April 16, 2020
A global challenge calling for amateur photographers to capture images of nature found in cities is taking place again this year – and Philly is offering prizes to local participants.
The fifth annual City Nature Challenge is taking place from Friday, April 24, to Monday, April 27.
Philadelphia and its neighboring counties will compete against other regions to see which area can identify the most species with their photos.
Anyone can participate in the challenge by downloading iNaturalist, a free mobile app, and uploading photos to the Greater Philadelphia Area's page. Regions are typically judged each year not on the quality of their photos, but on how many photos of animals, plants, and fungi they have submitted.
In 2019, 159 cities across the world participated. Cape Town, South Africa, recorded the most observations and San Francisco, California, recorded the most participants.
This year, in light of COVID-19, the City Nature Challenge planners based at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Academy of Sciences have announced that the 2020 City Nature Challenge is not a competition. Instead, organizers say they want to embrace the spirit of collaboration in the challenge, and are no longer calling it a contest.
"This will allow people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they can, even from the safety of their own homes if necessary," said organizers in a statement on their website.
However, there are still perks for joining in the challenge. Fairmount Park Conservancy is offering prizes to the most engaged participants who photograph the most observations in East and West Fairmount Park. First place will get a fanny pack and a $100 Conservancy membership, which includes discounts to park institutions, free admission to member events and a T-shirt.
Local and global organizers are encouraging city dwellers to follow public health guidelines when going into nature to take photographs, and to practice social distancing when they do. Organizers suggest that photographers explore their own backyards first, and then look for flora and fauna on walks or in city parks. Since the Pennsylvania stay-at-home order permits walking for exercise, participants can venture out to take pictures, but it is recommended that they also wear a face mask if they do.
Further instructions on how to participate in the City Nature Challenge can be found online.