The City Nature Challenge

Citizen Science Month is going strong! I’ve participated in a few different projects so far and I hope you’ve had a chance to get involved too. I am finding pleasure in looking at plants more closely and paying attention to the smaller creatures.

Fairyduster (Calliandra spp.)

There is one more project coming up that would be a great way to cap off Citizen Science Month. The project is called the City Nature Challenge (CNC) and it takes place in late April every year. It is an international event where people document the plants, animals, and fungi in their cities. I had the opportunity to speak with two of the organizers for this year’s CNC: Lila Higgins and Amy Jaecker-Jones with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Normally, the CNC is a competition between cities to see who can get the most participants and document the most species.

European mantis (Mantis religiosa)

“This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve made a significant change in that it is no longer a competition. Instead, we are embracing the collaborative aspect of the CNC and will be reporting our results as a combined total rather than singling out individual cities for the most observations, species, and number of people. I love this!” said Jaecker-Jones.


Why participate?

1) There is nature all around us!

“Even though many of us can’t go to our local parks and wild spaces, we can connect to nature inside our homes, from our windows, and in our own backyards” commented Higgins.

“Children are so curious and this is a great time for parents to foster that curiosity. Make looking for wildlife and adventure and show enthusiasm for their discoveries,” Amy added.

2) YOU directly contribute to science! The CNC is coordinated through the iNaturalist website. iNaturalist is collection of observations from millions of people all over the world. Those observations become data. “It helps us to better understand what plants and animals live in our cities, and when we have this data we can design our cities to work better for wildlife as well as humans,” said Higgins.

3) You can connect with friends/family/neighbors in another way. iNaturalist is run like a social network. You are able to add friends and join groups if you want to. You could encourage neighbors or family to participate in the CNC and compare findings! It’s a great way to stay socially connected while quarantining.

What do you do?

  1. Go to and create an account
  2. Check to see if your city is registered and then join their CNC project on iNaturalist
  3. If your city is not registered, you can still participate! Just add your observations through your own account
  4. Download the app
  5. On April 24th-27t, record what you find! You don’t need to know everything you see. If you can safely get a picture, you can still submit it and rely on the millions of other users to help you identify what you saw. You can find more details on participating here:

Bonus: If you head to the City Nature Challenge website, there is an Education Toolkit page that provides a more detailed guide on how to get started as well as educational resources for kids and adults. There is also a page dedicated to providing up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and the challenge so you can make sure to stay safe while participating: