Denver, CO

How Coloradans can participate in a global nature challenge this weekend

Steven Bonifazi

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Peach tree flowers bask in the spring sunlight on April 29, 2021 in Denver, Colo.(Photo by Steven Bonifazi)

By Steven Bonifazi

(DENVER, Colo.) Colorado residents are being encouraged to take pictures and identify plants and animals outside this weekend from Friday to Monday to take part in the City Nature Challenge 2021 and help better understand urban biodiversity.

The global initiative, City Nature Challenge, comes as an attempt to locate and document plants and wildlife worldwide. The California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the organizer of the challenge, with the program first developing in California six years ago.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) jumped on the opportunity to take part and promote the challenge in 2019 and are eager to head into their third year participating, getting residents to go outside and create bonds with mother nature.

"When we first got involved in the nature challenge, I went to lake pueblo state park on Eagle Day and just had a really good time with it," said Travis Duncan, statewide public information officer for CPW. "With the pandemic last year really changing the way we were thinking about getting out, it's still a cool activity to do just around your yard and house. If you still want to stay socially distanced, you can go to a neighborhood park or your backyard and really create a sense of connecting with nature right outside your door."

Residents looking to participate can do so by simply downloading the free iNaturalist mobile application and snapping photographs of nature around them to help embrace nature while contributing vital data on the state's biodiversity. This information will be utilized by scientists to make informed decisions on how to better protect and enhance the state's nature.

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A photographer stands over flowers.(bantersnaps/Unsplash)

Over the course of six years, the iNaturalist app has documented over 32,600 observations of nature in 42 state parks in Colorado. State government agencies and nonprofits including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the WILD Foundation, MetroDNA, Denver Botanical Gardens, Denver Audubon, Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and The Nature Conservancy take part in promoting the challenge as they see it as a way to connect residents with the environment and prosper from the crowd-sourced science.

“We have so much amazing nature in and around Denver. We encourage people to explore their backyards and neighborhoods to discover incredible wildlife,” said Chris Hawkins, urban conservation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Not only will participants be having fun outside, but they will also be making valuable scientific contributions that will help The Nature Conservancy and partners as we work to create a thriving region for people and nature.”

The challenge will be taking place in two parts, with the initial four days spanning from April 30 through May 3 where observations on iNaturalist will be collected, and the final six days, May 4 through May 9 being when the observations will be identified and verified. Residents participating in the challenge can keep uploading observations during the six-day period only if the images uploaded were taken from April 30 through May 3.

The two areas in the state that are participating in this year's challenge are as follows:

Denver-Boulder Metro Area counties

  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • Boulder
  • Broomfield
  • Denver
  • Douglas
  • Jefferson Counties

Colorado Springs Area counties

  • El Paso County
  • Pikes Peak

State parks that are located within this year's challenge boundary areas are Barr Lake, Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, Eldorado Canyon, Golden Gate Canyon, Roxborough, and Staunton. Last year, the total observations for the Denver-Boulder Metro Area were 6,374, with 433 residents participating, identifying 955 species.

A total of 97 residents participated in the Colorado Springs area last year, making 3,443 observations, ultimately identifying 717 species. Worldwide, last year's challenge saw 815,000+ observations from more than 41,000 observers, identifying over 32,600 species.

“At its core, it’s a citizen science project that is trying to engage as many people as possible to record the diversity of life wherever they happen to be,” said CPW Forest Management Coordinator Matt Schulz. “Anyone can participate with this challenge, just by observing what is outside their door, whether it’s the tree that lines your street or the bird stopping over to find a bit of food.”

For additional information regarding the City Nature Challenge, including participating in the Denver-Boulder Metro area or the Colorado Springs area, visit https://citynaturechallenge.org.

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