I’m a lifelong techie and electronics hardware nerd, but I have more recently come to embrace the nature side of the equation. Nowadays, in addition to wielding my soldering iron and oscilloscope skills I’m also a novice birder, occasional wildflower photographer, curious park historian, and frequent dog walker. I’ve also become a vocal advocate for bringing more folks into new relationships with the “rambunctious gardens” that surround us in our urban parks.

Nature Deficit Disorder is no joke. The more we study the human psyche, the more we understand how much we need ready escapes from our built environment to maintain our basic health. Yet with the wonders of Yosemite or King’s Canyon within a few hour’s drive, many Bay Area families have trouble making it to the beach — so having as much nature as we can here in our backyards is crucial. This is why many of us are active in Save McLaren Park and other stewardship groups.

A decade ago the San Francisco Rec & Parks Department did a city-wide survey to find out what citizens wanted from their park system. The short answer: More Nature. The highest interest by far (76%) was for more running, walking, and biking trails. One out of four respondents said they would visit nature areas more often if programming were provided. We are striving to meet these needs in McLaren Park, and Nerds for Nature’s upcoming bioblitz (we’re honored to be their first!) is a perfect embodiment of this mission.

With increasing effects of climate change, and increasing population pressures on our open spaces, developing baseline data is critical to tracking species migrations and otherwise comprehending and protecting the web of life in our City’s wildest areas. Yes, there are extensive natural area management plans and well-researched bird lists. But they are sometimes informed by out-of-date field reports and can miss the more complex dynamics of a park’s ecosystem.

So this bioblitz, supported by the iNaturalist app, will provide important data for understanding and managing the park. And it will help park visitors enjoy the flora and fauna they come across in their wanderings, as well. Having an all-star team of local naturalists as well as the app’s on-line team of experts to confirm ID submissions is just icing on the cake! Happily for McLaren Park, some citizen scientists are already starting to record iNaturalist observations there, and the list of confirmed species is growing steadily.

As many of us in the McLaren Park community are already “nature nerds”, we recognize and celebrate kindred spirits. We’re looking forward to a fabulously nerdy nature day in John McLaren Park on Saturday, May 11. And then… we’d like to plan some MORE bioblitzes and talk about some OTHER ideas for Nerd for Nature projects!

See you in the park.

Ken McGary
Save McLaren Park Coordinating Committee Member
McLaren Park Collaborative Volunteer
Nerd For Nature

RSVP for May 11:

Other Ways to Get Involved: McLaren is a large urban park, with an ever-growing community of neighbors and other advocates committed to making it a better public open space.

John McLaren Park info yelp / wiki / map / flickr

Save McLaren Park (SMP) news & mailing list / events / park history / John McLaren

McLaren Park Collaborative (MPC) Facebook page / Google Group

Philosopher’s Way  SMP page / Facebook page / map