Meeting an iridescent lizard scurrying through an arroyo, or hearing another kind of “croa, croa” in the distance, or see a skunk climbing a hill?
You might wonder, then look around, to see if anyone else witnesses the flashy reptile or the eerie bird calls or the hardworking skunk.
It is, in short, a comfort to know that our neighbors are noticing nature, but, more than that, that our neighbors are also taking the time to collect natural observations, all to help scientists and researchers better understand our urban wildlife.
And that’s exactly what thousands of Angelenos did at the end of April and the first days of May.
Because that’s when the Nature City Challenge 2022 returned, prompting over 1,300 Angelenos to share sightings of animals, plants or fungi through the iNaturalist app.
The annual city-to-city showdown began in 2016 with a friendly showdown between the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, to inspire citizen scientists to share, via photos taken and submitted to iNaturalist, their findings in their yards, parks, neighborhoods and cities.
“The competition highlights the power of community science to track changes in our planet’s biodiversity in real time,” says the team from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Now the challenge is a truly global event, with many countries participating, and the 2022 effort has produced a number of rare specimens, such as a “recently discovered species of orchid” in Bolivia.
In Southern California, flora and fauna finds were plentiful and sometimes peculiar (see: woodlice sighting below).
Some 1,368 people participated locally, sharing 18,907 sightings, which included 2,575 species.
Local Citizen Scientists sighted bald eagles off Highway 39, bighorn sheep near San Dimas, and a woodlouse at William S. Hart Park (“(c) this sighting counts as two species, because the woodlouse is infected with a virus called iridescent invertebrate virus 31, which causes the woodlouse to turn blue,” explained the Natural History Museum).
Top of the list of “most observed species” locally? Oh hello, West Fence Lizard. We see you.
“Los Angeles and nature aren’t two things people usually think about together,” says NHM Community Science Program Coordinator Sam Tayag.
“Through the partnership of non-profits and government offices throughout LA, Angelenos has been able to put our incredible local biodiversity back on the world map in the City Nature Challenge! It’s always impressive to see our community and individual relationships with nature reflected in LA County iNaturalist Project.”
All the fascinating finds can be found at the City of Los Angeles Nature Challenge site.