I want to understand the reason for the City Nature Challenge. What motivates you to participate? What do I tell people who don’t understand why we’re asking them to help with this project.
I work at a place where the CNC is being heavily promoted and when people ask “what’s the purpose” I can’t figure out how to explain the benefit. I understand maybe it’s just fun for people to share photos but is there another reason why cities should be calling everyone to participate? Is the data needed for a specific study? Are the cities paid a commission for INaturalist App downloads? Are the results linked to the allocation of environmental project funding?
CNC raises awareness of people to biodiversity in cities and towns, to get people interested in ecology and nature overall you need to start with something they can connect with, something simple and easy to achieve for everyone. It’s a fact people care more about something they know from own experience, not lectures. Also yes, it’s fun, connection of people, and big source of data each year (you can check graphs of statistics, huge spikes each CNC) which also means some new members each year stay on iNat and become prolific users.
If your local restrictions allow it, it’s easier to get people involved when you do it together, but telling them they can get an id for everything they wanted and it’s fun for everyone, not just nerds, can be a good start.
CNC wasn’t founded by iNaturalist, it’s just one of platforms to participate.
You can read some info on official website https://citynaturechallenge.org/cnc-faqs-page/ especially What are the data used for? part https://citynaturechallenge.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/updated_city_nature_challenge_infographic_2.png
Documenting my urban environment really helped me see how much better it could be at supporting non-human life.
Its incredible how unsupportive urban environments can be - for example, for pollinators and their connected ecosystems - the impact of basic town-planning sort of decisions such as poorly chosen flowers for flowerbeds, always removing dead leaves, mowing grass all the time (or even having lawns in first place), removing old native trees… etc …can be really impacting.
But its also incredible to see what does live right in front of you without you realising, even in what one would imagine to be a completely barren environment. So, its just really eye-opening on many levels I think and helps to dissolve this unhealthy barrier society has… seeing nature as this sort of bubble which only exists in the countryside.
From an organisational POV, as most recorders focus on documenting more traditional natural environments, our understanding of urban ecosystems is much more limited. So its important to address this imbalance in the data as well …so we can be more aware of the biodiversity we do have and support / develop it better in the future.
A big reason my city is participating is for the bare bones basic exposure to nature. The hope is that the “contest” will motivate the public to explore nature by participating, and then they will maybe start to notice and appreciate nature a little bit more afterward.
Most people grow up in, and live in, cities now, and I think the majority of people imagine there is not much nature to see in cities, only out in the countryside where there are more wild places.
The City Nature Challenge can change people’s minds by letting them see just how much nature there is in cities, despite the fact that often nature is not being favored in a city environment because of a lot of poor choices in terms of land use.
This will be my 4th year volunteering and taking part in the City Nature Challenge and I love it. I do it mainly because its so fun but theres lot of other great reasons to take part.
I grew up playing pokemon on my gameboy colour and I like to describe iNaturalist as transforming your phone into a pokedex. I like the community and competition side of the challenge and connecting with other nature lovers. My identification skills have definitely improved by using the app - especially with plants and wildflowers - getting that instant confirmation on what I think a plant is really helps improve knowledge quickly.
The data is also really useful for local conservation efforts and monitoring wildlife populations. By taking part in the challenge you are actually collecting real conservation data that can be used by planners, conservation charities, ecologists or anyone that has access to the global biodiversity information facility. The more observations also improves the software making iNaturalist better and better at correctly identifying species.
Its also good for you, by taking notice of your surroundings, getting outside, connecting with others and learning new things you will be taking positive action to boost your own mental health. The five ways to well being as stated on the NHS website include being active, taking notice, learning, connecting with others and giving back all of which you will be doing when you take part in the City Nature Challenge.
Seeing wildlife, learning new things, connecting with others, having fun and improving your mental health?! Whats not to like!
I think CNC’s biggest benefit is raising awareness, getting people outside and noticing the world around them. But I’m not sure that’s the best answer to tell someone who’s asking “Why should I do this?”
Personally, I don’t put much effort into CNC. I don’t understand why they don’t vary the dates year-to-year. As someone who’s main interests are plants, herps and bees, April is not the most interesting time in Minnesota. It snowed yesterday.
What is the point of year to year data when it is suboptimal? And would seasonal data over a say 10-12 year cycle not be far more valuable? By rotating the seasons it would provide far more data for every city.
I think CNC is far less about increasing the data pool, as it is about public outreach opportunity. It’s far easier to drag in media coverage for an event that is international and recurring, and the repeat nature of it makes it easier to organise each time