Is the City Nature Challenge 2020 still going to happen?

I’ve been looking forward to this event, but given the current news it looks like any group activities or bioblitzes may be inadvisable… is the event still going to go ahead in a more solo individual kind of way, or will it be postponed/cancelled?


I’m not anything to do with the organising of this, but I can’t see why it shouldn’t go ahead. For places that do not yet have community transmission, small gatherings of people that are at low risk (good health) would be permissible and even healthy… iNatting is great for mental health and so it will offset some of the negative mental health effect from isolation from normal social activities. Many people will have access to a back yard to iNat in, effectively part of their self isolation space! To me, the key thing is to get as clued up on the real issues as possible. Keep distance to other people at 2m where possible, wash hands with soap and water throroughly often, be aware of any symptoms and know where to report them to, and be prepared to follow your health authority advice once you do contact them.

Of course, if you have Government or Health advisories that you are under the jurisdiction of then you should follow them, but outside of that just carry on as normal but practise limiting pathways for transmission. Even if covid is not in your community, in the event that it does get there, the less people affected by other contagious illnesses (like the normal flu’s etc) the better your health system will be placed to cope with covid.


I think it depends mostly on the current rules of each location.
In Israel, public gatherings are banned, and even indoor / private gatherings of over ten people are banned. We’re not in total lockdown yet, since a lot of this is preventative measures, but I can’t imagine we could have any events here until a vaccine is developed, tested, and distributed.


FYI, below is the email I received last night that was sent to all of this year’s CNC organizers. It will not be a competition this year, and some cities may decide to cancel their projects and associated activities if they choose to do so.

Personally, I will probably leave my CNC project up, but will likely cancel all my other planned training and public events.

Dear CNC Organizers,

Firstly, we want to say that we are all feeling a lot of things right now in light of COVID-19. Please know that we massively appreciate all your hard work as organizers, and as people who care about biodiversity on this planet.

Some organizers have contacted us and asked for the CNC to be postponed in light of the pandemic. Thank you for contacting us and letting us know your thoughts. After much thinking, we have decided to keep the CNC event scheduled for April 24-27 (observations) and April 28-May 4 (identifications). However, we will be making some significant modifications:

  • This year’s City Nature Challenge is no longer a competition . We want to embrace the collaborative aspect of the CNC this year and the healing power of nature to allow people to document their local biodiversity in whatever way they can.

  • It is imperative that you follow the regulations of your governments and the organizations where you work.

    • See the asynchronous meeting agenda item, about ways to adapt the CNC. (We have added some items since the email we sent out on Thursday).
  • If you need to cancel the CNC in your city, please go ahead and cancel . Know that we 100% support you and we hope to have you back for 2021!

    • The best way to do this is to delete your CNC project for this year - that will remove it from the umbrella project and keep your city off the leaderboard.
    • Let us know if you’re cancelling by emailing us (,,
    • Do whatever messaging you need to do to communicate this locally

We’ve adapted some of the topics in the March asynchronous meeting to reflect changes due to COVID-19, but we started putting this meeting together 2 weeks ago before the scope of the outbreak was known, particularly in the U.S… Please go through the meeting with that in mind, and help us adapt other areas through the questions/comments sections.

March asynchronous meeting - please participate, if possible, by April 3:

On Thursday, March 19 at 10am Pacific (17:00 UTC), there will be an OPTIONAL webinar about reaching out to your local media about CNC. Some of you have already signed up for this via our February planning calls, but if you’re interested in attending, it’s open to anyone. It will also be recorded if you’re interested but can’t make it.

Here’s the agenda & the Zoom info:

Thank you all so much for working with us, and we 100% respect any decisions you make for your community regarding City Nature Challenge 2020.

Alison, Lila, and Amy

Alison Young
Citizen Science
California Academy of Sciences




You can participate anyway, this year we have 6 cities that will take part but won’t be in official list and I’m sure everyone can set up a project like this on their own, it’s still a month before it happens, so situation may be better then, or you always an go to city parks where you won’t be surrounded by people. We have a carantine and ban for gatherings now, but it’s for 2-3 weeks and by end of April it should be ok to do iNatting in group if following rules, though why not doing it alone?


I think a lot of us will be able to make a fair number of observations even if we have to stay by ourselves, not meet up, and stay very local.


Here is the latest official update from the CNC organizers:

We know COVID-19 is affecting many of our CNC cities, some much more than others. After much thinking, we have decided to keep the CNC event scheduled for April 24-27 (observations) and April 28-May 3 (identifications). However, we will be making some significant modifications:

This year’s City Nature Challenge is no longer a competition.

We want to embrace the collaborative aspect of the CNC this year and the healing power of nature to allow people to document their local biodiversity in whatever way they can.

