Those wanting to take part should download the iNaturalist app at inaturalist.org or in the Apple Store or Google Play Store to record species for the City Nature Challenge. FIU/Contributed

The City Nature Challenge  (CNC) is an annual global competition between cities around the world to see who has the most biodiversity. The 2020 CNC SoFlo (South Florida) will take place April 24 – 27 and will include Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

“As any good explorer knows, new discoveries can be around any corner,” Analisa Duran, FIU’s education outreach program coordinator, said in a statement about the event. Duran said the event is a chance for cities around the world to show off their best biodiversity. 

Typically, during the “bio blitz” weekend, participants will go around their neighborhoods finding wildlife, taking pictures and uploading them to the National Geographic phone app iNaturalist. The competition usually has three segments: most participants, most biodiversity and most observations logged into the app. 

Due to coronavirus and social distancing needs, the competition has been replaced with a collaborative celebration of nature. FIU and the Philip and Patricia Frost Science Museum are spearheading CNC SoFlo efforts and encourage communities to embrace the healing power of nature, especially now, according to an event statement

“Instead of a competition, we’re promoting people to go outside to their backyard or go on a walk around and report what wildlife they see,” said Duran. While there will be no official events around the cities, leading organizations within South Florida are still inviting the community to connect with nature from their front and back yards and to document urban biodiversity in any way they feel comfortable, Duran says.

The iNaturalist app includes a free species identification application and the CNC has produced an educator’s toolkit to help parents and teachers guide students through the activity. 

Last year, more than 35,000 people participated in the CNC globally, making over 963,000 observations in 159 cities. These included 31,000 species, of which 1,100 were rare/endangered/threatened.

“Home is the first learning laboratory,” adds Duran. “Many people don’t realize how many different species we have right in our backyards, especially here in South Florida.” Some people have even discovered new species during past bio blitz weekends, said Duran.

Observations uploaded to the iNaturalist app are shared throughout the app’s network, and users have the chance to identify the species. 

“Once three people agree on what something is, that becomes a research grade observation and it goes to a database that scientists can use,” said Duran. Sometimes CNC promotes searching for specific animals like lizards or sargassum that certain scientists are looking for, she said, so they can use the observations for their research. 

“Science can be fun! You don’t have to be in a lab coat and inside to do science,” Duran said. “This is a great way for scientists to connect with the general public and let them know that they can participate in science too.”

To participate in the City Nature Challenge:

  1. Download the iNaturalist phone app.
  2. Walk around your backyard or neighborhood during April 24-27 and take pictures of wildlife you see.
  3. Upload the pictures during the time period for the challenge. You don’t need to add it to any specific project.

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