Now through Monday, D.C. is competing in the City Nature Challenge, a contest in which citizen scientists use an app to log as many observations of the natural world as possible.

Last year, D.C. placed fifth among 65 competing cities, says Ana Ka’ahanui, co-founder of Capital Nature, one of the local environmental groups behind D.C.’s effort. This year, more than 160 cities are competing worldwide, and D.C. wants to stay in the top 10.

Even if you can’t tell the difference between a dandelion and 'a daffodil, you can help, Ka’ahanui says. All you have to do is download the free iNaturalist app, and take a photo of any interesting wild animal, plant or fungus you come across during the contest period. Animal tracks and scat are fair game, but not pets or potted plants.

Once you’ve uploaded your photo, other participants will help identify what you’ve found. Fly solo, or meet with others at events that are taking place across the D.C. area, listed at CityNatureChallengeDC.org.

“The goal is to get people outside, connecting with nature,” Ka’ahanui says. Another benefit is that “all the observations go into a global database that scientists use for research,” she says.

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The City Nature Challenge began in 2016 as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 2017, it broadened to include 16 American cities, including D.C.

Now it’s a global effort. The greater D.C. area (which includes 20 neighboring counties from Frederick County, Md., to Spotsylvania County, Va.) will be going toe-to-toe with major cities around the world, including Rome, Quito, Ecuador, and Tel Aviv, Israel — as well as regional rivals Baltimore, Boston and New York. Ka’ahanui says she hopes to see D.C. lead the East Coast.

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