City Nature Challenge: Join In

The Natural History Museum invites SoCalers to submit photos of the critters who live among us.

If you've spent any time enjoying the outdoors since the start of spring — and even before the start of spring, because, yeah, this is Southern California, where we don't need to wait on that fabled date to go outside — then you likely saw it.

And by "it" we mean a buzzing thing, a chirping thing, a scurrying thing, a caw-caw-ing thing, a slithering thing, and/or all of the above. For it is difficult to linger in a backyard around our region, or stroll through a canyon or tree-packed park, and not encounter lizards or squirrels or birds or the occasional raccoon or possum or coyote.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles knows what we know, and they're ready to celebrate our urban natural experience again with a "friendly" showdown involving multiple cities and the iNaturalist app. The name of the showdown? It's the City Nature Challenge, and it is all about putting our area's best buzzy, fluttery, chirping denizens against the buzzy, growly, meowing denizens of other places.

Yes, that's right, in 2016 this challenge involved LA and San Francisco going head-to-head in the urban natural photo department. Now "22 institutions in 16 cities" will ask local residents to participate in finding and sharing what they see on their city's wilder side.

How to participate, once the City Nature Challenge kicks off on Friday, April 14? Join "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 five-day challenge, which wraps on April 18, 2017, will seek to find which participating city "has the most nature." 

As mentioned, it is all friendly and light-of-spirit, with the aim to get people outdoors and observing what is happening just beyond their front doors in terms of flowers, butterflies, squirrels, shrubs, and such.

Do you do this all the time, regardless of the season? Even if there isn't a nature challenge to join? Then stand up for SoCal, and the region's remarkable urban critters and plants, via this spring-sweet snapshot showdown involving several other cities around the nation.

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