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A perfect time to connect with nature at home

The free iNaturalist app lets observers take pictures of the plants, animals and insects they see. The app then helps identify the species.

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

This weekend, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County residents can get outside to observe urban wildlife for the City Nature Challenge. The goal of the global “bioblitz” is to have as many people as possible recording plant and animal species in the city.

From Friday, April 24, to Monday, April 27, Bernalillo County residents can use the free iNaturalist app to take pictures of the plants, animals and insects they see. The app then helps identify the species.

Sarah Hurteau, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Albuquerque Urban Program, said the current stay-at-home order creates a perfect opportunity to connect with nature.

“Last year, we hosted events for this challenge at places where you would expect to see biodiversity,” Hurteau said. “The beauty of doing this now when everyone is at home is that we will get a much better sense of the biodiversity across our city and county. This is great for families to do together on a walk or a bike ride. It’s super-easy. You don’t need to be an expert.”

bright spot logoAfter this weekend, local and global experts will review the publicly available observations to further identify the plant and animal species.

The data will help the Nature Conservancy choose where to do habitat restoration work in the city.

Laurel Ludwig, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and one of the event organizers, said the citizen science project helps urbanites learn about nature in their own backyards.

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A Roadrunner as identified by the seek App by iNaturalist.

“Most iNaturalist data in the past has been centered on our open space and along the river, so this will help fill in those gaps with wildlife data from neighborhoods,” Ludwig said. “We’re lucky here in Albuquerque, with a lot of wildlife, but we may not notice it all the time.”

Participants should also photograph and record “cultivated” wildlife, like a tree planted in one’s yard.

The global challenge is in its fifth year. Last year was Albuquerque’s first time participating, and the city placed third in most participants, fourth in most species cataloged, and fourth for most observations in a category with similar-sized cities.

In light of the current public health crisis, this year’s event focuses on worldwide collaboration instead of competition. The Albuquerque organizers encourage participants to catalog wildlife in their own yards and neighborhoods.

The local event is organized by the Nature Conservancy, the UNM Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and several other organizations. For a full list of partners and more instructions on how to participate, visit www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020-abq.

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