DENVER – From April 24 through 27, Colorado residents are encouraged to go outside in their neighborhood to photograph and identify plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app as part of a global initiative called the City Nature Challenge.
City Nature Challenge 2020 is an international effort to find and document plants and wildlife across the globe. Cities are encouraging their citizens to get outside in whatever way is safe for each region and document the plants and animals in their surroundings. The City Nature Challenge is organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The City Nature Challenge and COVID-19
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Nature Challenge has made some modifications to the annual event to help keep organizers and participants safe. Although it has been promoted as a friendly competition in previous years, this year it’s about embracing the healing power of nature. Participants should safely document biodiversity in whatever way they can, even from the safety of their own homes if necessary. Participants are urged to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by your local governments, as they are changing in real-time. Individual safety and public health is of utmost priority.
Citizen Science and the iNaturalist app
To participate in this collaborative effort, download the free iNaturalist app, join the project, then get outside and start taking pictures of nature around you. By participating, you will be embracing the healing power of nature while also contributing crucial data about Colorado’s unique biodiversity. Scientists can then use this information to make important decisions about how to protect and improve Colorado’s nature.
The iNaturalist app that people use to identify species during the City Nature Challenge has been part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to engage citizen scientists over the past few years.
In just under four years, the app has documented more than 91,000 observations of nature in Colorado’s 41 state parks. The new technology is helping CPW biologists track the wildlife resources, and in some cases, even contributing toward furthering important research.
From April 28 – May 3, users who identify photos of wildlife down to the species level will count toward the point tally.
Colorado nonprofits and government agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, the WILD Foundation, MetroDNA, Denver Botanical Gardens, and Denver Audubon all see the value in this effort to connect people to their environment and reap the benefits of crowd-sourced citizen science.
“We have so much amazing nature in and around Denver, that we encourage people to explore their backyards and neighborhoods to discover incredible wildlife,” said Chris Hawkins, urban conservation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Not only will participants be having fun outside, but they will also be making valuable scientific contributions that will help The Nature Conservancy as we work to create a thriving region for people and nature.”
“As a mom of two young children who have now transitioned to online learning, I am so excited about the opportunity to engage them in a community science project that gets us outdoors in our own neighborhood,” said Kate Hogan of Denver Audubon. “The iNaturalist.org app is easy to use, and even my 4-year-old knows how to take pictures with my cell phone, so each one of us can be involved!”
“The City Nature Challenge is an extraordinary opportunity for individuals to connect to the wild nature that surrounds them; something that is essential considering we live in this time of rapid human development, species extinction, and disconnection with nature,” said Melanie Hill, Director of Communications & Outreach at the WILD Foundation. “This event offers a fun and easy way for people of all ages to get to know these wild beings and understand not only what they need to survive, but thrive.”
“Plant and wildlife enthusiasts from across the region can participate simply by staying at home and helping to identify species through the iNaturalist program,” said Jennifer Neale, Director of Research & Conservation for Denver Botanic Gardens.
“The City Nature Challenge offers Metro Denver residents, especially kids and families, a chance to get outdoors in a way that contributes not only to our shared knowledge of the region’s biodiversity but to their physical and mental health,” said Dana Coelho, Metro DNA Director and co-lead of Safe Summer Kick Off on Get Outdoors Day, a Southwest Denver-based partnership inspired by and connected to the statewide Get Outdoors Colorado coalition of partners.
“At its core, it’s a citizen science project that is trying to engage as many people as possible to record the diversity of life wherever they happen to be,” said CPW Forest Management Coordinator Matt Schulz. “Anyone can participate with this challenge, just by observing what is outside their door, whether it’s the tree that lines your street or the bird stopping over to find a bit of food.”
Colorado state parks are a great place to be outdoors, as well as a great place to participate in the City Nature Challenge. But please remember to only visit your neighborhood state parks consistent with public health recommendations. Colorado state parks within this year’s boundaries include: Barr Lake, Boyd Lake, Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, Eldorado Canyon,Golden Gate, Lory, Roxborough, St. Vrain and Staunton.
Check CPW’s City Nature Challenge page or the co-organizers page at www.wild.org/naturechallenge for updated information on the City Nature Challenge project.