Join The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in making observations of plants and animals – at a park, a beach or even just in your own neighborhood – April 30-May 3 as part of a worldwide “bio-blitz” called the City Nature Challenge.
The Maritime Aquarium is organizing Fairfield and Westchester counties’ joint effort of this four-day global event, which pits metro areas in a contest to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species and engage the most people.
“We would love to have as many people as possible in Fairfield and Westchester counties take part because the more participants we have, the better data we’ll have about our local flora and fauna’s biodiversity,” said Bridget Cervero, manager of the Aquarium’s Citizen Science programs. “And it’s so easy! No matter if you live right in a city or along a wooded lane, wherever you are, you just need to step outside.”
Organizations partnering with The Maritime Aquarium for the local effort are: The Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown; Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport; The Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton; and the town of Bedford, N.Y., and its environmental partner Healthy Yards.
All that’s needed to participate is a camera – a cell-phone camera is most convenient – and access to an app or website called iNaturalist.
“You do need to be at least 13 years old to create an iNaturalist account, so we view City Nature Challenge as a great thing to do as a family or as a Scouting event or even as a classroom project,” Cervero said.
From Fri., April 30 to Mon., May 3, participants are encouraged to find, photograph and upload plants, bugs, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles or any other wild, natural finds to iNaturalist. (No pets or cultivated plants, please.) You don’t even need to know what it is you’ve submitted; the iNaturalist app/website may help with identification.
Interested volunteers from Fairfield and Westchester counties can learn more about participating – and how to record observations – during free online workshops on Thurs., April 22 at 4 p.m. and on Wed., April 28 at 7 p.m. (Choose one.) Registration is required to receive the Zoom link. Sign up at www.maritimeaquarium.org/citizen-science.
The workshops are helpful but not necessary. Basic details about participating in City Nature Challenge also can be found on that Aquarium web page, including the basics of uploading findings onto the iNaturalist app or website.
City Nature Challenge started in 2016 as a friendly competition between staff of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Academy of Sciences, and has expanded rapidly since. Last year, despite the pandemic, more than 41,000 people in 244 cities around the world uploaded more than 815,000 observations.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s City Nature Challenge has less of a focus on competing for the most volunteers or the most observations.
“Instead, we want to embrace the healing power of nature and celebrate tens of thousands of people all around the world, searching for and documenting their local biodiversity, together in this event,” the organizers say on the event website.
Besides making observations on their own, participants also can join in with The Maritime Aquarium’s efforts during Marine Life Encounter Cruises onto Long Island Sound on Sat., May 1 and Sun., May 2. Departures both days are at 1:15 p.m. Cost is $32.50 per person. Advance reservations are required and can be made at www.maritimeaquarium.org/cruise-schedule.
In addition, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary is hosting a guided effort on Sun., May 2 from noon to 2 p.m., with Cervero and biologists from Western Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut. Registration is required at www.cvhfoundation.org/event/city-nature-challenge-2021.