Nature Challenge! SF v. LA!

Remember back in December, when we talked about the King Tides, and how YOU, a lowly citizen with no scientific training at all, could contribute to a science project? (Because, #CitizenScience!) Soon, it gets even better: you can contribute to a science project without ever leaving your neighborhood AND show some Bay Area Pride! Mark your calendars for the week of April 14-21.

What is this grand opportunity, you ask? It’s the SF (ok, Bay Area) v. LA (yeah, LA county) Nature Challenge!

What’s a Nature Challenge? It’s a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences (Bay Area! Yay!) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. (Read more about it all here.) From April 14-21st (just a mere 7 days, so get busy and stay focused), everyone (that is, everyone who hears about this challenge and downloads iNaturalist on their phone) takes as many pictures of different species (plants, animals, bugs, lichen, etc.) as they can, and either contributes to identifying them, or just helps out by uploading pics with information about where they were tagged (turn on location services for the app, in other words). At the end of the week, a whole lot of tallying is done and the winner is crowned in a big ceremony. Or the Bay Area can reign supreme with full nerd cred.  Full nerd cred is more likely, if we’re going to be totally honest.

IMG_6233Why should you and your family participate? First, because SCIENCE. Seriously though– it’s an easy way to make science come alive for your kids (and maybe for yourself, too). Science is not something people do in labs after spending lots of hours and money to get obscure degrees. It’s integral to our daily lives, but most of the time, we forget this, or we assume that we don’t have enough knowledge to contribute meaningfully to a scientific project. But thanks to #citizenscience & the iNaturalist app, you can help map where all these different species live around the Bay Area. Knowing more about biodiversity is key for hundreds of scientific endeavors, and expanding the ability to contribute to studies means more knowledge created about our natural world.

IMG_6235Second, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the plants and animals in your daily sphere without making a production of it. Sure, if you want to go exploring to find some new plants, knock yourselves out, but you can also participate just by walking around the block. What is that purple flower you’ve seen over and over again? It has a name. Someone on iNaturalist will identify it, have no fear! The amazing thing about the internet is its power to connect people who are obsessive about certain spheres of knowledge (hang out on the California Native Plant Society Facebook page for a day, and you will see what I mean), with those who could benefit from their extensive knowledge. People also care more about that which they know. If we are going to help our children become invested in the natural world and its future, they have to get to know it. Names are one way in which we get to know our world.

IMG_6239Finally, it could help get members of your party moving when you have come to a “I’m too tired” moment on the trail. Distraction is a beautiful tool for toddler hiking. My toddler never gets to use the phone, so asking HER to take the pictures could get us at least another 1/2 mile, and asking her to find a new flower or tree could get even MORE mileage! Manipulation in the name of hiking & science– what more could you ask for?

Seriously, I hope you will join our family in recording as many observations as you can between April 14th and 21st– let’s show LA who has more nerdy families! To get involved, download the iNaturalist app on your phone (remember to activate location services when asked), and then look under “Projects” for “City Nature Challenge L.A. vs S.F.” The application is pretty straightforward and intuitive, requiring no scientific knowledge whatsoever. Bring on the #CitizenScience!

IMG_6218Find us on Facebook (Bay Area Families Outside), Twitter (@bafamilyoutside) or Instagram!

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