City Nature Challenge

Become a Community Scientist

Montgomery Parks is participating in the City Nature Challenge and we want you to participate with us! Anyone can become a community scientist in the parks. Learn how you can get involved:

Make Your Observations

April 30 – May 2, 2021

Help Identify Observations

May 4-9, 2021


Watch the Challenge Live

Join the “Montgomery Parks City Nature Challenge” Project on iNaturalist to view observations rolling in during the Challenge weekend. The Project page has a map of where observations have been submitted, and the top contributing users.

What is the City Nature Challenge?

In April, cities across the world will compete to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most participants. Observations are recorded in the iNaturalist app and contribute to important environmental research. Hundreds of people will go outside to look for nature in the Washington D.C. region. Anyone can participate, and Montgomery Parks is here to help you become a citizen scientist, too!Children looking through the forest for nature items ⇒ Learn more about the City Nature Challenge, invented by scientists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Academy of Sciences in 2016.

How do I contribute?

  1. Get Out and Find Nature. Nature is all around us, even in our cities! Go outside and find any wild plant, animal, or fungi. You can even look for signs animals have left behind, such as a track, shell, or feather. Observations may be collected from April 30 through May 2, 2021.
  2. Take a Picture of What you Find. A picture records your observation for others to see. You may also want to note some additional details, such as distinctive features. Don’t forget to record the location of your critter, too.
  3. Share Your Observations. Upload your photo and any observation notes to iNaturalist. If you think you know the name of the species, you can identify your observation.
  4. Help Identify Observations. Observations become “research-grade” when species identifications are verified by another iNaturalist user. You may be able to help identify the species in observations submitted by others. Identifications must be made before May 9, 2021.

Why should I help?

We believe the Challenge is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family learning about nature right outside your door. And you’ll be contributing to a valuable biodiversity mapping database used by scientists all over the world to study and protect wildlife.

Adults looking through binocularsHow do I participate?

It’s free to participate using a smart mobile device or a computer and a digital camera. We recommend using a smart mobile device with the free iNaturalist app installed. If you do not have a smart mobile device, you can use a digital camera and a computer to submit your observations on the iNaturalist website. All participants (over the age of 13) must have their own iNaturalist account. Make sure to set up your account before heading outside to make your first observation. Montgomery Parks’ Naturalists are here to help you learn how to use iNaturalist! Join one of our free trainings or drop in to one of the Nature Centers during the Challenge for a quick tutorial. ⇒ Visit iNaturalist to learn more about the program, create your free account, and download the mobile application.

Where can I participate?

You can make observations anywhere outdoors, including your favorite park or even your own backyard! You can participate on your own or join one of the many programs happening during the Challenge. Help the Washington D.C. region win the competition by making your observations in the following counties:

  • Maryland: Montgomery, Prince George’s Frederick, Calvert or Charles Counties.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Virginia: Loudoun, Fairfax, Clarke, Warren, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Fauquier, Manassas, Stafford or Spotslvania Counties.
  • West Virginia: Jefferson County.

Go Out and Discover!

Last Updated: April 22, 2021