City Nature Challenge: Discover the Diversity of Nature in Your Neighborhood

In St. Louis, the Cardinals have thrown the first pitch of the season, the weather is heating up, and our local biodiversity is blooming, sprouting, and flying all around us. You’ve dusted off your baseball cap and enjoyed a picnic. Now it’s time to test your nature observation skills! We need you, community scientists, to grab your smartphones Friday, April 30 to Monday, May 3, 2021 and document nature in our region.  

The St. Louis region is once again joining 350+ cities globally to participate in the City Nature Challenge. This is a four-day “Bioblitz”-style event to gather observations of nature. Organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the challenge motivates people to find and document wildlife and plants in their cities. This year from April 30 to May 3, you’ll join over 50,000 participants in recording observations of local biodiversity using the free, user-friendly and scientifically respected iNaturalist app. 

Photo by Bailie Kleekamp


The iNaturalist app is your virtual nature journal. Simply download the app on your mobile phone, using Google Play or the Apple Store, to get started. Use the camera feature on the app to document your local observations of plants, animals, and fungi. Upload your photos to the St. Louis region challenge page to start the discovery and collection process. Local scientists will identify the species in your photos the week following the challenge. You can also use the app to connect virtually with other community scientists and discuss what you’ve documented. Watch this video to learn how to make an observation on iNaturalist.

Graphic by iNaturalist

Why Participate in the City Nature Challenge?

We’ve come up with creative ways to connect with each other during the pandemic: Zoom holiday gatherings, distanced outdoor walks, virtual ceremonies. The City Nature Challenge takes connecting to a new level: experience nature with your community and compete to show your regional pride! The iNaturalist app builds community centered on an appreciation for local nature. Discover plants, animals, and fungi virtually with your neighbors. 

Each observation builds the St. Louis Region’s Urban Biodiversity Inventory. This inventory helps scientists and ecological advocates monitor and protect our local habitats. Keep an eye out for surrogate species, as the presence and absence of these species can help indicate the quality of urban biodiversity. As a Community Scientist, your contributions to this event are valuable to the conservation and documentation of the St. Louis region’s natural environment.  

Photo by Kat Niehaus

How to Get Involved

From Friday, April 30 to Monday, May 3, participants can upload their observation photos to the iNaturalist app. The following Tuesday-Sunday will be dedicated to identifying species in these photos. Final results (total observation numbers, species documented, participation numbers) will be announced on Monday, May 10. 

  1. Download the FREE iNaturalist app. Find instructions for downloading the app on the iNaturalist website page.
  2. Take photos of plants, animals, insects, and other life forms. You can do this anywhere across the bi-state* region. Take a look at this field guide to source inspiration for species to find. Can you document a woody plant, herbaceous plant, an invertebrate, a herp, a bird, and a mammal?
  3. Upload your images on the greater St. Louis region’s iNaturalist page.
Photo by Kat Niehaus

* Counties representing the greater St. Louis region in the 2021 City Nature Challenge: Missouri – Crawford, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Francois, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Warren; Illinois – Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Monroe, St. Clair.

Nearby Nature: Places to Visit, Enjoy, and Observe

For pandemic safety, there will be no organized gatherings for groups of participants to make observations together. However, you can use this map of Nearby Nature sites to find new places to explore independently, with members of your household, or with friends while respecting public health guidelines! 

Download map here

If you can’t get out to one of our region’s unique nature sites, you can still participate in your neighborhood — even in your own yard. Being outdoors can help to lower stress levels and increase overall feelings of wellbeing, so take care of yourself by being in nature if you’re able.

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