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How a “Bio-Blitz” Can Help Feed The Hungry: GZA’s Innovative Fundraiser Event on May 1

At a Glance


Protecting biodiversity and providing food to people in need are two causes GZA professionals are proud to support—and on May 1, GZA staff in Greater Chicago will be engaged in an innovative way to promote both causes at the same time.

The Community Outreach Committee at GZA’s Oak Brook, Ill. office last year identified the Northern Illinois Food Bank as the cause they wanted to make the focus of the local office’s charitable work. Supported by more than 1,000 volunteers, the Food Bank provides more than 250,000 meals every day to residents in 13 counties.

As a fundraiser to support the Food Bank, on Saturday the 1st, GZA environmental scientists and engineers will be engaged in another important cause: a “bioblitz ID-A-Thon” to identify as many species of plants, animals, fungi and other forms of life as they can find living in their communities. It’s part of the 2021 worldwide iNaturalist City Nature Challenge, which takes place between April 30th and May 3rd.

By encouraging volunteers from across the country and world to take and share smartphone photos of flora and fauna in their home cities, the event helps document and raise awareness of all the benefits of preserving and protecting wide varieties of plant and animal life, particularly in urbanized areas.

How the two causes are being connected: Groups led by GZA’s Matt Mackey, Lailah Reich, and Kinzie Roberton are raising pledges from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to donate a specified amount to the Food Bank for every species they successfully identify during the bioblitz on May 1. GZA as a company is matching employee donations raised by the ID-A-Thon teams. Matt and Lailah, along with Adam Kittler, lead the GZA Oak Brook Community Outreach Committee.

GZA teams will be spending several hours in three Chicagoland forest preserves: Sidney R. Yates Flatwoods in Chicago, Busse Woods in Schaumburg’s Elk Grove Village, and the Blackwell Forest Preserve’s McKee Marsh in Warrenville. The iNaturalist app and website, which identify photographed species through artificial intelligence and phone location data, are used in a broad variety of biomonitoring and research activities.

“It’s the same principle as a pledge-per-mile cause walk or marathon, but in this case, the more examples of animal, plant, and fungus species we can successfully find, the more funds we will raise for the Food Bank,’’ Mackey said. “It’s inspiring to be able to both help document and protect our local natural environment while also helping bring food to more than 70,000 of our neighbors in need every day.’’