Local residents are invited to join The University of New Mexico R.H. Mallory Center for Community Geography in the City Nature Challenge. The City of Albuquerque will take on Phoenix, Ariz., to see which city can log the most uploads of local plants and wildlife.

If you can download an app and take photos, you can do citizen science, according to Geography and Environmental Studies professor and Center director Maria Lane

Screenshot_2021-04-19 City Nature Challenge 2021 ABQ 2

“It’s as easy as putting iNaturalist on your phone and then snapping photos of plants or critters wherever you see them, including your own backyard. All photos uploaded between April 30 and May 4 will count toward the Albuquerque total, and we want as many uploads as possible so we can beat Phoenix in a head-to-head challenge,” she noted.

Once you download iNaturalist to your phone, simply join the project called City Nature Challenge 2021: ABQ for your photos to be counted. Various UNM departments are also engaging in friendly internal competition, so you can join a departmental project at the same time to make sure your photo count toward a departmental team at the same time, Lane said.

The City Nature Challenge begins Friday, April 30, and runs through Monday, May 3. To take part in the Challenge, participants download the free iNaturalist app to their phones or other devices, create an account, and start making observations of wildlife in and around their homes and neighborhoods. Wildlife includes any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or evidence of life such as scat, fur, tracks, shells, or carcasses in Bernalillo, Valencia, or Sandoval counties. Take photos and upload them to the app and note the location of the organism or evidence of life. Participants can also go to iNaturalist.org to identify and discuss findings.

On the UNM campus, the Geography and Environmental Studies department has challenged the Biology department to get the most observations, number of species observed, and departmental participation.

The City Nature Challenge is one of the first events the Center for Community Geography is helping to organize. The community-wide citizen science effort, collaborating with numerous city partners in the City Nature Challenge, encourages UNM students and other residents of the Albuquerque metro area to participate in documenting urban nature and help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of the region.