After launching the first-ever City Nature Challenge in 2016, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) and San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences are hosting its second—and much larger—effort. This year’s City Nature Challenge will span 16 cities across the U.S.
The multi-city event calls on current and aspiring citizen scientists, nature and science fans, and people of all ages and science backgrounds to observe and submit pictures of plants, animals, and fungi using the free app iNaturalist. The event kicks off April 14 at 12:01 a.m. in each time zone, coinciding with National Citizen Science Day April 15, and runs through 11:59 p.m. April 18. Results will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.
There is nature in every city, and the best way to study it is by connecting community and scientists through citizen science. With human populations worldwide increasingly concentrated in cities, the study of urban biodiversity is quickly becoming integral to the future of wildlife on Earth. Large pools of data, including those built through the free app iNaturalist and natural history museums, help authorities make informed conservation decisions that allow humans to coexist sustainably with the plants and animals in their neighborhoods.
Last year’s weeklong City Nature Challenge event invited participants in L.A. and San Francisco to observe and submit pictures of wildlife they encountered in the city, using iNaturalist. Between the two cities, participants added 21,408 observations of nature to iNaturalist, all of which are points of data that scientists can use to understand and conserve urban wildlife. Although in competition, both museums shared the goal of building community around nature discovery and observation.
This year, the Challenge includes 23 different partnering institutions. Last year’s challenge gave scientists insight into the biodiversity of two major cities in California, but this year, we will look at nature through a national lens. Citizen scientists from all over the country will not only represent their respective cities in this national challenge, but help our understanding of wildlife in the United States as a whole.
For budding and veteran citizen scientists, participating couldn’t be easier:
- Download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device.
- Between April 14-18, take photos to make “observations” of plants and animals in your back yard, while hiking in a park, along your walk to school or work—anywhere you find nature.
- Upload your photos to iNaturalist.
- Learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations.
Scientists can’t be everywhere at once, and without citizen scientists, they’d miss some incredible finds. During the 2016 City Nature Challenge, participants in San Francisco spotted two endangered, iconic Bay Area species: the Mission Blue butterfly and the San Francisco garter snake. In Los Angeles, famed P-22—the Griffith Park mountain lion—appeared on camera trap footage on the last night of the contest. With 16 cities participating in 2017, citizen scientists can truly make an impact and discover something amazing! Ultimately, every observation helps us understand urban nature, so we can begin to build cities that work better for humans and wildlife.
iNaturalist Signing up is easy and free. Visit inaturalist.org from your browser, or download iNaturalist from the App Store or Google Play store.
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