- Author: Sarah Angulo
With how much we all have lost in the past few months, we really needed a win. And the win came from a somewhat unexpected place: nature. Our naturalists have long had a strong connection to their local flora and fauna, but recently more people have sought solace in the outdoors. These certified naturalists teamed up with fellow nature enthusiasts in their neighborhoods this year in the annual City Nature Challenge. With access to open space more limited in cities across the globe, the 5th event became a City Nature Celebration this year. Instead of a friendly competition, the event turned into a collaborative effort to collect observations of nature through photos and sound to upload to the iNaturalist app. Despite a global pandemic, thousands more people participated compared to last year, and more species were documented: a huge win for science, nature, and people.
The City Nature Challenge encourages people to explore their urban nature, connect with local advocacy organizations and other iNaturalist users, and learn how to participate in community biodiversity science. From its first competition between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, it quickly has grown to include about 250 cities around the world. The search for nature over a period of 4 days each April inspires over 40,000 people to tromp through snow, find wildflowers, chase butterflies of all sizes, and tune in to the nature in their backyards thousands of miles apart.
Within California, a global biodiversity hotspot, we encouraged certified naturalists to participate safely this year by observing nature in and around home. Using our growing UC California Naturalist Certified Naturalists project, which certified naturalists can join, we are able to better track the contributions of individual naturalists. Once a certified naturalists joins the project, observations made in California over all time are counted (email Sarah Angulo, firstname.lastname@example.org with questions). An amazing 6,500+ species have been documented by certified naturalists who have so far joined the project, who make up just a fraction of the 4,000 certified to date. Naturalists are making a huge contribution to science through these observations.
Participation expanded to 7 cities in California in the City Nature Challenge 2020: the Bay Area, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Sacramento Region, Orange County, Inland Empire, and Mendocino County. Certified California Naturalists contributed to the over 93,000 total observations made in the 7 cities. Of these 93,000 observations made in the state, California Naturalists in the top 20 observers for each city contributed 10%! On average per city, California Naturalists in the top 20 observers contributed 14% of observations to their city's totals. Within the top 20 users,
Los Angeles County: Ron Matsumoto (Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum) #4, Kat Halsey (Pasadena City College) #5, Kim Moore (USC Sea Grant) #8, Laura Schare (Catalina Island Conservancy) #11, Amy Jaecker-Jones (Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum) #13, Diego Tamayo (Riverside-Corona RCD) #16, and Brynna Campbell (Pasadena City College) #19 made 11% of their city's observations.
San Diego County: Alex Bairstow (Preserve Calavera) #5, Millie Basden (Preserve Calavera) #8, and Susan Heller (Preserve Calavera) #15 made 6% of their city's observations.
Sacramento Region: Lauren Glevanik (UC Davis) #2, Hailey Adler (UC Davis) #3, Laci Gerhart (UC Davis) #4, Mary Hanson (Tuleyome) #5, Roxanne Moger (Tuleyome) #6, Cliff Hawley (Effie Yeaw Nature Center) #9, Sarah Angulo (Sierra Streams Institute/UCANR) #10, Charlie Russell (Tuleyome) #11, Ingrid van Dijk (Effie Yeaw Nature Center) #16, and Shane Hanofee (Sierra Streams Institute) #17 made 27% of their city's observations.
Orange County: Devon Bradley (Sagehen Creek Field Station) #16 made 1% of their city's observations.
Inland Empire: Colin Barrows (UC Riverside Palm Desert) #1, Sendy Hernandez Orellana (UCR Palm Desert) #4, Elizabeth Ogren Erickson (UCR Palm Desert) #6, Scott Cummings (UCR Palm Desert) #10, Susan Shigenaga (UCR Palm Desert) #13, Kristin Cummings (UCR Palm Desert)#14, Carol Blaney (Riverside Metropolitan Museum) #16, and Spider Fawke (UCR Palm Desert) #18 made 24% of their city's observations.
Mendocino County: Asa Spade (Hopland REC) #1, Brook Gamble (UCANR) #4, Steven Prochter (Hopland REC) #6, Hannah Bird (Hopland REC) #10, Andrea Davis (Hopland REC) #11, Brianne Nelson (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods) #15, Dave Barry (Pepperwood Preserve) #16, and Maureen Taylor (Hopland REC) #19 made 31% of their city's observations.
The impact of our naturalists is even greater than just the few who are in the top 20 observers for their city. Even for naturalists who contributed one observation or identification this year, every documentation of our state's unique biodiversity is important. Thank you for each one of you who took a moment to contribute this year, especially given the difficulties we each face. We can't wait to be all together for next year!