The race is on to support biodiversity in a big way. Cities in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have partnered as the South Florida team in the City Nature Challenge (CNC).
Now in its eighth year, the City Nature Challenge is a global event that calls on current and aspiring nature and science fans, people of all ages and education backgrounds, and community scientists to observe and submit pictures of wild plants, animals and fungi using the free mobile app
iNaturalist. Kicking off April 28 at 12:01 a.m. in each time zone, CNC runs through May 1 at 11:59 p.m.
Identification of photographed species will be crowdsourced through the online community May 2 – May 7 and results will be announced on May 8. This year’s event will have expanded to more than 450 cities across six continents.
Participation is easy, and all are welcome to join by:
1. Finding wildlife. It can be any wild plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses!) found here in South Florida. Check out this guide for tips on finding the sur
prisingly abundant biodiversity in and around your own home.
2. Take pictures and/or sound recordings of what you find using iNaturalist.
3. Learn more as your observations get identified. As scientists increasingly rely on community-generated data, it is more important than ever to document nature observations on community science platforms like iNaturalist. From a recent study on threatened species in Madagascar to broader research on insect population trends over the last few decades, more than 750 studies were published using iNaturalist data in 2022. This data helps policymakers make informed conservation decisions that allow
humans to coexist with the wildlife around them and view themselves as a part of, not apart from, nature.
Every year, organizers from over 10 local organizations, schools, non-profits, and government agencies join together to lead South Florida’s
efforts. The team is led by the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science (Frost Science) in Downtown Miami.
Frost Science’s MUVE Coordinator (Museum Volunteers for the Environment), Lauren Reilly said “City Nature Challenge is one of my favorite citizen science initiatives because it encourages volunteers and organizers to collaborate locally and globally,” she said. “In helping South Florida organize over the last few years, I’m grateful to have connected with so many wonderful conservationists, naturalists and community leaders.”
“Every year for CNC, we introduce students and families to iNaturalist. It’s gratifying to watch students running around chasing insects, screaming, laughing and getting curious about the nature that surrounds them,” said Reilly.
“The data from iNaturalist represents an increasingly invaluable resource to quantify and track urban biodiversity.” said Corey Callaghan, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) who is recruiting Broward County cities to join the global initiative as part of the South Florida City Nature Challenge team.
Callaghan, who works at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie is a regular contributor and user of the iNaturalist app for science and recreation.
“I contribute to iNaturalist as often as I possibly can, but also rely on these data to answer ecological questions about what species are best coping with an increasing human population here in south Florida.”
Joe Montes de Oro, a high school Italian and Portuguese teacher at Miami-Dade County Public School System, is a ‘super user’ by iNaturalist community standards. He spends his free time observing and identifying the wildlife of South Florida using the increasingly popular website and app. As of April 2023, Montes de Oro has posted over 60,000 observations and 135,000 identifications. “iNaturalist can help anyone develop their interest and understanding of nature. I grew up with a great appreciation for wildlife, but it wasn’t until I started getting help from the iNaturalist community that I discovered how much there is to learn and how fun that would be,” he said.
Cities compete against each other in three categories:
1) Number of observations,
2) Number of unique species, and
3) Number of participants.
The South Florida team encourages everyone to take part and capture as many images of as many species as they can to help win the Challenge.
More Information and Education Toolkit at citynaturechallenge.org
Signing up is easy and free. Visit inaturalist.org from your browser, or download iNaturalist from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.
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