CNC research grade improvement tips

2022 was the second year for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana region to participate in the City Nature Challenge, and we performed very well, except % research grade was abysmal! Any tips from our more experienced cities on how to improve this?

It looks like most of this is due to a ton of casual observations, photos that are too blurry/far away to ID, and not enough information in the photo (for example, a photo of tree bark). In every single way we could, we emphasized making observations of “wild” organisms.

Or, am I being impatient - as the community participates more, perhaps things will improve over time?


That’s exactly what you should emphasize in training next year. Honestly, the CNC doesn’t produce many useful or interesting observations in my area, but it does increase engagement and awareness.


For CNC, sometimes I wish that newbies would start by focusing their photography skills.

Then progress to photos of plant or animal.

We had many pictures of ‘that tree over there behind the house’ (will it ATTACK me?)
Or that tiny smudge next to a perfectly focused photo of my shoe. (What bug is that?)


just comparing your city’s observations to my city’s observations (Houston), it looks to me like you all made a lot of plant observations (like we did) but then you all had a relatively low identification rate on plant observations.

you all had lots of insect and bird observations, too, but the identification rates on those are not terrible. your mammal rate is good, too.

reptiles and amphibians need a little improvement, along with everything else, but you all made relatively few of those observations.

but at the end of the day the biggest impact to getting a better RG ratio overall would be to improve on your plant IDs. i didn’t check to see whether the issue is observations without enough evidence (ex. bark but no leaves), blurry / low-resolution photos, lots difficult-to-id-to-species organisms recorded, or lack of identifiers, but i suspect working on recruiting some good plant identifiers could make a big difference in any case.


That’s a good idea - I forget that it is not an inherent skill


Interesting, thank you!

Yep, sounds like we have our work cut out for us! Has anyone had any successful activities or programs related to this kind of outreach? I am not an educator, so I have that fish-out-of-water feeling.

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Perhaps there should be small programs to prepare for the CNC. cheat sheets on the most common insects, birds, plants that will be found.
Even a debrief afterwards discussing outcomes.
an online newsletter with photography hints and tips that is sent to people when they register interest. plants need this sort of photo - flower, nut, leaf and whole plant. insects need this side and that side pictures.
I would think recruiting expert identifiers would be the hardest part of preparing for the CNC.
Plant ID is always the last thought yet the biggest and easiest thing to photograph.
i have played questagame and there were hints and tips and video “how to” available for beginners.


Sorry I didn’t really help out with Baton Rouge plant IDs like I did last year. I focused mostly on Houston this year. I’ll be sure to focus on BR next year. :+1:

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In my area, they’ve tried zoom meetings advertised on Facebook and local newsletters. I don’t know how well attended they are.

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As a sweeping generalisation … most obs are plants. Mostly blurry green? Definitely planty! Whinge over.

We have many obs of the few most visible, most appealing plants. I made a blog post for Cape Town and would suggest something similar as a resource for the learning curve for each new place that joins CNC or the upcoming southern Bioblitz. Someone with small plant ID skills can clear those, making it easier for plant people to trawl for the good stuff. Which can get lost sadly.

Most valuable people to think of are experts, so make sure your local exerts join iNat too, if you can, advertize in universities, etc., even people who can only id a couple of species can help with thousands of observations.


That’s so important! I feel like uploading photos to iNat is not all that rewarding an engagement activity if people don’t get feedback. The machine learning is great, but having someone confirm your ID also means a human cares and sees you and shares your excitement.


Yup! Locally we have some big struggles since last year because of the rapid growth and many active before people just stopped using iNat, still some have question why it is so, but answer is easy, with no ids there’s no interest, not many can go on by “it will be useful when it’s ided 10 years later”, it is very important for biolblitzes where species count matters.

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And for beginners, especially. I’m really glad I found this topic. I’m not good at anything but bird ID, but would certainly have put in more effort if I’d been aware of a need. I do remember a photo from NYC of an American Robin just labeled Birds. Broke my heart. I hope that iNaturalist is still observing and finds their way to the wonderful community of parks and birders there. Such a great project.


Thank you so much, everyone - great info!

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You can check this topic that talks about that need, if you can id at least something, that is enough.)


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