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City Nature Challenge: the results are in!

Article by FMN Ana Leilani Ka’ahanui & Stella Tarnay, both of Capital Nature

Nature nerds celebrate! The results are in for the global City Nature Challenge and our region rose to the occasion again. Out of 419 cities in 44 countries, the DC Metro Area ranked:

• 2nd for observers: 2,002
• 2nd for observations: 43,295
• 8th for species: 2,977

How did Fairfax County do? 11,916 iNaturalist observations of 1,610 species were made by 488 observers. There were 588 people that lent their expertise to make identifications. These results were an improvement over 2020 where 7,750 observations were made of 1,249 species by 391 observers. There were 10 more identifiers last year at 598. See the top ten species identified in Fairfax this year.

Capital Nature along with dozens of area partner organizations hosted over 30 virtual and in-person trainings and events, culminating in a virtual ID Party and a Celebration. Participants shared their favorite discoveries including unexpected flower sightings, five distinct sightings of hog-nosed snakes, a persnickety groundhog and alien-like eggs of a Spiny Assassin Bug. We’re pleased to say that the native mayapple topped the list as the no. 1 species observation, leaving the invasive garlic mustard far behind. For details on all the species that were discovered, visit the project on iNaturalist.

City Nature Challenge: Upload and Identify Observations! Tuesday May 4 through Saturday, May 9

Wednesday May 5, 7-9pm: Virtual Event: ID Party. Work together to identify DC area City Nature Challenge observations! You’ll learn ID tips and iNaturalist power user techniques.  Register here.

Save the Date!  Monday May 10, 7-8:30pm: Virtual Event: City Nature Challenge Celebration.   A festive virtual gathering to celebrate the discoveries! Once scheduled, details will be revealed here.

See the Resources page for recordings of last year’s virtual events. 

All observations April 30 through May 3 will count for the City Nature Challenge if they are made within the green line on this map:

DC Area City Nature Challenge 2021 Training and Participation Information

Monday, April 12, 2021
12 noon
Virtual Live Intro to the DC Area City Nature Challenge

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
7 pm
Virtual Live Intro to the DC Area City Nature Challenge

These videos and other recorded resources are available here.

Between April 30th and May 9th, people in the Washington DC metro area and around the world will be participating in a global citizen science event, the City Nature Challenge, to document urban biodiversity. We’ll be looking for signs of life in local parks, waterways, backyards, front stoops, and our neighborhoods. If you have an interest in learning more about local plants and animals, have access to a camera (and the internet), you can contribute to this exciting project. We’ll be using the iNaturalist app platform to document observations.

There will be two introductory sessions on the City Nature Challenge and how to get involved. They’ll cover Challenge basics, use of the iNaturalist app as a citizen science activity, and places to explore in the DMV. The City Nature Challenge offers a great way to connect to the great outdoors and put the Washington DC area’s amazing nature on the map. You can participate individually or with family and safely distanced friends.

These programs are organized by Capital Nature with The Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC Chapter and many other partners who are participating in the 2021 DC Area City Nature Challenge.

citynaturechallengedc.org

City Nature Challenge, April 30th – May 3rd

Photo from City Nature Challenge

Invented by citizen science staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Lila Higgins) and California Academy of Sciences (Alison Young). The City Nature Challenge is an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. It’s a bioblitz-style competition where cities are in a contest against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers made some modifications to City Nature Challenge 2020 to help keep everyone safe. Firstly, CNC 2020 pivoted to be a collaboration rather than a competition. Instead, they wanted to embrace the healing power of nature and encourage the celebratory aspect of the CNC. This allowed people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they could, even from the safety of their own homes. They urged all participants to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by their local governments, as they are changed in real-time. Individual safety and public health were and will be their utmost priority. The decision as to whether CNC 2021 will be a competition or collaboration will be announced in 2021.

The observation period for the City Nature Challenge will take place April 30th through May 3rd. Then during May 4-9, observations can still be uploaded to iNaturalist and identified. The global results will be announced on Monday, May 10. Please join the project on iNaturalist which will automatically collect all of the relevant observations during those 4 days.

For the DC metropolitan area (including DC and parts of MD, VA, and WV), we’ll have monthly meetings to coordinate our activities and foster new collaborations. Any organizations or individuals who want to play a role in encouraging and supporting participation anywhere in the metro area are invited to join these calls. January 29 will specifically be a call for anyone new to the City Nature Challenge, so please invite others who may be interested to join.

This year, all calls will take place on Fridays from 11 am to noon.

Call dates for organizers:
Jan 22: meeting for returning organizers
Jan 29: first time organizers (if you haven’t participated in the City Nature Challenge before, this will orient you)
Feb 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Mar 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Apr 16: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
May 21: post-CNC debrief call for all CNC organizers

The January 29th meeting will be recorded, so it won’t be too late to get involved! For more information join https://groups.google.com/g/dc-area-citynaturechallenge.

