City Nature Challenge by Sam Kieschnick

Dallas/Fort Worth competed in the third annual City Nature Challenge, a “contest” to see which urban area has the most biodiversity and most citizen scientists to document it!  From April 27 – 30, we competed with 67 other cities around the world, and we documented a lot of organisms on iNaturalist.  Believe it or not, 816 people documented over 2500 species through 35,000 observations in Dallas/Fort Worth alone!  We were second to San Francisco in number of observations, fifth in number of species, and fifth in number of citizen scientists.  These results are incredible.  Last year, we were first in number of observations, but we only had 15 other cities to compete with.  I foresee next year’s competition to be even more intense!

Do these results matter?  What use is the documentation of a fox squirrel in the city of Dallas?  To be honest, by itself, that observation of a fox squirrel isn’t too informative.  However, when you combine that observation with the thousands of other observations, a clear picture of the organism’s distribution in space and time becomes clearer.  As conditions change over time, we have a foundation of data to compare to future databases.  This is crucial in our understanding of the distribution of organisms, even in the urban ecosystem.

I think this matters for another reason.  By putting a dot on the map of where that little critter is, I’m showing the rest of the world that I care about it.  I care about it enough to document the existence of another organism that I share the planet with.  I take this information, along with all of the other observations, and show it to city councils, park boards, and public land managers.  I show these folks that we do indeed have a tremendous amount of biodiversity here in the metroplex, but perhaps more importantly to them, we have a constituency of naturalists and nature enthusiasts that care about this biodiversity and actively seek out areas that have biodiversity.  There are some major land management and policy implications here.

Also, I think it’s just fun to learn the names of our natural neighbors!  Just like a password, learning the name of an organism unlocks novels of knowledge.  To me, that’s quite enjoyable!

Thanks to everyone that participated in the City Nature Challenge this year.  I hope that you continue to use the tool of iNaturalist!

If you’d like to look at the results of the city nature challenge, here’s the leaderboard:

Here are the results from Dallas/Fort Worth:

Here are the species we documented (filterable by kind of organism, like birds or beetles):


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