Last Friday, the fourth annual City Nature Challenge, a global competition wherein cities compete to identify the most plants and animals in their areas using the iNaturalist app, kicked off across the world. This year over 160 cities are competing, including the Washington DC metro area. Because the entire Corazón Latino team loves being outside and competition, we decided we absolutely had to host a bilingual event.
And host an event we did! With the help of our fantastic partners at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the US Forest Service, we brought together nearly 70 people at Piney Branch Trail in Washington DC to “get in the weeds,” of citizen science. The iNaturalist app is a great citizen science tool. Here’s how it works:
Take a picture of a plant, animal, or insect - you can do this directly in the app, or take a picture on your phone, tablet, or camera and upload it later (be sure to note your location!).
Upload your picture to the app. iNaturalist will provide some photo suggestions or “best guesses” as to the species of plant or animal you photographed. You can either choose the option that most closely resembles your photo or wait for a scientist to identify it for you.
Wait for verification. Scientists actually go through your observations and check your work - did you choose the correct species identification? They’ll tell you!
The data you collect as a citizen scientist is actually used by scientists. Fun fact: the data every day citizen scientists have collected through iNaturalist has been used in over 380 scientific papers. Another fun fact: someone actually discovered a new species of insect using iNaturalist! Cool right?
Before we went into the woods, we started with an icebreaker. We choose to do a Bioblitz Dance (note: the people in this video performed the dance much much better than we did). After our icebreaker, we split into groups and headed down the trail. Each group was guided by a scientist - we had bird and insect scientists, as well as ecologists and biologists!
We found a lot of fun stuff along our walk, including a salamander, a giant beetle, several worms, and some very pretty birds. There’s TONS of life in the forest, all we had to do was look! One kid even said he’d “expected this to be some boring nature walk, but it ended up being really fun.” From the mouth of babes - nature is fun.
After a solid hour and a half of exploring Piney Branch, everyone returned to the meeting point for pupusas, snacks, and music. We got to spend time with the families and scientists and hear about the things they observed in the forest.
We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a Sunday during the City Nature Challenge!