Friday, April 19, 2019

Participate in the City Nature Challenge 2019!

City Nature Challenge 2019!

     A friendly global challenge was issued this year: Which cities could engage the most people to record the most observations of wildlife and plants, and find the most species over 4 days, April 26-29?  In last year's global event, 68 cities participated and tallied 441,888 observations by 17,329 people. This year is even bigger! There are over 160 cities worldwide who have answered the call!
     The first City Nature Challenge started as Citizen Science Day, with citizen science teams at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences challenging one another into what turned out to be an eight-day friendly competition in April of 2016 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, engaging residents and visitors in documenting nature to better understand urban biodiversity. It grew to 16 cities in 2017, and went international in 2018.
     The free iNaturalist app ( is now the standard way for bioblitzes and other citizen science (the involvement of the general public in scientific research and data collection) projects to record information and is what most cities will use for recording City Nature Challenge observations, including the team here in the Washington, DC Metro area. The beauty of the app is that with a simple uploaded photo, crowd sourcing can then help identify the organism and the observation is recorded so that worldwide any researchers can data mine the info they need. You never know what piece of data you could be providing some researcher somewhere in the world. You don't even need to know what you're reporting (though the iNaturalist app has a neat suggested identification feature to provide likely ID possibilities and there's a neat new Seek app that can help ID things on the spot ( too!). This is due to the crowd sourcing that allows other perhaps more knowledgeable people to provide their ID skills. A short instructional video can be found here:

The DC Metro Area did very well indeed in this global event last year:
     Its 22,809 observations was 5th place overall, behind San Francisco which started the competition 3 years ago (41,737 observations), Dallas/Fort Worth (34,218 observations), San Diego (33,448 observations), and Klang Valley/Greater Kuala Lumpur (25,287 observations). Just behind DC were Houston followed by New York. Coming in last was Palmer Station Antarctica which understandably only had 36 observations (but 27 species with only 3 people in Antarctica of all places!). Globally 124 new species were added to the iNaturalist data base that had not been present before.
     As far as participation, the DC region again did wonderfully! It came in 4th place overall with 876 participants who made observations. This was behind San Francisco (1,532 observers), San Diego County (1211 observers), Boston (992 observers), and just ahead of Los Angeles (which also started the competition 3 years ago, with 855 observers). With over 40 planned DC regional events over the competition period, it turned out those group events really paid off.
     The DC Metro Area also did remarkably well with its species count, considering some tropical places have so much more biodiversity. The DC Metro Area came in 8th overall with 1,855 verified species observed.

Among one of neat findings was this Southern Adder's Tongue Fern at Huntley Meadows Park
      Arlington had a good showing overall as well for the DC region it was included in. Of the over 40 DC Metro Area planned events, Arlington led or had a leading partner role in 25 of them. Within Arlington County itself, 134 observers tallied 3,957 observations and identified 644 species. The top observed species for Arlington were the American Robin (reported 46 times) and Virginia Creeper (reported 46 times). Some unusual sightings will need to be investigated and verified as they might prove to be very interesting. While some are positive, the observations of potential new invasive plants are also important to know about, and a few were indeed reported. Overall, a very respectable showing and demonstration of Arlington’s commitment to citizen science.
     This year, the DC area has over 124 events planned, with numerous organizations, local jurisdictions, and individuals planning to participate. You can find out more about the DC Metro Area events here: (including Capital Naturalist events). The Arlington County sponsored events are here: . More Arlington events sponsored by the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists here:
     Whether you'd like to join one of these organized events or go solo, what great fun and discovery! What's not to like about that? So here's to the City Nature Challenge, as a fun way to make nature discoveries in our wonderfully diverse region while providing valuable scientific data! So please do participate!