PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s wild out there. That’s the message behind the City Nature Challenge, started in 2016 with a bet between two California natural history museums. It’s grown into an international event, and for the first time, Philadelphia’s joining the competition.
Philadelphia City Nature Challenge organizing committee member Bernard Brown says it’s a competitive urban bioblitz.
“That means we try to document as many species as possible, making as many observations of them as possible, and as many people taking part as possible in a four-day stretch April 26 through 29th,” he said.
Anyone in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties can take part by downloading the free iNaturalist app.
“iNaturalist is fabulous for this kind of thing,” Brown said. “It’s a perfect way if you don’t know what kind of plant you’re looking at, or what kind of spider you’re looking at, or what kind of bird you’re looking at – if you get a picture of it, the app and the community of users can help you figure out what it is.”
You can log your observations alone, or with a guide.
“We have over 30 walks at this point, all over the City of Philadelphia and the neighboring counties to help you get out and get familiar with looking around and IDing what is around you,” he said.
Weeds, wildflowers, trees, bugs, fungus and wildlife – including pigeons and rats – living or dead can be entered. All of it helps scientists get a better picture of the wild urban world.
“A lot of times birds end up hitting glass and getting killed that way and so there’re people collecting information on that to learn how to help fix the problem,” he said.
Brown says once you start looking, you may be surprised by how much there is to see as nature wakes up from the long winter.
“We have one of my favorite flowers that’s about to bloom called the Philadelphia Fleabane, which is basically a weed, but it’s a beautiful daisy that occurs all over the city growing out of cracks in sidewalks,” he said.
“All this is within reach,” says Brown. “You don’t have to travel for it, you just have to walk out your door, and take a look at what’s in your garden, your sidewalk, on your block, and you can learn from nature and engage with nature right there.”