City Nature Challenge 2018: Washington, DC metro area's News

February 22, 2019

Get ready for CNC 2019 by identifying observations from 2018!

Want to meet local iNaturalist enthusiasts *and* learn more about identifications on iNaturalist? Come help us identify last year's observations from the City Nature Challenge! We'll meet in the cafeteria at National Geographic. Pizza provided! *Bring a laptop* and any field guides you want to reference.

Thursday, February 28
5:30-8 PM
Register here:

National Geographic
1610 M St NW
Washington DC 20036

Enter via the courtyard from M Street. From the courtyard, enter the building on the left, then inside turn left to the cafeteria.

5:30-6 Arrival & check in
6-6:15 Welcome & tips for identifying on iNaturalist
6:15-7:30 Identifying observations!
7:30-7:45 Check in on progress, sharing of learning
7:45-8 More identifications, goodbyes

Please contact if you have any questions about the event.

Don't forget to join the 2019 City Nature Challenge project for our area to get the great updates posted by @dbarber.

Posted on February 22, 2019 04:13 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 27, 2018

Getting Ready for CNC 2019!

See the new project page for City Nature Challenge-DC, 2019 !

You can register for the project and see details for event organizers.

Scroll down to see the geographic area for the challenge (the same area as last year).

Follow the news link if your organization is interested in hosting an event!

Posted on November 27, 2018 18:34 by dbarber dbarber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 28, 2018

The 2019 City Nature Challenge is scheduled for April 26-29, 2019!

Where will YOU be? How can you help the DC metro area make a great showing (or will you represent another city next year)? Maybe your best role is on your own in the field, making observations at an area you know well, or at a new spot you haven't explored before. Or perhaps you can lead an event for other observers. Even if you're out of the area on that weekend, you can help the effort by confirming identifications from afar.

With this much lead time, we have plenty of time to recruit others. Do you know others who might like to hear about iNaturalist and the CNC? There's plenty of time for newcomers to get familiar with the system so that they are power users by next spring. Garden club members, master naturalists, master gardeners, classmates, colleagues, native plant society friends, and birders are just of the few of the communities that may come to mind when you think about who you know who could participate next year. Spread the word!

Remember that there are great resources in the Help section below to help anyone get started--it's not all on you!

Posted on July 28, 2018 14:57 by dbarber dbarber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 10, 2018

Quick Summary of DC-CNC Results

In a word: WOW! In the final days of the City Nature Challenge, the DC metro area maintained our strong position with respect to observations (5th place), species (8th place) and observers (4th place). See the city leaderboard for all the juicy details!

Alonso Abugattas, the Capital Naturalist ( @capitalnaturalist ), had this to say.

Helen Santiago Fink ( @hsf ) of Urban Breezes blogged this.

Organizers around the world are busy debriefing this week to share thoughts about how to make this event even better next year. In future editions of this blog, I’ll be inviting you to share your comments and experiences.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to share feedback with the iNaturalist folks about the CNC, please do so here:

Posted on May 10, 2018 17:35 by dbarber dbarber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 03, 2018

What You Can Do in These Last Few Hours

Fewer than 24 hours remain until the count shuts down and everything is tallied. DC Metro Area is still doing great! Here are some things you can do today to help us finish strong:

-Make sure all your observations are uploaded and identified to the best of your ability.

-If you know someone else who participated, reach out to them and make sure they know that everything needs to be uploaded by tonight.

-Go back and look at your own observations. For those that are not Research Grade, if someone has offered an ID that differs from yours, use the Compare button next to the species name to explore related species from the area and choose the one you think is the best fit.

-Mark finds (yours AND others') as Captive/Cultivated when appropriate. They will still count for the City Nature Challenge! A separate count will be taken for wild vs. Captive/Cultivated observations. Having this information marked on each observation will keep the system from aggregating confusing information about the natural distributions of species.

