A relatively large rodent, the rare Patagonian Mara, sparked excitement among students at a Dubai school renowned for its growing passion for the natural world. Students from Jebel Ali School (JAS) collaborated to collect over 3,600 local wildlife records during a week-long event dubbed the 'bioblitz battle'. Participants, including students of all ages, their families, and staff, engaged in outdoor activities, snapping photos of insects and birds between lessons. Parents also joined in, rushing to spots like Al Qudra Lakes to contribute.

The nature initiative is a collaborative citizen science effort, akin to a 'race against time', where participants aim to identify and document as many species as possible within a specific timeframe and location. Surrey, a Year 5 student, shared her experience of spotting a Patagonian Mara near Al Qudra Lakes, initially mistaken for a deer.

Parent and PTA member, Aysin Ulug Pekince, highlighted the positive impact of the bioblitz on mental health, noting its role in fostering curiosity and encouraging outdoor activities. Alan Smith, Sustainability Lead and STEAM Teacher at JAS, emphasized the importance of such initiatives, utilizing an AI-integrated app to aid in species identification. The school also developed a custom-built web app to enhance the bioblitz experience with a competitive edge, introducing points based on species rarity and a live league table.

The school has further engaged in inter-school competitions, recently collaborating with Safa Community School to make over 2,700 observations. JAS is now preparing for its 'Nature Connection for Sustainability and Wellbeing Conference' in January, aiming to promote nature engagement through fun, citizen science games. This initiative has contributed significantly to global citizen science observations on the iNaturalist platform, underscoring the valuable role of citizen scientists in research and conservation.