Stay-at-Homeschooling for Grown-Ups

Article by Plant NOVA Natives

We have all heard of naturalists such as Charles Darwin and James Audubon who undertook long and fruitful journeys of discovery. But did you know that many naturalists made their famous discoveries in their own yards? For example, Jean-Henri Fabre spent decades at his home in France on a small plot of hard scrabble where he documented numerous observations of insect behavior that are still read today for their wit as well as their fascinating conclusions about instinct and intelligence. The same opportunities for adventure are available to any of us who have access to any space – however small – where plants can grow.
 
You might think that by now the millions of human beings who live in our region would have figured out all there is to know about the local flora and fauna, but that is far from the case. Not only are new species being discovered all the time, but there is very little known about many of the ones we do recognize. Why not try your hand at natural science? Unlike Jean-Henri, who mostly had to go it alone, we have the ability to crowd-source our learning process by way of a giant citizen science project called iNaturalist. Who knows, you may be the next to discover a new species!
 
For most of us, however, the adventure will lie not in rarities but in finally noticing the common plants and animals in our yard which have been there all along. The joy will come not so much from our contributions to science – which are real if we document life on iNaturalist or on any of a number of other citizen science projects – but from witnessing how many more things there are in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in our philosophy.
 
The main tool needed for this exploration is patience. A small yard may be home to hundreds or thousands of species, but they will not all present themselves at once. Plants of course emerge and develop over the growing season. Animals also emerge at different times, and many remain hidden from view. As you amble around your yard, take a close look at every little moving object. You will find that what you had assumed were identical little specks are in fact many different species going about their business. A camera, even a cell phone camera, can show you the details of pattern and color that your eye cannot register during your brief encounters. There is something irresistibly calming in watching this world at work.
 
If you have the opportunity to compare your yard to a neighbor’s, you may notice a pattern. Yards that appear lush to the modern eye are sometimes just Potemkin landscapes, ones where humans have labored to exclude nature by substituting ecologically useless (or even harmful) plants for the natives, removing the life-giving detritus, and attacking the remaining residents with chemicals. Even in yards such as those, signs of life will be stirring. But where such chemicals are avoided and where native plants are encouraged, a yard will support a cornucopia of animation, from tiny beetles to nesting songbirds. It is not difficult to create a yard with these happy conditions. To borrow a quote from suffragist Sarah Grimké, writing in 1837, “All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.”
 
Between April 24 and 27, people all over the world are coming together to document life on Earth. These are the four days of the annual City Nature Challenge, which in previous years has included a friendly competition between metropolitan areas but this year is simply a celebration of life and unity. We can contribute to the festivities by snapping photos of any wild plants or animals and uploading them to iNaturalist. How many native plants can you spot in your neighborhood? How many bees, birds and other critters can you spot taking advantage of them? Once you have caught the nature bug and find yourself longing for more, you can learn how to add those native plants that support the life on your property by visiting www.plantnovanatives.org. Garden centers – including several that specialize in native plants – are open and ready to help you choose the best ones for your situation.
 
The education we can soak in from the ecosystem of our yards goes far beyond a science lesson. We may observe that the natural world is at least as much about cooperation and accommodation as it is about tooth and claw. To recognize our fellow beings as individuals, each with the same claim on life as our own; to witness the interdependence of us all in our unfathomable complexity; to start to see our place in the universe – all these experiences wash away our tension and plant in us the seeds of compassion. It goes without saying that it is not just grown-ups who can benefit from these lessons.
 
 

City Nature Challenge: Fairfax Master Naturalists educate and organize

By Ana Ka’ahanui, FMN and Director Experiential Programs at Capital Nature

Join us for the #citynaturechallenge, a friendly global effort to safely explore biodiversity April 24-27, 2020! Even with our movement limited to minimize the spread of COVID-19, there is plenty of nature to observe at our windows, gardens, and in our neighborhoods. Join the DC metro area’s fellow citizen scientists to discover and share the amazing life near you!

Join these projects to have your observations counted. City Nature Challenge (April 24-27)
City Nature Month (April 1-30)

Visit www.iNaturalist.org and join the project City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020-washington-dc-metro-area

Photo and article by Barbara J. Saffir

To encourage people to participate in iNaturalist’s global “City Nature Challenge” bioblitz in April, I’m hosting two virtual Meetups: One through my own Nature  Photography DC/MD/VA Meetup and one through the  Sierra Club’s Meetup.  My fellow Virginia Master Naturalists and the public are invited to join these two free Meetups: https://www.meetup.com/Nature-Photography-DC-MD-VA/events/267877831/ https://www.meetup.com/sierrapotomac/events/270131226/

City Nature Challenge Educator Workshop, Mar. 28th

National Geographic headquarters
1145 17th St NW, Washington DC 20036
(near Farragut West and Farragut North Metro stations)
Saturday, 28 March 2020
9:30am – Noon
Breakfast will be provided

Over 250 cities around the world are participating in a friendly competition to see which metro area can observe and identify the most wildlife. You can contribute with your students or youth group! Your observations will help document the many species that live in our region, contribute to a worldwide database of urban wildlife—and help the Washington DC metro area win the City Nature Challenge (CNC)!

