Nature Lovers, Join This Mega Challenge and Help Science

Citizen scientists, here's a spring goal: Observe the animals, plants and fungi close to your homes as part of this planet-big project.


What to Know

  • April 30 to May 3, 2021; results announced May 10
  • Enter your observations and photos via iNaturalist
  • Over 41,000 people took part in 2020; some 50,000 participants are expected this year

Spying a swift-footed, ultra-adorable Western Fence Lizard while out on a sun-warm walk?

How about a California Scrub Jay, a brilliant spray of California poppies, or a bit of fuzzy fungi?

Beholding such beautiful and striking sights is fairly easy to do if you're simply strolling in Southern California.

And you don't need to head to the arroyos, beaches, or parks to dip into the delights of the wilder world: A Cooper's Hawk could land in front of your home one afternoon, randomly, a wonderful reminder that we share our city with a beautiful bounty of critters.

To spotlight our astounding urban biodiversity, and to help further scientists' understanding of the natural goodness all around us, there is the City Nature Challenge, an annual way for citizen scientists to connect to the wilder world just beyond their front doors.

Founded by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences in 2016, the 2021 City Nature Challenge will take place from April 30 through May 3.

The cool call to action?

Check it out: "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."

Everyone and anyone is invited to observe the nature around where they live, or beyond, during that window of time. Citizen scientists of any age can then share their photographs and observations via the iNaturalist app.

A period of identifying will follow, with the results revealed on May 10.

And what results there will surely be: Some 41,000 people participated in 2020, with nature lovers reporting fascinating findings from "... over 400 participating cities on six continents."

Many of those findings will include those critters and plants we see daily and know well, but bet a few rarer animals, flowers, and fungi will pop up on the list, adding a bit of fun and surprising flavor to the already uplifting event.

"At its core, the City Nature Challenge celebrates science by encouraging community engagement with nature throughout the diverse neighborhoods comprising Los Angeles County," said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County.

"Although many of us have spent the past year in isolation, the Challenge provides us with the opportunity to safely and remotely unite, connect with urban nature, and contribute to scientists' collective global knowledge."

"I have seen the benefit of spending time outside observing and studying my natural surroundings, and I encourage all community members and participants around the world to safely search, discover, and enjoy the outdoors."

Get all the info you need ahead of April's final day, and the start of the 2021 challenge, now.

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