City Nature Challenge tallies over 1.27 Million Wildlife Observations

Over 52,000 community scientists from 419 cities around the world document more than 2,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species in four-day community science effort

Species observed include Almirante Blanca butterfly, the first documented sighting of this species in Argentina and the southernmost record in all of South America, and critically imperiled Simpson’s grasspink flower in Florida

Almirante Blanca butterfly
© matiascabezas(CC-BY-4.0)

Simpson’s Grasspink flower
© joemdo(CC-BY-NC)

Los Angeles, CA (May 10, 2021) – The City Nature Challenge (CNC) results are in! More than 52,000 people across six continents documented over 1.27 million wildlife observations for the 6th annual community science initiative. From a sighting of a critically imperiled flower from the U.S., to documenting an uptick in urban wildlife activity due to shelter-in-place orders, the observations gathered help scientists create a valuable snapshot in time of urban biodiversity.

The global event called on current and aspiring community scientists, nature and science fans, and people of all ages and backgrounds to observe and submit pictures of wild plants, animals, and fungi from April 30 to May 3. In light of COVID-19, this year’s Challenge was not a competition. Instead, participants were encouraged to embrace the collaborative aspect of sharing observations online with a digital community and celebrate the healing power of nature safely from home.

People of all ages and science backgrounds submitted pictures of wild plants and animals using the free mobile app iNaturalist. From sightings of critically endangered species to documenting urban wildlife, the competition underscored the power of community science to track real-time changes in our planet’s biodiversity.

After co-founding and organizing the first-ever City Nature Challenge in 2016 as a competition between the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) and the California Academy of Sciences expanded the initiative to 419 cities across 44 countries. This year’s Challenge tallied over 1.27 million observations, including over 2,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species; engaged more than 52,000 observers (more than ever before); and recorded over 45,000 species worldwide.

“It has been amazing to see so many new cities and communities of  people from around the globe come together to celebrate nature during this year’s event, especially in light of the continued pandemic,” says Lila Higgins, co-founder of the City Nature Challenge and Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) Senior Community Science Manager. “I’m still in a state of awe that over 52,000 people were compelled to connect with nature in this way, and even though so many of us still have to be apart, people came together virtually to make over 1.27 million records of living beings on our planet!”

The Challenge would not be possible without the hundreds of partner organizations around the world which empowered their respective communities to document local biodiversity. “Organizing the City Nature Challenge in Los Angeles is a team effort,” says Amy Jaecker-Jones, NHMLAC Community Science Coordinator. “We work with an amazing group of non-profit organizations and governmental offices. While the COVID-19 pandemic once again restricted our ability to hold big, in-person bioblitz events, organizers rallied to hold a series of virtual events leading up to the City Nature Challenge and some sites were able to station interpretive staff at various locations to engage visitors in making observations. It really is the collaborative work of all of our partners and their connections within different communities that make the City Nature Challenge a success.”

Local support for the City Nature Challenge was generously sponsored by Boeing and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Los Angeles County by the numbers

  • 1,507 observers
  • 2,639 species documented
  • 22,045 observations submitted to iNaturalist
  • Most observed species: western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

View all L.A County iNaturalist results here.