Dallas-Fort Worth is among 14 U.S. cities competing to post the most observations on the citizen scientist site April 14-18. Above, a straggler daisy, aka horse herb, observed at Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth by Sam Kieschnick. Courtesy of iNaturalist.org.
April 4, 2017
North Texas nature lovers are encouraged to grab their smart phones and head outside for a DFW-wide bioblitz on Easter weekend.
During April 14-18, Dallas-Fort Worth is competing with metropolitan areas across the U.S. to see which city can post the most observations on iNaturalist.org, the citizen science website.
The five-day iNaturalist City Nature Challenge will be held in 14 cities, including DFW, Austin and Houston. In addition, New York City, Boston, Raleigh, Washington DC, Nashville, Duluth, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle will be competing.
The nationwide event grew out of a competition held last year between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now they’ve challenged other metropolitan areas from across the U.S. to the join in the fun.
Sam Kieschnick (pronounced quiche-nick), DFW urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is organizing the local events.
“I was watching [the competition] closely last year and I said we should do it in Texas,”
He said it’s a great way to dive into iNaturalist.org, which features an app that has quickly become a standard tool of naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts.
The site, started by UC Berkley students and now overseen by the California Academy of Sciences, allows users to post photos of plants, animals and insects using a smart phone or by uploading photos to the site. Researchers and land managers use the information to track various species and the health of ecosystems. It’s also fun way for amateur naturalists to learn about the biological world.
During the DFW bioblitz, naturalists will be on hand to answer questions at nearly 20 natural areas in North Texas, including White Rock Lake, Cedar Ridge Preserve, O.S. Gray Natural Area, Tandy Hills Natural Area and LLELA.
“We’re going to be doing some moth-ing on Friday night,” said Kieschnick.
Fungi at Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth observed by Don Young. Courtesy of iNaturalist.
Participating is easy. First, create an account on iNaturalist.org. If you have a smart phone, you can download the iNaturalist app. This allows you to take a photo with your phone camera of any flora or fauna and post it to the site. Kieschnick said people will be surprised when they turn their attention to their natural surroundings
“When we go into our yards, it doesn’t look like the Serengeti, but if we get on our hands and knees we see tremendous diversity,” said Kieschnick. “You can go to a vacant parking lot and find lot of diversity exists.”
Every observation you make in the 10-county DFW region on iNaturalist during April 14-18 will automatically be counted for the DFW area.
Kieschnick recommends using a coin or your hand in the photo for scale. When documenting species in your own yard, you can obscure the location for more privacy. He also advises documenting only one of each species per location. Although, he said the tool has been used to track the prevalence of an invasive species.
“Another neat thing about this is you don’t have to know what it is you’re looking at it,” said Kieschnick. “You can upload it and simply ID something as a ‘bug’ or ‘plant’ or 'weed.'"
Once it’s uploaded, others logged into the site, many of them biology experts, will ID it for you if they can.
“There are people on there late at night like me. I’m in my jammies, I have my iPad,” joked Kieschnick. “I do this out of my own enjoyment. If it’s a bug that I know, I chime in.”
Gulf Coast Toad observed by Don Young in Fort Worth. Courtesy of iNaturalist.org.
The app unites the novice and scientists, he said.
“The old academics in their ivory towers are coming down to play, to see what people are seeing out there.”
Kieschnick said while he admits he's pulling for DFW to win next weekend, the ultimate goal is getting people more engaged in the natural world.
“By learning the names of things, that’s the first step of appreciating them,” he said.
DFW iNaturalist Nature Challenge
About: The five-day iNaturalist challenge will be held in 14 cities, including DFW, Austin and Houston. In addition, New York City, Boston, Raleigh, Washington DC, Nashville, Duluth, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle will be competing to see which city can post the most local observations of the natural world.
When: April 14-18
Where: Upload observations of plants, animals and insects anywhere in these participating counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Wise.
How: Create an account on iNaturalist.org. Download the iNaturalist app. Your observations will automatically be added to the DFW project on iNaturalist if you are within the defined geographic region.