-If you have suggested a species ID that you’re confident in and really want to get confirmed but no one seems to have seen your post, you could tag a person who seems knowledgeable in that taxon with an @ mention in the comment field. Don’t overdo this, as everyone is really busy this week with observations and identifications--but if you think you have one of the CNC DC missing species (see post from April 28), a little assertiveness is justified.

-Continue to offer ID’s for others’ observations. I’ve learned multiple new species this week and have gone back and ID’d a few that were unknown to me the first time I saw them.

-Check your notifications again at the end of the day to day to see if there are any ID conflicts you can resolve on your observations before turning in for the night.

Thanks everyone, it's been an amazing week!

Posted on May 03, 2018 12:14 by dbarber dbarber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Time to Identify!

It has been so inspiring to see the tremendous effort from across the metropolitan area to document our biodiversity. Before the results are announced on Friday, we need to do our best to clean up our data and ensure correct IDs, as well as appropriately marking captive/cultivated organisms!

Of almost 22,000 observations, there are still >1700 with no identifications at all, thousands more that still need ID or confirmation, and several hundred captive/cultivated observations (mostly garden plants). Be sure to check your own observations, and then see what you can do for others. I recommend logging into the website on a computer to help with IDs rather than trying to do it from a phone.

Here's a short video describing how to use the Identify tool to go through observations more quickly.

@dbarber is really leading the charge with 1345 identifications made for others! Locals @krosenthal @jmgconsult and @matt-ratcliffe have each done more than 600! I am aiming to do at least twice as many identifications as the number of observations I added (which means I'm shooting for at least 450).

I'm going to tag some folks in the comments below. Thanks for anything you can do to help!

Posted on May 03, 2018 00:01 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 3 comments | Leave a comment

May 02, 2018

One Day After

As of 00:01 on 5/2/2018, DC is 5th for observations with 21,490, 8th for species with 1624, and 4th for observers with 846. Our observation count was temporarily inflated because of some unintentional duplicates of white-tailed deer and grey squirrel photos, an issue which has been corrected. We are just 7 observations ahead of NYC and a couple hundred behind Klang Valley (but remember they’ve all gone to bed out there in Malaysia). That means—get your observations uploaded! Don’t wait until the last minute! You never know what will happen. You could drop your camera into the Potomac River (not that I’ve ever done that). Or those New Yorkers could stay up later than you and upload a bunch of new photos (not that I’ve ever done that either).

The top ten species tonight are common blue violet, mayapple, garlic mustard, flowering dogwood, common dandelion, Virginia spring beauty, American robin, poison ivy, eastern redbud and tuliptree. It’s nice to see only 2 exotics in the top ten. Bald eagle sightings are at 30.

There are two more species identification events, one at Blandy Farm in Boyce, VA and one at Shirlington Library in Arlington. Thanks to @kearins and the staff at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for hosting the ID event last night—it was fun!

Re: identifications, my strategy has changed in the last day. At first I was going for volume, figuring that many CNC participants were new iNat users, and I wanted them to get the quick feedback that is part of a good iNat experience. For speed, I identified things that I didn’t have to look up or research (except where curiosity got the better of me). Now that the field work is done, I’m focusing on looking for species that have not yet shown up in this year’s CNC, in hopes of raising our species count. Now I’m finding it hard to ignore the many observations of species I know that just need one more click to get to Research grade (and sometimes I can’t help myself).

To find new species, I’m looking more closely at observations from areas that are off the beaten path, like Jefferson County WV and Charles and Calvert Counties in MD. West Virginia had just 3 observers for CNC 2018, and thank goodness for them! @jacobogre and @botanygirl, longtime iNat users, both stopped by Harper’s Ferry for a while during a mostly Maryland weekend. @rock_flipper, not an iNat user before April 27, was in the field all four days, mostly in WV, and totaled 753 observations! @rock_flipper, I want to shake your hand, and to thank whoever told you about iNaturalist and the CNC. In southern MD, @hbfeducation and @oofmydoof scored some aquatic finds which may be unique among CNC 2018 species, so thank you both.

