EEB’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is delighted to announce that the winner of the Inaugural EEB JEDI Award is the BioBlitz Planning Committee for organizing and planning the annual University of Michigan BioBlitz event.

BioBlitz is a rapid biodiversity inventory of local community green spaces that began in 2012 at the U-M Nichols Arboretum, then moved to Detroit’s Belle Isle and in 2015, to D-Town Farm, where it’s taken place since, according to EEB graduate student Kristel Sánchez, who submitted the nomination on behalf of the committee. Clarisse Betancourt, Tiffany Carey and Naim Edwards co-wrote the nomination.

“The program provides an opportunity for the next generation of scientists and Earth stewards to form a deep appreciation for their community and its natural spaces,” the nomination stated. “The BioBlitz experience connects Detroit youth to nature through place-based nature activities, and introduces them to various leaders with expertise and professional careers in STEM, conservation, local ecology and farming. The event strengthens the bonds between the U-M and Detroit community, connecting Detroit youth to U-M scientists and students and to other Detroit locals involved in farming and environmental justice. BioBlitz has grown since its inception, now hosting 40 - 80 youth each year, with 30 - 40 U-M volunteers and 15 - 20 volunteers from Detroit.

“The day consists of documenting the biodiversity of the urban farm and rotating through several science stations alongside community members. For example, some of the stations consist of specimens kindly provided by the bird, fish and insect collections (from the U-M Museum of Zoology). Other stations use game-like activities such as the “trait race” that are designed for participants to learn ecological concepts like foraging behavior, microhabitat variation, heritable traits and competition.”

Event organizers have partnered with local community-based organizations, such as D-Town Farms, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, the Detroit Zoological Society, and Wayne State University.

The (relatively) large binoculars did not discourage this curious naturalist. Image: Michelle Fearon.

The planning committee is a group of alumni and current graduate and undergraduate students in EEB and the School for Environment and Sustainability who are interested in providing a scientific and ecological experience to the youth in Detroit. The following individuals, to the best of the JEDI Committee’s knowledge, have been involved in the BioBlitz Planning Committee over the years (with sincere apologies for any omissions*):

· Clarisse Betancourt

· Tiffany Carey

· Naim Edwards

· Michelle Fearon

· Daniel Katz 

· Emily Laub

· Gordon Fitch

· Nicholas Medina

· Jonno Morris

· Beatriz Otero Jimenez

· Kristel Sánchez

· Meagan Simons

The committee seeks to build their capacity to ensure sustainability of BioBlitz for the next 5 – 10 years.

“Please join us in congratulating all of them! We are honored to be able to give them the inaugural JEDI Award,” the committee wrote in an email. “We thank everyone else who submitted a nomination and look forward to being able to continue to recognize work on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion by people in our department.”

The committee would like to recognize the other nominators and their submissions with Honorable Mentions. Group projects included: Nikesh Dahal, Coloring Science; Gordon Fitch, EcoDía; Katrina Munsterman, field work and social-ecological study in The Bahamas working with local students; an individual nomination of Kristel Sánchez for her tireless JEDI efforts on many fronts throughout her time in the program, by Meghan Duffy.

Members of EEB's JEDI Committee are: Vincent Denef, Shane DuBay, Tom Duda, Nyeema Harris, Nia Johnson, Jo Kurdziel, Nathan Sadowsky, Chatura Vaidya. 

“The idea to offer a JEDI award came from our EEB anti-racism workplan last summer and is part of the committee’s larger goal to compensate and reward JEDI-related activities and we thank everyone who has been fighting for this recognition over the years,” said Sadowsky. “We were honored to receive initial support for the award this year from the EEB chair, and next year we will continue the award with support from the Rackham Graduate School. We look forward to receiving more nominations next year for both group projects and individuals.”

BioBlitz was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The committee is hoping to hold an event in fall 2021.

Read more and see photos of past events in previous EEB website news and on EEBlog

EEB partners with Detroit youth for BioBlitz biodiversity survey (2015)

EEB joins Detroit community for D-Town Farm BioBlitz (2016)

BioBlitz Detroit 2017: discovering biodiversity in the city

UMich SEEDS partners with D-Town Farm for 2018 BioBlitz

8th annual BioBlitz (2019)

*If you’ve served on the BioBlitz committee and aren’t named here, please email

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein

Volunteers who coordinated and supported the BioBlitz in 2019.