Snap a Nature Pic and Share, Citizen Scientists

The annual City Nature Challenge, co-presented by NHMLA, encourages us to look at the squawkers, chirpers, and growing things, just outside our doors.

City Nature Challenge

What to Know

  • Snap and submit your photos to the iNaturalist app from April 24-27
  • April 28-May 3 is the identification period
  • Free to join

Perhaps you've been keeping an eye on that one hummingbird that returns to the bud-bedecked shrub outside your bedroom window each day, the dazzling darter that visits each open flower with precision and speed.

Or you've been watching various lizards congregate near your gate, or perhaps the skunk that wanders down your street from time to time, always by the cloak of moonlight.

There's so much nature here in big, bustling Southern California, and if you feel that, anecdotally, you've seen more animals in recent weeks, you're not alone: People have been reporting an upswing in wildlife visits during this stay-at-home period.

You can share your sightings on the iNaturalist app, via a great snapshot or two, when the annual City Nature Challenge begins on April 24.

The four-day citizen scientist event, which asks Southern Californians to catalog the critters, plants, and fungi in their immediate vicinity, is co-helmed by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, along with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

After all of the photos are in, of the crows and snails and coyotes and peacocks? The identification begins, with results to arrive in early May.

Something to note about the 2020 City Nature Challenge, which is marking its fifth anniversary this year? Organizers are asking people to stay in or quite close to their digs.

The event ..."offers an opportunity for people to connect with nature and participate in a collective scientific effort, while safely adhering to public health parameters from home."

That means the challenge isn't a competition this year, but rather a great way to connect with the world just outside your home while also helping science know more about animals and plants of our region.

Your best bet? Read all of the safety guidelines before beginning to look for interesting plants and animals.

“It's important to be physically distant, but socially engaged. While many must remain home at this time–our parks and public places closed–we can participate safely, right outside of our homes and connected digitally through iNaturalist and online,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and executive director at the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County.

“The City Nature Challenge started as a seed of an idea that has grown exponentially each year; it is proof of how passionate people are about connecting with nature and one another as part of a collective effort."

"I encourage all nature and culture fans to join us, practicing physical distancing, in this opportunity to boost spirits, wellness and environmental optimism for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary.”

Pictured: A honey bee photographed by a City Nature Challenge participant. Scientists use the images uploaded to iNaturalist to help document local biodiversity. Courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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