At the 12th ICA Rectors and Deans Forum in October 2022 focusing on Bending the Curve for Biodiversity: challenges and opportunities for life science universities an important Communiqué was published, in which ICA members pledged to put biodiversity conservation at the heart of their activities.
With this ICA Biodiversity Challenge 2023 we put forward an activity for all ICA members that is fun, brings our staff and students together, and sparks engagement with biodiversity, particularly relating to this part of the pledge made in the Communiqué:
“We will engage to protect and enhance the biodiversity of our own life science university grounds, campuses and other estates, for them to become enlightening examples and teaching tools for biodiversity-based development.”
15 ICA universities enthusiastically participated in this Challenge between 22 May (International Day on Biodiversity) and 30 June. For these six weeks, staff and students will be counting species on their university grounds.
On Friday 30 June the ICA Biodiversity Challenge was closed with a hybrid event announcing the University of Hohenheim as the winning institution with 2088 species seen. In second place was the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with 1845 species seen, and in third KU Leuven with 1488 species seen. Arthur Mol dicussed how such a challenge can help ICA members fulfil their pledge to put biodiversity conservation at the heart of their research, education and campus operations.
Kirsten Schuyt – Director General of WWF International – addressed the role that academic institutions can play in bending the curve of biodiversity loss.
Wageningen University & Research, in close cooperation with the ICA Secretariat, takes up the organisation of the ICA Biodiversity Challenge 2023.
What is the ICA Biodiversity Challenge (ICA BioBlitz 2023)
A BioBlitz is an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area and timeframe.
The ICA Biodiversity Challenge is a ‘BioBlitz’, in which the number of species found on campus is counted. Anyone – students, staff, but also visitors - can join and add species into the Observation.org, Obsidentify or Obsmapp apps. The number of species registered in the app can be followed in real-time. We will set up a platform that shows the observations of each participating university, making it possible to keep track of each other's progress.
Wageningen University & Research is providing guidance in using the platform apps and in supporting participation.
Additional events could be organised around the BioBlitz, providing an opportunity for staff and students to discuss biodiversity and to share their knowledge. For example, in 2022 we organised excursions on our WUR campus, bringing together experts and non-experts, and staff and students. Teachers of courses related to biodiversity can use the event to encourage students to explore biodiversity at their campus and participate in discussions about biodiversity conservation. Such additional events are not a requirement for participation, but we would be happy to share our guidance documents and experience.
Timeline in 2023
To make optimal use of the growing season in most of Europe, the ICA BioBlitz 2023 on International Day for Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Day), 22nd May 2023. To give each university some flexibility in their active participation in the BioBlitz, the platform would stay open for the entire month of June. We envisage a closing event on Friday 30th of June, as a celebration for everyone who participated, and a (online) get-together to connect and share highlights between universities.
|By 31 January 2023||Inform us that you will participate in ICA BioBlitz 2023 & provide a contact person|
|Jan-Feb 2023||Alignment participating universities|
|Feb-May 2023||Planning and organisation participation in the ICA BioBlitz 2023|
|22nd May 2023||Kick-off|
|30th June 2023||Closing event|
Why would ICA members participate
- The BioBlitz is a low-threshold, inclusive activity providing a practical way to act on the pledge:
- It provides a platform for students and staff to interact, share knowledge and to act to protect and enhance biodiversity in their direct environment;
- It will provide a biodiversity baseline for your university grounds. This can be used for (sustainability) reporting and subsequent biodiversity monitoring. It can serve as a starting point for conversations on how to improve biodiversity in certain area’s or for certain species’ groups.
- Having established contact persons for each participating university makes for easy entry points to share best practice in protecting and enhancing biodiversity on campus.
- Your participation will help ICA to communicate throughout Europe that we take biodiversity serious.
If we want people to care about biodiversity, they should experience what it is. Biodiversity is not only rain forests and coral reefs, it is found everywhere. Looking closely at what can be found at the university grounds is a great way to experience biodiversity. If you ask people to have a closer look, they are usually surprised at what can be found right under their feet. This is especially the case for urban areas, and we explicitly challenge all ICA members, no matter how green their grounds, to join.
Minimal requirements for participation
- Contact person, in charge of participation in the ICA BioBlitz 2023 at your location;
- Organising a group of enthusiasts to monitor species at your location;
- Participation in the kick-off moment on 22nd May, and closure event on 30th June.
- Species can be added to the app at any time between 22nd May and 30th June 2023;
- You define the area on university-owned grounds to be included in the BioBlitz;
- Wageningen University will provide guidance in using the platform app and support on how to participate.
Below is an example of the outcome of a BioBlitz held on the Wageningen University & Research campus in 2021.