In its seventh year, the annual report City Nature Challenge– one of the largest community science events in the world – topped 1,690,000 wildlife sightings for another record year! During the four-day event held over the weekend, more than 67,000 people on six continents participated however they could – whether attending local surveys on the wildlife or find the species in their own home – to document the wonderful diversity of wild plants, animals and fungi that share our planet through the free mobile app iNaturalist. From sightings of critically endangered and elusive species to sightings of species outside their known range, the City Nature Challenge highlights the power of community science in tracking real-time changes in the biodiversity of our planet, especially in urban areas.
Launched in 2016 by the California Academy of Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History as a friendly competition between the metropolitan areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Challenge has expanded to more than 445 cities in 47 countries. This year’s Challenge broke all previous records, totaling over 1,690,000 sightings; engaging more than 67,000 observers; and recording more than 50,000 species worldwide, including more than 2,200 rare, endangered or threatened species. The highest number of sightings was recorded in La Paz, Bolivia, where over 4,000 participants made over 130,000 sightings during the Challenge weekend! This year’s challenge was made possible thanks to the hundreds of individuals and partner organizations around the world who have empowered their respective communities to explore nature safely in their neighborhoods.
“Biodiversity research tends to focus on untouched places, so cities are often overlooked scientifically,” says Alison Young, co-director of Community science at the Academy and co-founder of the Challenge. “Observations made during the Challenge provide critical information about the biodiversity of urban environments, allowing us to make more informed decisions about conservation and land management.”
See below for highlights from this year’s City Nature Challenge.
The San Francisco Bay in numbers
- Over 31,200 observations submitted to iNaturalist
- More than 2,000 observers
- Contributors made an average of 15 comments
- Over 3,000 documented species
- Most observed species: Spear of Ithuriel (Triteleia laxa)
San Francisco Bay Area Highlights
Bay Area highlights include glow in the dark Scorpio, a dancing trio of black-necked stilts, a vulnerable and endemic species of lichen, two urban coyotes—one with a pair of ear tags—walking through endangered Golden Gate Park foothills yellow-legged frog, and the remarkably well camouflaged The Blainville horned lizard.
The world in numbers
- Over 1,690,000 observations submitted to iNaturalist
- More than 67,000 observers
- Contributors made an average of 25 comments
- More than 50,000 species listed
- Most observed species: common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Highlights from the United States and the world include a patriotic pair of scissor-tailed flycatchers in Texas, a whiskered tern diving for a snack in Hong Kong, a man moorland frog sporting its breeding hues in Russia, a flowering of blue fat jellyfish off Sydney, a giant squid stranded on South Africa’s Western Cape, New Zealand’s largest endemic sea slug, a brilliant blue pixie umbrella mushroom in Australia, a Red squirrel at work in Canada, a carnivore and critically endangered round-leaved sundew in Tennessee, a plump and proud cape fur seal in Cape Town, and a thief steal having a meal with an unlucky wasp in Brazil.
“Strengthening our connection to nature and to each other is at the heart of the City Nature Challenge, and we are thrilled to see how many people share the same enthusiasm and curiosity for their local wildlife,” says Young. “We often think we have to go far to see nature, but all we really need to do is get outside.”
About the California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution whose mission is to regenerate the natural world through science, learning and collaboration. Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum, as well as innovative scientific research and environmental education programs, all under one roof. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs and performances. For daily ticket prices, please visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.
About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) include the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. They operate under the collective vision of inspiring wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the largest and most valuable collections of natural and cultural history in the world – over 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historical research, the museums also incorporate them into onsite and offsite nature and culture exploration in LA neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs, creating experiences indoor and outdoor visitors who explore the past, present and future. Visit NHMLAC.ORG for opportunities for adventure, education, and entertainment.