If you’re done with your uploading and ready to ID others’ findings, first take a fresh look at the April 28 blog entry to see what species are still missing. The links in @carrieseltzer’s article lead to dynamic information, so the lists of missing species are getting smaller--but they can still help focus your identification adventures. Then choose a picture that you think has a chance of being one of the missing species.

For example, look at the fern that I claim is a purple-stem cliffbrake, which is currently on the missing list because my observation has not been confirmed (hint, hint). I ran out to photograph it on Monday afternoon, lay face-down in the scratchy towpath gravel and risked dropping my phone in the C & O Canal to shoot it. Open up its page and click Compare. You will see my photo side by side with images of the same taxon that are known to occur in the same topo quad. If you’re skeptical, you can expand the place or the taxon level to see what some other possibilities might be. Eventually you will decide that I did indeed find a purple-stem cliffbrake and you will click Agree (hint, hint). Shortly afterwards, purple-stem cliffbrake will drop off the missing list and the DC CNC will have one more species to our credit. This is an amazing functionality of iNat and I've learned a lot using it. (This has to be done on your computer; the smartphone app doesn't do all this.)

Good night, rest up, and back at it tomorrow!

Posted on May 02, 2018 05:40 by dbarber dbarber | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 01, 2018

Fourth and Final Day in the Field

You know the routine by now: DC CNC four days in; final day of observations is finished. At 00:01 on Tuesday May 1, on the global leaderboard we are 4th for observations with 20,810, 8th for species with 1593, and 4th for observers with 831. Fantastic work everyone! And oh the things we have seen! More numbers will come in over the next few days as people get their observations uploaded and identified. I won’t even report on who’s in the lead for observations or species because it changes so much from moment to moment…except to point out that @mellis has in 4 days made 1,069 observations accounting for around 5% of our total, which is just amazing.

Make sure you upload all your photos and audio files as soon as possible! We have until Thursday night to upload, but the sooner you get your observations in front of everyone’s eyes and ears, the more likely you will be to get an ID.

YOU count as a participant if you submit only one observation, so thank you all for playing and for bringing your friends! All observations count whether they are Research Grade, Casual, Captive/Cultivated or even completely Unknown, so thanks to everyone for the images and sound files you have sent in (and will continue to send in until Thursday night).

As for species, I KNOW there are some species hiding in the thousands of as yet unidentified photos that will get our numbers up if we can get them identified to species. One quick way to do ID’s is to go to this screen:
If you open the filter you’ll see it’s set for “City Nature Challenge 2018: Washington, DC metro area” so you’re seeing only CNC DC observations. (I love seeing observations from around the world on iNat, but for this week, I’m sticking to CNC DC ID’s!)

On this screen you can quickly click “Agree” for the species you know well enough to recognize in a postage-stamp size image—redbud, flowering dogwood and mayapple, for example, jump right out at you. For trickier photos, you can click on any image for a larger view, but you may what to try this other approach: from the same screen open the first image, Agree, Identify or ignore it, and then while it’s still open press the right arrow key to quickly open the next one. You can also set the filter to show only taxa that interest you—birds or invertebrates or fungi, for example.

You can also do ID’s from your smartphone while you’re sitting, for example, in your dentist’s waiting room. For the iPhone, click the Explore icon at the bottom, set the map to the DC area by pinching and panning it, then click the three horizontal bars on the top to see images and which ones are not yet Research Grade. If you see one you can help with, click to open, click the … icon, and Agree or Suggest ID. If you tap Suggest ID the app will make auto suggestions, or you can type in your own idea.
If you just move the ID a notch closer to species, that helps. For Unknown observations, even calling it a bird or insect etc. will help because some identifiers are searching on those taxa.

