To know the earth and its creatures is to love the earth. In honor of Earth Day (which we thought we’d extend throughout the week because we think the earth deserves more than one day!), we invite you to participate in a fun, nature observational challenge brought to us by the scientists at the LA County Natural History Museum and California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco starting Friday, April 26 – Monday, April 29, 2019.
The idea is to engage residents to become “citizen scientists,” and help professional scientists to record diversity of urban wildlife in a global database.
“Knowing what species are in our city and where they are helps us study and protect them, but the ONLY way to do that is by all of us – scientists, land managers, and the community – working together to find and document the nature in our area,” explains the City Nature Challenge website.
The challenge is a cool, fun, easy way to honor the earth and the nature that finds a way to live in our urban environments enriching our lives and it was invented by our very own Lila Higgins, resident of Ridgewood- Wilton St. Andrews Square neighborhood and her Cal Academy counterpart Allison Young.
Now in its fourth year, the challenge has been expanded to include 150 cities. But it all started here in LA in 2016 for the first-ever Citizen Science Day developed by the LA County Natural History Museum. The citizen science team at NHM and their counter parts at California Academy of Sciences dreamed up the City Nature Challenge as a fun way to capitalize on their home cities’ friendly rivalry and hold a citizen science event around urban biodiversity. The first City Nature Challenge was an eight-day competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco, engaging residents and visitors in documenting nature to better understand urban biodiversity. Over 20,000 observations were made by more than 1000 people in a one-week period, cataloging approximately 1600 species in each location, including new records for both areas.
There was so much interest from other institutions, the team decided to expand the challenge so in 2017 the City Nature Challenge went national, and in 2018, the CNC became an international event with over 150 cities participating worldwide.
To participate in the challenge, all you have to do is take pictures and upload them to the inaturalist app where they become part of an urban wildlife database. You can download the app from the AppStore or Google Play. Create an account and start sending your observations, even if you don’t know what you are looking at, others will and soon you will see comments on your posts. Below is a screenshot from a post where the insect we posted was identified by another contributor. It’s a great way to learn what’s around us.
There’s even an educator’s kit to help teachers do the challenge with their students.
The official challenge starts Friday, so you have a few days to practice taking photos and uploading them to the app. Tomorrow, we will write about some cool places to go where you can see nature and some cool events NHM is hosting. In the meantime, download the app (AppStore or Google Play.) and set up your account so you’re ready to go Friday morning!
Last year, San Francisco swept all three categories with 41,737 observations, 3,211 species, and 1,532 participants. LA won in 2016. Since it was invited in LA, it’s time we take back the honor of making the most observations. We can do it with your help!