• © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
    © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
  • © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
    © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
  • © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
    © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
  • © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
    © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
  • © 2018 California Academy of Sciences
    © 2018 California Academy of Sciences

SAN FRANCISCO (April 5, 2018)– Calling all citizen scientists and outdoor enthusiasts! The City Nature Challenge returns this month—but this year, it’s going global. The wildly successful citizen science initiative will take place in over 65 cities on five continents. After launching the first-ever City Nature Challenge in 2016, the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) have now expanded the effort to include nearly 100 institutions, each organizing a biodiversity survey in their respective metro areas. Any photos taken of local plants or animals can be uploaded to the free mobile app iNaturalist, where an online community of naturalists helps vet and confirm species identities. Scientists and resource managers can then use this open-source data to make larger scale analyses and more informed management decisions. Citizen scientists from all over the world will represent their respective cities in this international challenge while helping to advance global understanding of the planet’s biodiversity.

Kicking off April 27 at 12:01 am in each time zone, the competition runs through April 30, 11:59 pm. People of all ages and science backgrounds can participate by joining a community event or by submitting their own pictures of wildlife using iNaturalist, powered by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. See a list of local Bay Area events here. Observations will be tallied (in friendly competition) and results announced on May 4.

“Year after year, the City Nature Challenge motivates our amazing community in the Bay Area and beyond to slow down and observe the nature that surrounds us, wherever we live,” says Dr. Rebecca Johnson, co-director of Citizen Science at the Academy. “It’s a chance to explore new corners of the neighborhood, meet plant and animal neighbors, and at the same time generate data that are critical to our local and global understanding of where species are found.”

The current landscape of urban biodiversity is poorly understood. As human populations become increasingly concentrated in cities, documenting urban biodiversity—how cityscapes and the natural world coexist—is a crucial part of envisioning a sustainable future. Large pools of data, including those built through iNaturalist and natural history museums, help scientists and city planners track species movements in response to shifting habitat and a changing climate. Analyzing these trends helps inform sound conservation decisions.

Last year’s five-day City Nature Challenge took place across 16 U.S. cities, and participants added 120,000 observations of nature to iNaturalist. Although a competition, participating institutions share the goal of building community around nature discovery and observation.

For both budding and veteran citizen scientists, participating couldn’t be easier.

  1. Download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device.

  2. Between April 27– 30, take photos to make “observations” of wild plants and animals in your backyard, while hiking in a park, along your walk to school or work—anywhere you find nature.

  3. Upload your photos to iNaturalist.

  4. Learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations.

Scientists can’t be everywhere at once, and without citizen scientists they’d miss some incredible finds. During the 2017 City Nature Challenge, participants spotted a critically imperiled Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly in Miami, orcas surfacing off Seattle, and a Tufted Puffin on the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. With nearly 20 countries and 65 cities participating this year, citizen scientists can truly make an impact. 

See participating cities and partner organizations.
Social Media: #CityNatureChallenge

About iNaturalist

Signing up is easy and free. Visit inaturalist.org from your browser, or download iNaturalist from the App Store or Google Play store.


About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof. Visit calacademy.org.

About the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. The Natural History Family of Museums includes the NHMLA, the La Brea Tar Pits Museum (Hancock Park/Mid-Wilshire), and the William S. Hart Park and Museum (Newhall, California). The Family of Museums serves more than one million families and visitors annually, and is a national leader in research, exhibitions and education. Visit nhm.org/nature.

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like to receive Academy press releases please contact press@calacademy.org.

Digital Assets

Hi-res and low-res image downloads are available for editorial use. Contact us at press@calacademy.org to request access.