Give it a try and help us get our observations to species by Thursday night! If you need any help, the Help section at the bottom of any iNat page is quite good, and some video tutorials are here:

Posted on May 01, 2018 04:45 by dbarber dbarber | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 30, 2018

Three Days In!

Three days into the City Nature Challenge, at 00:01 on Monday, April 30, DC metro is in 4th place for number of observations, 8th for species, and 5th for observers. Expect those ranks to go down somewhat as cities west of our time zone finish their uploads from today, but wow! What a day! These great ranks reflect our 14,616 observations, 1452 species, and 675 observers. Common blue violet has edged out garlic mustard for the moment with 157 observations over 150, but the species in the top 10 remain similar to yesterday and the day before. The bald eagle count is up to 19.

Today was cool, mostly sunny but quite breezy, which made it difficult to focus the camera on plants as they swayed in the wind. A huge shout-out goes to the Virginia Master Naturalists, who hosted dozens of events over the last three days, with more to come tomorrow, and who got lots of new iNaturalists into the field! Special thanks go to @matt-ratcliffe for keeping us straight about skinks and other herps and to the always inspiring @carrieseltzer for yesterday’s great tip on how to find “what’s missing” in iNat—it sent me out today in search of several specific things and other people as well, I’m sure, since the missing species lists got a lot smaller today.

There’s one more day to make observations. Many of us are going back to work tomorrow, but consider taking a quick break at lunch to check out an area near your workplace that you might not have iNaturalized before. It’s amazing what shows up when you look closely at a familiar area--today I found a tiny plant that I had never seen before right in my neighborhood park, in a spot I have walked over hundreds of times. I’m looking forward to someone here helping me to identify it! And if you get the urge after dark tomorrow night to do just one or two more observations, try what some of us did at 12:01 on Friday morning—find a creepy crawly in your garage or basement, or go outside and take a sound recording of a night bird! Anything taken before midnight tomorrow counts.

More on identification—there are four species identification parties, the first tomorrow night at the Museum of Natural History, with others at Merrimac Farm, Blandy Experimental Farm, and in Arlington. See for details and join one if you can!

Posted on April 30, 2018 04:42 by dbarber dbarber | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 29, 2018

48 hour update on DC-CNC

Two days in, at 00:01 on Sunday April 28, we’re up to 7472 observations, 1060 species, 452 observers and 202 identifiers for the Washington DC metro area. For the moment, mayapple has overtaken garlic mustard as the most observed species. (Is anyone reading this rooting for garlic mustard?) Bluebells have knocked poison ivy out of the top ten. In the Edible category, we have 28 observations of the horribly invasive but tasty wineberry, 12 black raspberry, 7 black walnut, 6 blackberry and 2 serviceberry. Fragrant finds include 12 northern spicebush, 10 sassafras, 8 European lily of the valley, 8 lilac, 4 wild bergamot and 4 showy orchis. The bald eagle count is up to 12 today.

Let’s pause for a moment and see how other cities are doing. The San Francisco Bay area is way out in front with 18502 observations, 1928 species, and 875 observers. DC is currently 9th for observations, 8th for species and 6th for observers--not shabby among the 60+ areas in the running. You can study the stats for all the cities at --it’s quite fascinating.

Next, let’s consider our identifiers. After all, without identifications, iNaturalist would just be so many pretty pictures. Big thanks to @tsn who, by following many of us and providing quick and accurate ID’s (and tactful corrections where necessary) in areas far and wide, is sure to reach a big milestone of 100,000 ID’s before the weekend is up.

Thanks also to the iNaturalist staff who keep iNat ticking and always improving. I’ve been amazed at how well the system is working, both on the desktop and the app, under the heavy load it’s bearing this weekend. The presentation of the stats for this weekend’s event is remarkable as well. And biggest thanks of all to @kueda who started all the iNat fun in the first place!

Posted on April 29, 2018 04:10 by dbarber dbarber | 0 comments | Leave a comment