St. LOUIS, Mo.— You can be part of a worldwide community science effort. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is joining multiple conservation partners in the St. Louis area City Nature Challenge that kicks off Friday, April 30. St. Louis is one of more than 160 cities around the globe to take part in the effort. Several MDC areas in the St. Louis region are destinations for the event.
The City Nature Challenge runs from Friday April 30- Sunday, May 9, and MDC, along with its St. Louis Metropolitan Region organizing partners, invite you to pitch in. This innovative effort will enable people to become community scientists, so they can observe and record as many species of plants, birds, and animals as possible during the event.
Like last year’s challenge, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the 2021 City Nature Challenge will not be conducted as a true city vs. city competition. However, observations will still be counted and posted on a global leaderboard.
Participants can make observations by taking photos and uploading their observations using the free mobile app iNaturalist. In addition to connecting with nature, the objective is to create a snapshot of the biodiversity that can be found around the metro area, including wild plants, insects, birds, mammals, fish, frogs, fungi, and other forms of life.
“You may be surprised at what you might discover in your own backyard, park, or conservation area,” said MDC Naturalist Emily Crawford.
MDC areas that are part of the challenge include Labarque Creek Conservation Area, Pelican Island Natural Area, Weldon Spring Conservation Area, Rockwoods Reservation, and Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center.
There is no cost to take part in the City Nature Challenge, but MDC recommends the following steps:
“It can highlight the unique biodiversity of our area,” Crawford said. “A lot of sightings that people might think of as casual could become important information for a scientific database. Scientists can access your data and use it to do real research.” She said participants are encouraged to share observations online with a digital community while operating within physical distancing guidelines.
Crawford also stressed being considerate of nature, as well as others. She said to observe general rules of ethical wildlife viewing; don’t pull plants, overturn rocks, or disturb wildlife, and use caution when getting photos of wild animals.
“With a few common-sense tips in mind, the 2021 St. Louis area City Nature Challenge is a great way to connect with nature, which continues to be important more than ever during these times,” said Crawford.
Participants are encouraged to observe COVID-19 safety precautions, maintain sensible social distancing, and follow all local ordinances regarding wearing of face coverings.
This global event is co-organized by San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. In addition to MDC, the St. Louis City Nature Challenge 2021 partnership includes the City of St. Louis, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Zoo, Great Rivers Greenway, Academy of Science St. Louis, and East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
More Information and Helpful Resources
Visit the City Nature Challenge website to see what observations are being made around the world.
Signing up is easy and free. Visit iNaturalist.org, or download iNaturalist from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.
St. Louis City Nature Challenge 2021 Map:
Citizens like you can make a real difference by collecting valuable information and contributing to a larger, world-wide effort again this year.