On April 29, the City Nature Challenge — one of the world’s largest community science events — returns for its seventh year of connecting communities with nature and each other. From participating in organized biodiversity surveys to recording the wildlife in your own neighborhood, the City Nature Challenge is the perfect way to explore your local environment — all while contributing to biodiversity science and conservation.
The City Nature Challenge begins on Friday, April 29 at 12:01 a.m. in each time zone and runs through Monday, May 2, 11:59 pm. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all participants are urged to carefully follow current public health guidelines. Anyone in a participating City Nature Challenge city can join in by sharing photos of their wildlife observations on the free mobile app iNaturalist, an online platform powered by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, or on their city’s chosen platform. The collective scientific efforts from participants around the world will be tallied and results announced on May 9.
Launched in 2016 as a collaborative effort between the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences, the City Nature Challenge has grown from a friendly competition between the two cities to an international event spanning six continents. The inaugural Challenge recorded an impressive 20,000 observations in the state of California. In 2021, community scientists around the world amassed a record-breaking 1,270,000 observations from more than 400 cities across 44 countries. These wildlife observations provide invaluable insights into our planet’s biodiversity, allowing scientists, conservationists and policymakers to make informed resource management and conservation decisions.
“We’re really excited to see tens of thousands of people come together for this year’s City Nature Challenge,” says Lila Higgens, NHM’s senior manager of community science and co-founder of the challenge. “This project helps us understand the natural world that lives in our cities, while also connecting people across generations to the plants and animals that surround them everyday. Last year, the City Nature Challenge recorded over a million observations. This year I’m hopeful we’ll see even more!”
Participation is easy. Any photos of wild plants, animals or fungi taken during the challenge can be uploaded to iNaturalist, where an online community of naturalists confirms species’ identifications. Whether you’re participating in an organized “bioblitz” or making observations in your own neighborhood, the challenge is for budding and seasoned community scientists alike.
- Find wildlife in your home, neighborhood, backyard or anywhere else. It can be any wild plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or any other evidence of life, such as scat, fur, tracks, shells or carcasses. Check out this guide for tips on finding the surprisingly abundant biodiversity in and around your own home.
- Take photos and/or sound recordings of what you find using iNaturalist or your city’s chosen platform. You can use your phone and the iNaturalist app, or you can use a camera and upload the photos to the iNaturalist website.
- Learn more about the plants and animals you find as your observations are identified.
Those not able to take photos or record their observations can focus their efforts on identifying species documented in their area during and after the challenge. Many organizers in cities around the world will be hosting wildlife identification events from May 3-8.
Over the last six years, observations made during the challenge have helped scientists detect patterns of biodiversity change on a global and local scale. Some of last year’s highlights include: a threatened giant Australian cuttlefish off the coast of Adelaide, Honduras’s first record of a species of hairstreak butterfly and an invasive emerald ash borer beetle in Denton County, Tex., its presence suggesting that this species range had expanded.
The City Nature Challenge is a fun, collaborative event that harnesses scientific data to regenerate ecosystems and reverse biodiversity loss. By observing and documenting local wildlife, community scientists give insight into the biodiversity of locations throughout the world.
Participants can also prepare to learn more about the nature surrounding neighborhoods from NHM’s book “Wild L.A.: Explore the Amazing Nature In and Around Los Angeles,” co-written by Higgins and Greg Pauly. It tells the stories of Los Angeles’ surprising nature, its plants and animals, and how humans interact with all of them. Learn more about this new kind of nature guide at NHM.ORG/wild-la.
Local support for the City Nature Challenge is provided by Boeing and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
For more information, visit citynaturechallenge.com. See participating cities and learn more. For the latest information on local events, visit NHM.ORG/city-nature-challenge.
Signing up is easy and free. Visit inaturalist.org from your browser or download iNaturalist from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.
Twitter handle: @citnatchallenge