Woodland Park Zoo

City Nature Challenge 2019

By Dr. Sarah Yarwood-Lovett & Katie Remine

How much wildlife do you think lives alongside us in our cities?

What are the most common species in cities around the world? What species of plants and animals do we have in the Seattle metropolitan area that aren’t found anywhere else? Woodland Park Zoo and Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium invite people across the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area (including Everett, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and any place within Snohomish, King and Pierce counties!) to join the City Nature Challenge 2019 to help us answer these questions!

Photograph by Phil Green / The Nature Conservancy

Photograph by Phil Green / The Nature Conservancy

City Nature Challenge started life in 2016, when citizen scientists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County challenged San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences to find and document wildlife. In 2017, the challenge spread to include 16 US cities. Last year, City Nature Challenge went global, motivating more than 17,000 people in 68 cities around the world to upload 431,000 observations. Seattle was well-represented: 359 local participants made 5,841 observations, recording 1,033 species in the area, and ranking Seattle’s biodiversity at 20 out of 68 cities. And this year, the challenge increases again, with 175 cities in 29 countries taking part.

Anyone can participate – if you’re a keen scientist or a total newbie to noticing plants and animals around you, a resident or a visitor, you can join this friendly nature competition. You can take part as an observer by submitting pictures of plants, animals and fungi using the free iNaturalist app, or help to identify other people’s observations – or both! You can go out on your own, with friends or family, or join an event at your local park, nature center, zoo or aquarium!

Friday, April 26 from 12:01am – Monday, April 29, 2019 until 11:59pm:
Friday, April 26 – Sunday May 5, 2019:
Uploading and identifying observations (as long as observations were made within the specified time frame, they can be uploaded afterwards).
Monday May 6: Results announced!

1) Find wildlife: Only wild plants, animals and fungi count for this competition! Cultivated garden plants or non-native animals at the zoo won’t be counted as observations for City Nature Challenge.
2) Take a picture of what you find.
3) Share your observations.

Share and help identify your observations:
1) Download the free iNaturalist app to your Android or iPhone
2) Join the 2019 City Nature Challenge: Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area iNaturalist project
3) Identify observations to species level. Try filtering iNaturalist for observations without identifications or for observations that still need to get down to species.

Photograph by Ken Salzman

Perhaps because of how easy it is to participate, City Nature Challenge has already made some impressive achievements: In 2018, participants:

  • made 4,075 Research Grade observations of 599 rare, endangered, and threatened species globally,
  • added over 100 new species that had never been previously recorded on iNaturalist, and
  • increased the number of species logged in the Seattle area by 130, including ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii), horned grebe, thick-horned nudibranch and Washington springbeauty.

These records provide insights on global urban biodiversity for scientists, educators, planners, and policymakers. The study of urban wildlife is quickly becoming integral to the future of plants and animals on Earth. Protecting wildlife is especially vital in cities, where species live alongside increasingly concentrated human populations. By gathering data on a large scale through events like City Nature Challenge, iNaturalist, natural history museums and science organizations help people make informed conservation decisions that allow us to coexist sustainably with the plants and animals in our neighborhoods.

The best way to study nature in our cities is by connecting community and scientists through citizen science: What species – and maybe more new discoveries – will we find in the Seattle metro area this year?

Photograph by Kelly Compton

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© Kevin Arnold