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Biodiversity in Our Backyard

Biodiversity in Our Backyard

Did you know that no matter where you live, no matter your level of nature knowledge, you can be a community scientist? All you need to do is get the iNaturalist app and follow your curiosity! After all, nature is everywhere, and tools like iNaturalist make it easy to participate and learn about the environment all around us - and the more-than-human species we share it with.

Check out these spring 2023 events which are great ways to get started: 

Now till April 22: Western Monarch Mystery Challenge

monarch caterpillar credit Michela Gentile/Parks Conservancy 

Monarch butterflies are on the move as we head into spring, and you can help document where they go as they depart overwintering sites and search for breeding habitat. This is a gap in our understanding of their epic annual migration, and the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge aims to fill it. Here's how to participate:

This is one of three annual community science efforts that document the monarch butterfly as it migrates through California, organized by the Xerces Society. The Thanksgiving and New Year's counts document monarch butterfly populations at known overwintering sites, and Mystery Challenge looks at where the go immediately following overwintering.

Learn more about how the monarch butterfly is doing right now, the results of this year's Thanksgiving and New Year's counts, and how community science programs like this are contributing to monarch butterfly conservation here

Image by Michela Gentile/Parks Conservancy

March 17-31: Bay Area Urban Species Search

Credit TOGETHER Bay Area

Join your neighbors in the Bay Area Urban Species Search - more urban biodiversity data is needed for an important regional conservation planning effort called the Conservation Lands Network, and you can help!

The goal: Find and document these 24 Bay Area species where humans live and work: cities, towns, suburbs, neighborhoods, backyards, schoolyards, and beyond.

Who can participate? Everyone is welcome! All it takes is a phone and the iNaturalist app. (And the more participants, the better.)

Why now? More urban biodiversity data is needed for the Conservation Lands Network to further support science-based decision-making around Bay Area lands. The gray areas on this map are places that need more data!

Why urban biodiversity? Nature is everywhere, even on the busiest city streets, and the climate crisis has impacted (or will impact) all species, including those living in urban areas. From small invertebrates to large mammals, urban areas support a wide range of species, and we hope the people who know their neighborhoods (and communities) best can contribute their knowledge, observations, & expertise to conservation solutions through community science and beyond.

Image by TOGETHER Bay Area

April 28 – May 7: City Nature Challenge

Credit Lieven Leroy

City Nature Challenge is an international celebration of the biodiversity around us, with thousands of people participating in observing their local environment worldwide! Everyone who participates contributes to our collective knowledge of biodiversity and helps create information that scientists can use. What’s more, it’s a fun way to get outside and learn something new! This event takes place in two parts: 

  • Observation period, April 28 – May 1, 2023: Take pictures of wild plants, animals, fungi – anything you find in your backyard, in a local park, while walking your dog around the block, wherever you choose to look! Share your pictures on iNaturalist. 
  • Identification period, May 2 – May 7, 2023: Participants may also like to help identify what was found during the observation period. Results from around the world will be announced Monday, May 8. 

See some local fun finds from last year on our Instagram to get inspired – from wonderful wildlife to lovely lupines.

Image by Lieven LeRoy