After just missing out on a Top 20 finish in the 2021 City Nature Challenge, Chicago will attempt to improve its place in the standings and vault into the elite rankings during the 2022 event, set for this weekend.
The four-day global challenge, now in its seventh year, runs Friday through Monday and encourages people to record their observations of local plants and wildlife in what’s known as a “bioblitz.”
This massive community science project, powered by the iNaturalist app, raises awareness of urban biodiversity and contributes to a large pool of data relied on by scientists, policymakers, educators and urban planners. It’s also become a friendly competition among cities to see which can notch the most species and rally the most participants.
More than 400 cities are expected to participate, including the returning champ, Capetown, South Africa, which posted 71,000 observations in 2021. The D.C. metro area was tops in the U.S., with 43,000 observations. Chicago will be looking to best its 12,000 observations, recorded by more than 1,000 participants.
The challenge is open to anyone, no expertise required. For those who aren’t already a member of the iNaturalist community, simply download the app for iPhone or Android. For the purposes of the challenge, “Chicago” includes Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties in Illinois; Jasper, Lake, Newton and Porter counties in Indiana; and Kenosha County in Wisconsin.
To make an observation, just grab a smartphone or camera and head outside at any point between 12 a.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Monday. Take a solo walk or join one of the numerous organized group events being hosted at area parks and preserves. Snap images of flora and/or fauna and upload to iNaturalist.
Challenge organizers have created an FAQ full of tips and dos and don’ts. Chief among them:
— Don’t submit photos of pets, zoo animals or plants in your garden. Think “wild,” not cultivated or domesticated. Even evidence of a creature is fair game, including feathers, fur and shells.
— Do get close-up photos, which will aid in identification. Focus on a single plant, insect or animal rather than a broad landscape.
Final results will be announced on May 10.