Which city in the world is most engaged in its natural environment? During four days in April, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins residents will be competing against over 170 cities around the world to find out. From April 26 through 29, Colorado residents are encouraged to go outside to photograph and identify plants and animals, using the free iNaturalist app, as part of a global competition to win the City Nature Challenge! Colorado counties participating in 2019 include: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Park.
City Nature Challenge 2019 is an international effort to find and document plants and wildlife across the globe. Cities are competing 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. The City Nature Challenge is organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Colorado nonprofits and government agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, the WILD Foundation, MetroDNA, the City and County of Denver, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) all see the value in this effort to connect people to their environment and reap the benefits of crowd-sourced citizen science.
“We have so much amazing nature in and around Denver, that we encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and nearby natural areas to discover incredible wildlife,” said Chris Hawkins, urban conservation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Not only will participants be having fun outside, but they will also be making valuable scientific contributions that will help The Nature Conservancy as we work to create a thriving region for people and nature.”
"I love the City Nature Challenge because it provides an outstanding opportunity for people to appreciate and pay attention to the smaller things in life, like the newly emerged insects, our diverse plant species, and the resident or migratory birds of the area," said Melanie Hill, Director of Communications & Outreach for the WILD Foundation. "Once you begin noticing these things, whether it be in your backyard, urban areas, or nearby parks and open spaces, you quickly see that everything is connected and that we have a thriving natural world all around us. All you have to do is look and listen."
Citizen Science and the iNaturalist app
To participate, download the free iNaturalist app, join the project, then get outside and start taking pictures of the nature around you. By participating, you will not only help a Colorado city win the competition, you will also be contributing crucial data about Colorado’s unique biodiversity. Scientists can then use this information to make important decisions about how to protect and improve Colorado’s nature.
The iNaturalist app that people use to identify species in the competition has been part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to engage citizen scientists over the past few years.
“At its core, it’s a citizen science project that is trying to engage as many people as possible to record the diversity of life wherever they happen to be,” said CPW Forest Management Coordinator Matt Schulz.
In just under four years, the app has documented more than 11,000 observations of nature in Colorado’s 41 state parks. The new technology is helping CPW biologists track the wildlife resources, and in some cases, even contributing toward furthering important research.
“Anyone can participate with this challenge,” Schulz said, “just by observing what is outside their door, whether it’s the tree that lines your street or the bird stopping over to find a bit of food. Anything alive and wild counts, so please help give Colorado a good showing. The information collected is used by land managers and scientists working on a variety of issues, from learning about the type of habitat an animal uses to what time of year certain flowers bloom. Also, iNaturalist allows other users to provide identification of each observation, so even if you don’t know what something is, it can still be valuable to snap a picture and load it up.”
In fact, other users jumping on the app to help identify species will be crucial to winning the contest. From April 30 - May 5, users who identify photos of wildlife down to the species level will count toward the point tally!
CPW has created a set of Denver-specific plant and animal guides in the app so people engaged in the challenge can better identify what they are looking at.
All of the supporting organizations see the City Nature Challenge as a great way to both get people outdoors in friendly competition and as a way to introduce people to a new tool that is both helpful to the casual wildlife viewer and to those who help manage those wildlife resources and habitats.
“Our money’s on Colorado communities taking the lead in the City Nature Challenge this year,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Coloradans know how amazing our outdoors are – from our backyards to the backcountry, in our cities and towns and beyond. Here’s our chance to explore nature close to home and appreciate what makes our state so wild and beautiful.”
Join a more intense "BioBlitz" at a state park:
You can participate in the City Nature Challenge with others at two "BioBlitzes" in Denver-area state parks! What's a BioBlitz? It's a special event where groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period (e.g., usually 24 hours)."
Although CPW does host 24-hour BioBlitzes, the City Nature Challenge BioBlitz is a five-hour version designed to get you outside using the iNaturalist app with others. Come join us!>
BioBlitz Dates and Times
Sat., April 27 from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. - Barr Lake State Park
Sat., April 27 - TBD - Chatfield State Park
Colorado state parks are a great place to be outdoors, as well as a great place to participate in the City Nature Challenge. Colorado State Parks within this year’s boundaries include: Barr Lake, Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, Eldorado Canyon, Eleven Mile, Golden Gate, Roxborough, Spinney Mountain, and Staunton.
Check CPW’s City Nature Challenge page for updated information on the City Nature Challenge project.
More information on the City Nature Challenge is available at: http://citynaturechallenge.org.
For those interested in the Boulder-Denver Metro Area competition:
For those interested in the Colorado Springs Area competition: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2019-colorado-springs