Albuquerque locals are invited to join The University of New Mexico R.H. Mallory Center for Community Geography in the City Nature Challenge. 

If you can download an app and take photos, you can help protect biodiversity in Albuquerque.

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 26 and April 29 taken in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia Counties will count toward the Albuquerque total. 

"City Nature Challenge is an NM opportunity to pay attention to the living world and get to know our wild neighbors. It is a great community science project for beginners because you’re contributing useful data to the iNaturalist database even if you don’t know the names of the beings you’re observing. You join a community of naturalists and scientists dedicated to learning about our living community," said Laurel Ladwig, ABQ Backyard Refuge Program Director and City Nature Challenge planner.

Once you download iNaturalist to your phone, simply join the project called City Nature Challenge 2024: 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 26, and runs through Monday, April 29. 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 to identify and discuss findings.

After the observation period ends, expert naturalists and scientists will use iNaturalist to review all the photographs and ID all the observations to the species level. Each team has until May 5 to complete the identification process before results are finalized and a winner is declared for each category. The identification process will take place simultaneously across Albuquerque and around the world. Finalized datasets can be used later for mapping and analysis of biodiversity in our communities. The Center for Community Geography is currently working with the Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program to use CNC data for mapping and planning/prioritizing community habitat restoration, so we hope to see as much participation as possible right here in New Mexico.

On the UNM campus, the Geography and Environmental Studies department, Biology department and School of Architecture and Planning are competing to get the most observations, number of species observed, and departmental participation.

The R.H. Mallory Center for Community Geography and the ABQ Backyard Refuge Program will host a special event Friday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside Bandelier East where participants can learn how to collect observations.  There will also be guided campus walks at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. where participants can learn how to make observations.

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.

Learn more about the UNM Nature Challenge Competition.