed naturalists with Red Rock Audubon Society"s Urban Ecology Network. Many people don’t realize that this is just one of many nature scenes unfolding in our city. But this fall, Red Rock Audubon Society (RRAS) brought people together at two BioBlitz events to show how much life is in our urban spaces.
A BioBlitz is a designated time to record all the species found at a specific location, so RRAS celebrated nature’s urban wonders at the Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center in Winchester and The Solidarity Fridge in East Las Vegas, both nontraditional places for a BioBlitz because of the lack of greenspace surrounding them. Participants used the iNaturalist app to take pictures of the insects, birds, and plants they found and uploaded their observations to the iNaturalist database. Now, the iNaturalist map has data points for all the organisms participants found at the Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center and The Solidarity Fridge, showing that even in urban spaces, nature still surrounds us.

But the BioBlitz events were more than just recording species. They offered a chance for community members to collaborate and learn about nature together. Many participants had never used iNaturalist before, and made friends learning how to use it and identifying species together. At both events, RRAS members handed out materials about creating bird-friendly communities, native Mojave Desert plants, common insects, and local bird guides to the Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center and The Solidarity Fridge.

Casey Fox, a RRAS volunteer and member of the Urban Ecology Network, noted that her favorite part of the BioBlitz was “getting to see people getting excited about finding new organisms” and “the connection that people make while bonding over nature.” Out of the two BioBlitz events, her most memorable discovery was finding greenhouse millipedes in the community garden at Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center, where RRAS has several beds filled with native Mojave Desert plants.
For Talia Rodriquez and her son, the most memorable organism was the three-lined potato beetle at the Solidarity Fridge, a community food pantry in East Las Vegas. As a newcomer to RRAS events, she said the best part of the Biobltiz was “getting to meet people who really care about nature.”

In total, the Winchester-Dondero Cultural Center had 74 new observations uploaded onto iNaturalist and The Solidarity Fridge had 43 new observations uploaded. Check out the links to learn more about what species can be found in urban Las Vegas. And stay tuned to RRAS for more BioBlitz events this fall and winter, where you meet new friends and discover birds, bugs, and more together.