The Wildest City in Colorado

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The City Nature Challenge is coming to Colorado! datesThousands of people around the world will compete to see which city can find the most species outside in nature! Results will be announced on Friday, May 4th. Let’s make a city in Colorado the winner!

outdoor-adventure-expo-delliveneri-75If you spend time or would like to spend time outdoors exploring Colorado’s wild places, then you should join a growing number of citizen scientists for an international BioBlitz event on April 27-30. So you may be wondering what a BioBlitz is.  I must admit that I had to look up “BioBlitz” and here’s what I found.

A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on locating and identifying as many species as possible (plants, animals, fungi, etc.) in a specific location over a specified period of time.

This is a pretty cool concept! The information generated through past BioBlitz events has provided increased scientific knowledge around urban biodiversity and, this time around could help scientists protect and preserve the Colorado that we all love.

The City Nature Challenge is a BioBlitz that began in 2016 as a friendly challenge between two rival cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco. The idea was to engage residents and visitors in the shared challenge of documenting nature in an effort to better understand urban biodiversity. This first City Nature Challenge, an eight-day competition, engaged more than one thousand citizen scientists, who provided more than 19,800 observations, which in turn were used to identify 2,544 species. And for anyone keeping score, in the first challenge, Los Angeles beat San Francisco.

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This year, the City Nature Challenge brings more than 60 cities from around the world to participate in this international event. And for the first time, the list includes two Colorado cities – Denver and Boulder. So, for Coloradans, our challenge is twofold. First, as citizen scientists, how will we compete on a global scale? And, second, within state borders, which city will record the greatest biodiversity? Coloradans are known for their love of the outdoors and at the competition’s end, both of our cities should be at the top of the list.

Why participate in the City Nature Challenge?

PHONEThere is nature all around us, even in our cities. And knowing what species are in our city and where they are helps us study and protect them. So innovative efforts, like the City Nature Challenge, are strongly supported and encouraged by Colorado government agencies, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the City and County of Denver, and nonprofits, such as The Nature Conservancy and Great Outdoors Colorado. Everyone wins when we connect people to their environment and reap the benefits of crowd-sourced citizen science. By participating in the City Nature Challenge, not only do you learn more about local nature, but you can also make your city a better place – for you and other species!

Taking Part is Easy!

Denver and Boulder are both using iNaturalist to catalog and identify observations. Each city has also created City Nature Challenge websites that include information about their city’s unique approach to the challenge. 

All you have to do to participate is join the City Nature Challenge projects for Boulder and/or, the Denver Metro Area and then make and upload observations between April 27 and April 30. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Find Wildlife.
    It can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold, or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses!) found in your participating city.
  2. Take a Picture of What you Find.
    Be sure to note the location of the critter or plant.
  3. Share Your Observations.
    Upload your findings through iNaturalist and add it to your city’s project (Boulder | Denver Metro Area).

Boulder’s City Nature Challenge is being organized by Wild Foundation’s Wild Boulder Team.  To see a list of scheduled activities and to learn more about how you can participate in the Boulder project, visit the Wild Foundation’s website. To participate in the Denver project, you can visit City Nature Challenge 2018: Denver Metro Area web page.

If you need help getting started with the iNaturalist mobile app, just visit the iNaturalist website and watch their video tutorials. If you download the app today, you will be a pro by the time the challenge gets here! And watch “Adding an Observation on a Mobile Device” to see just how easy it is to add an observation.

INaturalist_logoThe City Nature Challenge Education Working Group has developed an amazing Education Toolkit that offers some great ways we can get young inquisitive observers engaged in the natural world. While this toolkit was created for the City Nature Challenge, the information serves as a great guide for creating your own BioBlitz.

My family and I will be making observations for both cities and I encourage anyone with the ability to do the same. And if you’re busy that weekend or live too far away to make observations in the project areas, you can still participate by helping to identify all the observations. Identifying observations is a crucial part of the process. To help, just visit the project pages between May 1 and May 3 and identify any familiar species. To learn more about Colorado wildlife and the identification process, you can check out the iNaturalists online guides. We all benefit from the amazing Colorado outdoors, so let’s find a little time to support this worthwhile challenge!

Download the iNaturalist application to your phone today!

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Join guided City Nature Challenge events, by visiting the following Colorado state parks.


Written by Doug Skinner. Skinner is an editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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