Come to National Geographic to learn about the CNC, practice collecting observations, and share ideas about how to integrate CNC activities into your classroom or group.

The workshop will be a great resource for educators, formal or informal, who have been thinking about participating in the City Nature Challenge but want to get better acquainted with the tools.

There is no cost, but registration is limited. Please do share the invitation with others; each person needs to register separately for security purposes.

Register here. Contact Mary Ford with questions.

City Nature Challenge! April 24 – 27th — Changes have been made!

In the past, the City Nature Challenge has been a friendly competition among 160+ cities worldwide to see who can observe the most species and involve the most citizen scientists. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some modifications have been made to help keep the organizers and participants safe. Firstly, this year’s CNC is no longer a competition. Instead, the organizers want to embrace the healing power of nature and encourage the collaborative aspect of the CNC. This will allow people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they can, even from the safety of their own homes if necessary. All participants are urged to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by their local governments, as they are changing in real-time. Individual safety and public health are the utmost priority. Please refer to the COVID-19 FAQ page for more information.

Join the project as a citizen scientist from April 24th to 27th using the iNaturalist app.

Participating in the City Nature Challenge is fun—and it’s a great reason to step outdoors for some time with nature. Your observations of plant and animal life will help scientists collect valuable data on the biodiversity of our planet. AND you’ll help the Washington DC area win!

How it works

Resources, and a video

2019 City Nature Challenge Leaderboard

City Nature Challenge introductory conference call Jan. 7th, for potential organizers

Article by: Carrie Seltzer
Stella Tarnay
Deborah Barber
DC area CNC co-organizers

The City Nature Challenge is a friendly, annual, global competition to record biodiversity. From April 24-27, 2020, participants will document wild plants, animals, and fungi using the iNaturalist mobile app and website. The Washington DC area is participating! Following the observation period, everyone will pitch in, with the help of experts, to identify what they’ve seen in our region– and compete globally for most species observed. Winning cities will be announced on May 4. It’s like a virtual bioblitz where you can participate from anywhere in the region.
 
Do you know an organization in the broader DC metro area that cares about biodiversity? Please join an introductory phone call on Tuesday, January 7, 10-11 am to learn more about the City Nature Challenge. 

The Washington Metropolitan Area has participated annually since 2017. Dozens of environmental organizations, parks, libraries, nature centers, and other local groups help spread the word and incorporate iNaturalist into events. There are many ways to be involved and many ways to collaborate with other organizations.
 
We have outreach materials in Spanish, encourage bilingual events, and welcome other ideas for broadening participation. 
 
Think you’re too far from DC to be included? Check! Beyond Washington, DC, the following counties in VA, MD, and WV are in range:
 
Virginia-Alexandria, Arlington County, Clarke County, Culpeper County, Fairfax County, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier County, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County, Manassas, Manassas Park, Prince William County, Rappahannock County, Spotsylvania County, Stafford County, and Warren County.

Maryland-Calvert County, Charles County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County. Baltimore and surrounding counties organize separately-contact Maura Duffy at MDuffy@aqua.org.

West Virginia-Jefferson County

Bold counties indicate places where there hasn’t been very much participation yet so we are especially interested to have groups from those areas, but organizations from any area are welcome to join.

You can see on iNaturalist what has been recorded each year in the City Nature Challenge and how participation has grown.
2017 >900 species and 200 people
2018 >1700 species and 900 people
2019 >2100 species and 1300 people

We hope you’ll Join this exciting event in 2020 and we look forward to connecting with new groups across the region!

Planning for 2020 City Nature Challenge: Please complete survey

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

In case it’s not on your radar already, save the dates for April 24-27 for making observations during the City Nature Challenge, then adding identifications until the results are announced on Monday, May 4, 2020.

There are well over 100 cities participating again. To recap how we’ve organized in the DC area, anyone is welcome to participate & organize events and communication within your organization/neighborhood/groups. We’ll have monthly calls to share pertinent information, probably starting in December.

For individuals who are interested in taking a leadership role in organizing across the region (for things like outreach, social media, etc), please fill out this survey if you haven’t already. Stella Tarnay and Carrie Seltzer will be in touch for next steps with last year’s leadership group and anyone who fills out the survey.