It is imperative that you follow the regulations of your governments and the organizations where you work.

We have left it up to local organizers if they need to cancel the CNC in their city this year. We support any changes our organizers need to make and hope those that cannot participate this year will join us again in 2021!

As a participant, it is up to you how much or how little you take part! Do only what feels safe for you & your family and is in accordance with all your local regulations.

For cities continuing to participate in CNC 2020:

  • It is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments & institutions (i.e., limit or cancel events if needed)
  • Do what’s best for you & your community

Alternatives to in-person events


  • What can people find in their houses? What can they see through their windows?
  • Focus on identifications! Can your city go through ALL the observations (not just CNC!) that have already been made in your area but aren’t research grade yet?
  • During April 28 - May 3, hold virtual ID parties!

In Backyards:

  • Encourage people to put up moth lights or put down cover boards at their houses to help bring nature to them!
  • What are the wild plants growing in your backyard?
  • What insects or other creatures are using the cultivated plants in your backyard as habitat or a food source?

Outside of your home and backyard (if allowed):

  • Practice social distancing wherever you go.
  • Promote people going outside and making observations on their own/with a small group of their family & friends, instead of joining big events.
  • Think about making observations along sidewalks, pavements, roads, or in residential areas if local parks are too crowded for social distancing. Always be mindful of traffic.

If you’re allowed to hold CNC events:

  • Keep them outside! Luckily this is what the CNC is all about, but if you were planning an indoor portion of an event, forgo it and keep the whole event outside
  • Limit registration
  • Practice social distancing (it’s best if people stay 2-3m apart)
  • Don’t have shared, unwrapped food available - encourage people to bring & eat their own food
  • Have places available where people can wash their hands and/or have hand sanitizer
  • Don’t pass around binoculars, phones, guidebooks, etc. - everyone should keep their gear to themselves

Stay safe, hang in there, and we can’t wait to see what you find - in your houses, in your backyards, along sidewalks, in parks - and know that people all around the world are joining you in documenting nature in whatever way they can during these unprecedented times.

Our thoughts are with all of you,
Alison Young (@kestrel) - California Academy of Sciences and Lila Higgins (@lhiggins) - Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County


We’re a small city in a somewhat rural county with 5 other towns. We’ve been toying with some alternatives, like experimenting with one or a very small number of people doing a walk and livestreaming, altho I suspect that to do this effectively is harder than it looks. Alternatively, taking video throughoit the walk and doing a bit of editing to pull out the interesting bits and posting the result on the project page for people to participate asynchronously. We’re thinking of online ID parties where we schedule an expert to be on a zoom call at a set time for a set topic (e.g., wildflowers) and folks could screenshare the pix they have questions about and the expert could not only ID but explain why they made that ID. People could ask questions, either voice or typed, and it could even be indexed and posted for future reference. As the national folks suggest, it wouldn’t even need to be limited to CNC days, tho perhaps it could start there - at the moment our limits of movement aren’t too severe.

I think it would be useful and healthy to keep as much going as is safe because it will help combat feelings of isolation and helplessness in the face of a health event over which we have limited control. And be fun :grin:


Could potentially postpone the entire event a few months , though I’m not completely sure if there are things stopping that.

Oh: could we move it to the southern spring? We would love to participate when our plants are actually flowering, and our animals active!
(Cape Town: but it is a bit late: lots of plans have been made - but will probably have to be ditched: we are about two weeks behind California in our progression with Covid13, except that we have huge, dense shanty towns where isolation is going to be impossible, and the highest density of TB in the world, which has to be a high risk group! And the City has closed all amenities, including nature reserves. The strategy appears to be to keep out Covid13 until the vaccine is available, but is that possible? It is too far from the CNC to know what the situation will be during the event to properly plan for it …).


There were reports in NZ media tonight about developments with other treatment protocols that were un-related to vaccination, particularly the appropriation of existing technology and pharmacology to slow the progression of the illness, so it will likely be a multi-pronged thing. Slow down the rate of infection, slow down the progression of the illness, “flatten the curve”.

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I was going to ask if something could be made in the middle of Northern summer? Think about northern parts of Canada or Siberia, there’re towns with own biodiversity, but late April is nowhere close to actual spring there. For some parts even autumn is better.


Australia is definitely going ahead with City Nature Challenge 2020! We have changed our messaging however to more of a “Backyard Bioblitz” style event inlcuding a Moth Night on the 26th of April. Check out our wordpress blog for more.


iNat does not organize the City Nature Challenge, I would direct any suggestions to the organizers directly at They also posted a page about COVID-19 on their website:

I’m going to close this topic as the question has been answered.

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