The volcanic activity at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island gets most of the attention in the news, but it’s the wonderfully complex biodiversity within the park that will take center stage over the coming weekend.

Visitors and residents alike have the opportunity to join with the National Geographic Society’s BioBlitz 2015, a free two-day event that will send teams of scientists, Hawaiian cultural practitioners, students, and the general public out into a variety of areas of the park to discover as many plants and creatures as possible to provide a detailed inventory of life in the park. More than 1,000 people are expected to participate in this real-life scientific inquiry.

Scientists and volunteers will focus on different groups, like birds, insects, and plants. The National Parks Service cosponsors BioBlitz, and this will be the ninth annual event. Other places BioBlitz has taken place include San Francisco and Australia.

The data collected, using the iNaturalist app for smartphone, will help assess how native Hawaiian bird species like the elepaio, ‘apanepane, and ‘Io, or Hawaiian Hawk are thriving. Many native bird species fare better in the high altitudes of the park because mosquitos, which spread avian diseases, are less common. The inventory will also help track the presence of harmful invasive species in the park.

BioBlitz 2015 also offers Biodiversity and Cultural Festival, which marks the festival’s 35th anniversary at Hawaii Volcanos National Park. This year’s festival will feature award winning Hawaiian musician Kenneth Makuakane with other beloved performers and hula performances by revered hula halau. But the event is much more than just a concert in the park.

There will be a number of interactive exhibits, focusing on the science of the park, created by esteemed organizations like the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, All One Ocean, and the Wildfire Management Organization. A powerful microscope will be set up for visitors to peer into a tiny world of unimaginable diversity and complexity, and scientific experts will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions about science and the park itself.

BioBlitz 2015 also offers a unique opportunity to meet National Geographic Society photographers and photo editors, who will be conducting on-site workshops about nature photography and what goes into getting a great, memorable shot.

Participation in the BioBlitz Biodiversity Inventory requires registration, which can be done easily at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/projects/bioblitz/public-registration/.

It can be tempting, easy even, to surrender to the pleasures and pampering of a sprawling resort in Hawaii, particularly on the Big Island. But to do so is to miss out on what Hawaii has to offer beyond the postcards and Mai Tais. The 2015 National Geographic Society BioBlitz at Hawaii Volcanos National Park is a perfect reason to venture beyond the creature comforts of a resort and explore Hawaii’s natural world.

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