Mark your calendars for April 26-29. Dallas is one of more than 130 cities across the globe, including Hong Kong, Rome, London, Sao Paulo and the Antarctic region, to participate in the “City Nature Challenge.”
The goal is to see which city can document the most urban wildlife. Results will be announced May 6.
“City Nature Challenge” is incredibly simple and important. First, sign up at iNaturalist.org or download the free iNaturalist app on your phone. The site is a cool tool, which connects you to experts who can identify photos of the flora and fauna you happen upon.
Step outside, camera in hand, and look at our neighborhood with fresh eyes. Go in your backyard or head to a park. Think Tietze, Harry Moss, Lakewood or Norbuck.
The name of the event says it all:
City: There is nature all around us, even in urban areas.
Nature: Find and document plants and wildlife.
Challenge: Participate in a friendly competition with the other cities to make the most observations, find the most species and engage the most participants.
Last year, Dallas was second to San Francisco in observations.
“Everyone can participate,” says DFW Urban Wildlife biologist Sam Kieschnick, who heads the local event. “We want to know what the organisms are in the parks around town. These green spots act as little refuges for urban wildlife.”
Keep in mind that “wildlife” can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or other evidence of life, such as fur, shells, carcasses or scat. Adorable shots of your dog Dexter or your cat Fluffy don’t count. Neither do lovely photographs of your fancy tulips.
“We want to document the wild organisms, so instead of your pets or landscaped plants, observe some of the wild bugs or weeds,” he says.
Let’s say you decide to head over to White Rock Lake. “Look for interesting little plants and take some photos,” Kieschnick says. “Try to get a photo or two of a butterfly or beetle. Flip over a log and observe some roly-polies. These are really important to document.”
Look up and you may see crows, blue jays and hawks, maybe even a pelican. Meander down to the water’s edge and spy a loon, ducks, frogs or a turtle sunning on a log.
Teachers, take note: The City Nature Challenge website contains an “Education Toolkit” for those who want to take the kids outside the classroom and into nature.
Feel more comfortable with experts guiding you? Check out the Bioblitz happening at Gateway Park on April 27.
“It’s a great way to get kids involved and out in nature, as well as provide key data on the species that exist in our parks,” says Little Forest Hills neighbor Jim Folger, Bioblitz leader for North Texas Master Naturalists.
For more information: citynaturechallenge.org and email@example.com.
Patti Vinson is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for more than 15 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine.