Take the City Nature Challenge at Mission Trails Park

Spring is here and plants will be blooming, birds will be singing, and insects will be buzzing all around us. Time to get outdoors and observe nature! This year brings a special four-day event over the last weekend in April where everyone can focus efforts and achieve a goal: Help San Diego County win the international City Nature Challenge! In San Diego, the 2018 City Nature Challenge is being spearheaded by the San Diego Natural History Museum. You can join in the fun by joining the iNaturalist project and submitting observations beginning Friday, April 27, and ending Monday, April 30. On May 1–3, the Natural History Museum will identify what was found.

More than 60 cities will compete to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the worldwide 2018 City Nature Challenge. San Diego is one of only 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world, meaning areas that have the highest concentration of different species of any geographic area of similar size. We’re hoping San Diego residents and visitors rise to the occasion and opt outside during this worldwide competition. Become a citizen scientist and help San Diego win.


Mission Trails Regional Park is an oasis of nature in urban San Diego which can yield thousands of observations during that period with our collective efforts. (Your observations during that period will also be part of the Mission Trails Regional Park Biodiversity Project.)

The City Nature Challenge was started by the citizen science teams at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Academy of Sciences in 2016 as a friendly competition to document urban biodiversity in their respective cities using the iNaturalist database. Over 20,000 observations were made by more than 1,000 people in a one-week period. Due to the excitement and interest from people in other cities, in 2017 the City Nature Challenge became a national challenge, and is now an international event. In the first City Nature Challenge, Los Angeles beat San Francisco. In 2017, Texans ruled the day: Dallas/Ft. Worth had the most observations (23,957) and Houston had the most species (2,419). 2018 is our chance to show the world that San Diego County is a true biodiversity hotspot, full of eager citizen scientists!

Taking part is easy. First you just go out and find wildlife. It can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold, or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses) found while out on a hike, during your lunchtime stroll, or even when you are kicking it in your own backyard. Next, take a picture of what you find and be sure to note the location of the critter or plant. Finally, share your observations by uploading your findings through iNaturalist.

Not familiar with iNaturalist? Not to worry, it’s very user-friendly. All you have to do is download the free iNaturalist app to your Android or iPhone; join the Nat’s 2018 City Nature Challenge: San Diego iNaturalist project; and take photos. Every observation you make with iNaturalist — from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed — helps scientists understand the diversity and abundance of species. Here are some tips on taking photographs:

Be a safe, respectful naturalist; do not touch wild animals or poisonous plants, and stay on trails.

You can upload several pictures per observation.

Take photos that are sharp and in focus.

Try to take a well-lit photo; keep the sun at your back.

Get close, but not too close so neither you nor the animal is harmed.

Make sure the phone location services are on to record the exact location (longitude and latitude) of the photo.

You can make observations in airplane mode and then upload them later; original time and location will upload automatically.

Photograph entire plant, animal, insect; take photos from different angles and surrounding environment.

Let’s make Mission Trails Regional Park stand out by submitting observations from every corner of the park!

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