City Nature Challenge Strategy
The City Nature Challenge is an exciting annual, global BioBlitz event that takes place over a four-day period, starting April 28, in regions around the world. This Challenge is an opportunity for people to explore and document the natural world around them using iNaturalist to record observations of local wildlife. Whether you're participating casually or forming a team, below are some tips to help you make the most of the experience.
Last year, almost a hundred RGV participants made 5 or more observations. A large portion of those who made the most observations were Texas Master Naturalists. If every TMN member did just 20 to 30 observations, we would easily reach half the RGV's total 11,581 observations last year. While some individuals may make several hundred observations, every contribution counts and helps improve our understanding of the region's biodiversity. It's also worth noting that participating in a BioBlitz such as this one counts as volunteer time under Field Research Citizen Science for Texas Master Naturalists, so do whatever you can.
If you're new to iNaturalist, start by downloading and installing the iNaturalist app. The app is free to download and easy to use. It allows you to quickly record and upload observations of plants, animals, shells, feathers, animal calls, etc., and it can help you identify what you are seeing.
If you're participating in the City Nature Challenge casually, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience. Don't worry too much about how many observations you make, or whether they're the "right" observations. Instead, focus on exploring and learning about the biodiversity of the RGV.
Explore your backyard: Scan your yard for any signs of wildlife. Look for flowers, insects, butterflies, beetles, snails, spiders, webs, nests, feathers, scat, and any other sign of wildlife.
Go on a nature walk: Take a walk in a park or other natural area near you, and see what you can find. Look for birds, insects, plants, and other living things or signs of wildlife. Take photos and upload them to iNaturalist to record your observations.
Join a guided walk: Many nature parks offer guided walks during the City Nature Challenge. Join one of these walks to learn more about the natural world around you and meet other people who are participating in the challenge.
For those who want to form a team, there are some additional steps you can take to maximize your observations and make a bigger contribution to the event.
Recruit team members: Reach out to friends, family, coworkers, and other local organizations to see if they would like to join your team. The more people you have on your team, the more observations you'll be able to make.
Assign roles: Assign specific roles to team members, some can be spotters while others take the photos for the observations.
Plan your strategy: Plan out where and when you'll be making observations. Consider visiting a variety of habitats and locations to maximize your observations. Make note of park closing times and dates ahead of time. You can also plan to focus on specific taxa or areas of interest. If you are a plant person, you may be most efficient making plant observations. If you are a macro photographer, maybe leave the birding to others.
Stay safe: Be sure to follow safety guidelines when making observations, such as staying on designated trails and wearing appropriate clothing and footwear. Carry water with you. Especially if you go to locations without trails, be sure to let someone know where you will be and when you plan to be back. Remember, you may not have phone service in remote areas.
Have fun: Remember that the City Nature Challenge is meant to be a fun and engaging experience. Enjoy spending time in nature and learning about the biodiversity in your city! Getting lots of observations and species is fun, but don't wear yourself out.
The City Nature Challenge is an inclusive and fun experience for everyone to connect with nature, regardless of your level of expertise or how many observations you make. Even if you only make a few observations, you're still contributing to our understanding of the natural world and helping to raise awareness of the biodiversity in your area. The more people who participate, the better, because it helps to build a sense of community and encourages more people to appreciate and protect the natural world around them. Perhaps you'll meet some individuals during your participation who may be interested in joining the Texas Master Naturalist program. That's how I was recruited! So, grab your smartphone or camera and start exploring the world around you!