City Nature Challenge: Take photos of cool wildlife in your neighborhood, share them with scientists

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Even if you’re limited to enjoying nature around your neighborhood this year, you can still celebrate.

The fifth annual City Nature Challenge starts this Friday. It’s a way for people to document wild plants and animals in their communities, then share their observations with the rest of the world.

“What can we all find together in these urban spaces?” asks Lila Higgins,  senior manager for community science at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She co-founded the City Nature Challenge with Alison Young from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. 

What began as a citizen science competition between LA and San Francisco has morphed into a collaborative experience you can participate in wherever you are.

“This year, we are confined to our own neighborhoods, to our own houses, and our own backyards if we're lucky enough to have a backyard,” says Higgins. “And the scientists are like, ‘Cool, we're going to find out things about the core of the city.’”

To get involved, download the iNaturalist app and start sharing your observations, from alligator lizards mating in your apartment complex to the weeds coming out of the cracks of your sidewalk.

“Those are wild species, and that is valuable scientific data,” says Higgins.

She recommends enticing wild flora and fauna by leaving your porch light on at night, putting up a bird feeder or laying a piece of cardboard on the ground to attract creatures who enjoy cool, shady areas.



  • Lila Higgins - Senior Manager for Community Science at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County