In 2016, on the first-ever Citizen Science Day, the City Nature Challenge was created by community science teams at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences.
The City Nature Challenge was an eight-day competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco which engaged residents and visitors to document nature to help them understand urban biodiversity. The competition was based on which city could make the most observations of nature, who could find the most species and who could engage the most people.
City Nature Challenge: Using Tech for Good
The participants used the iNaturalist mobile application to record their observations and to share and discuss their findings with other naturalists. The application helps users to learn about nature and allows scientists and resource managers access data to understand when and where organisms occur. The iNaturalist app has over 2 million observers, and over 135 million observations have been made. Participants could upload pictures or record a sound to the application.
In this first City Nature Challenge, over 20,000 observations were made by more than 1,000 people in one week. Approximately 1,600 species were catalogized in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, including new records for both areas. The event gained so much success and interest from people in other cities that in 2017, the City Nature Challenge went national and in 2018, it became an international event.
The global event includes participation from over 400 cities across six continents. Some of the international cities that participate in the challenge include London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, Dubai, Mumbai, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo, among many others.
Citizen science is about engaging people to volunteer their time to help scientists with their research projects. The volunteers might be asked to collect, process, and participate in providing data. Many citizen science projects involve collecting large amounts of data that individual researchers could not collect independently. Citizen science also helps researchers to obtain data on a wide scale and help them discover things they might not have otherwise. Several species that were thought to be extinct, such as the small whorled pogonia, a plant last seen in 1902, have been rediscovered thanks to people using the iNaturalist application.
In 2022, over 67,000 citizen scientists participated in the City Nature Challenge. Nearly 1.7 million observations were made worldwide, and more than 50,000 species were identified. La Paz, Bolivia, came first with 137,345 observations, followed by Cape Town, South Africa, 66,144 and Boston, Massachusetts, with 46,896 observations.
Over 1,800,000 observations were made this year, and more than 57,000 species were identified. The city that made the most observations were once again La Paz, Bolivia, with 126,435 observations, followed by Cape Town, South Africa, with 52,518 observations and Dallas/ For Worth, Texas, with 48,021 observations.
To participate in the City Nature Challenge, you can follow these general steps:
- Check if your city is participating in the challenge by visiting the official website at citynaturechallenge.org.
- Download the iNaturalist app from the App Store or Google Play.
- Find and observe any WILD plant, animal, or other evidence of life in your city.
- Take a photo or record a sound of what you find using the iNaturalist app.
- Share your observations in the iNaturalist app by uploading your photo or sound recording.
- Identify what you found or help others identify their observations during the identification period.
- Celebrate your contribution to urban biodiversity!
Note that the specific details and requirements may vary depending on the city and year of the challenge, so it’s best to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
The more people can learn about their local nature by participating in programs like this, the better. These kinds of activities, along with applications like the iNaturalist application, help to make cities a better place because knowing what species are in our city and where they are, helps us study and protect them.