The last weekend in April this year gave citizen scientist, nature lovers, and city dwellers an extra reason to get out and explore all the things that live around them as part of the City Nature Challenge. Three years ago San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County started a friendly competition to see who could engage the most people in observing organisms in their respective geographic areas using the iNaturalist platform. iNaturalist enables users to catalog when and where organisms have been observed using a cellphone app and allows for active online discussions around this data. Los Angeles won the first City Nature Challenge and the event was so successful that it grew to many cities across the United States last year, where Texas dominated the scoreboards. This year 68 cities across the world participated!
The California Center for Natural History held Bioblitzs in support of this year's City Nature Challenge, hoping to finally get the San Francisco Bay Area into the winners circle. A Bioblitz of Mitchell Canyon at Mt Diablo was led by Tony Iwane and captured a number of the mountain's iconic organisms including a bobcat. See all of the organisms spotted on Mt Diablo on April 28th here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?on=2018-04-28&place_id=5586
On the same day CCNH's Lo Scheiner and Damon Tighe helped run a Bioblitz of Lake Merritt in collaboration with OMCA (Sarah Seitzer and Alicia Goode), Insect Sciences Museum of California (Eddie Dunbar), Outdoor Afro (Clay Anderson), San Francisco Microscopical Society (Peter Werner), Elizabeth Doughtery, Katie Noonan, and Dan Radenmacher. The event was the largest Bioblitz in the Bay Area during the City Nature Challenge and engaged over 60 observers, culminating in over 1,100 observations and 276 species. The magic of such an event is that it gives the unsuspecting public access to learn about the organisms right around them in a major urban center. Hundreds of people were engaged around the lake at different stations that focused on different taxa and environments. Such an event is only possible due to the amazing collaborators who brought their passion for organisms and educating out for public display.
When all the dust settled from all of the City Nature Challenge activities across the world, the San Francisco Bay Area found they had won in the number of observers, species, and observations! The real winner in all of this though is Citizen Science as a movement as an unprecedented number of people were involved in exploring and documenting the organisms around them.
The above graph shows the number of observations per week in the iNaturalist platform since its inception. The large spike in 2018 is the week that the City Nature Challenge took place.