Citizen Scientists: City Nature Challenge 2018

By Staff

Exploring and documenting Utah’s rich biodiversity isn’t just for scientists anymore. Between April 27 and April 30, residents of cities around the world are competing to document their urban nature in the City Nature Challenge 2018. The Natural History Museum of Utah is leading a City Nature Challenge team for five counties along the Wasatch. Anyone in Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Summit, and Utah counties can join this international citizen quest by submitting their photos of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app.

“We are surrounded by nature in our neighborhoods, parks, and even in our downtowns,”notes Lisa Thompson, the Museum’s City Nature Challenge coordinator. “The best way to study nature in our cities is by connecting community members and scientists through citizen science. The information we gather during the City Nature Challenge will be available to scientists around the world studying biodiversity.”

Participants can download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device, take photos and make observations of wild plants and animals in your backyard, a park, the foothills – anywhere you find nature, and upload your photos to the app. You can also learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations.

Anyone who contributes observations of ten or more different wild plants and animals to the City Nature Challenge 2018: The Wasatch can receive one free admission to the Natural History Museum of Utah (limit of one admission per person). The top observers in the Challenge will be eligible for a variety of prizes, such as a family membership at Thanksgiving Point or the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter.

Last year, Utah participants in the City Nature Challenge contributed 2403 observations and documented 424 species in five days. Heather McEntire and her family contributed 175 observations to the project. “As the first two days went by we had so much fun being super observant and watching the observations being identified,” Heather explained. “We always spend a ton of time outside, but very rarely do we pay close attention to the plants, and none of us could name birds, insects, and plants. This Challenge really opened our eyes up to how much we wanted to know.”

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) and San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences (CAS) launched the first-ever City Nature Challenge in 2016. Last year’s Challenge included 16 across the United States. This year, the Challenge is expanding, and organizers estimate that 500,000 observations will be made by over 10,000 people in over 65 cities across the globe. The data collected gives scientists, educators, urban planners, and policymakers insight into the biodiversity of urban locales throughout the world.

The City Nature Challenge is part of a larger initiative at the Museum to explore the nature in Utah’s cities and towns. The “Nature All Around Us” initiative includes launching a variety of citizen science programs across the state and creating a lively interactive special exhibition that highlights the dynamic and diverse ecosystems in Utah’s cities and towns.

NHMU has joined forces with the Ogden Nature Center, The Nature Conservancy, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, and Thanksgiving Point to offer a City Nature Challenge event in each of the five participating counties. Each event will offer opportunities to learn how to make great observations in iNaturalist and meet expert local naturalists. For more information about this year’s Challenge and all its related events visit the NHMU website’s City Nature Challenge page.

This article was originally published on April 26, 2018.