City Nature Challenge: Finding Nature in Your Neighbourhood

Black-capped Chickadees visiting a backyard feeder, a pair of squirrels chasing one another around a tree, butterflies collecting nectar from a field of wildflowers; there is nature all around us — even in our cities!

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Black-capped Chickadee photo by Jeff Moser and Jeanette Dillon.

This year, the rare Charitable Research Reserve is teaming up with partners across Waterloo Region to compete against more than 65 cities around the world in the first international City Nature Challenge. From April 27 – 30, we are asking people to explore nature in their urban areas — at rare, local parks or even your own backyard — to document the species of plants and animals found. All knowledge levels can participate! Simply create your own iNaturalist account at and download the app to your phone or tablet. Find wildlife and take a picture of what you find and then share your observation on iNaturalist. If you’ve found a flower, bug or other plant or critter that you don’t know the name of, don’t worry! The iNaturalist community is there to help identify your photo. Not only do you learn about your local environment, but you can also make your city a better place — for you and other species! Help us show the world how diverse our region is and be part of a community of nature lovers.

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The City Nature Challenge is organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County. It started in 2016 as an eight-day competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco and went national in 2017 to include cities across the United States. 2018 takes this friendly-competition international with cities from North and South American, Europe, Asia, and Africa participating.

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Participating is easy! From April 27-30:

  1. Find Wildlife: explore natural areas in your neighbourhood and throughout Waterloo Region to find any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold, or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, etc).
  2. Take Pictures of What You Find: using your mobile device or camera, document your observations with photos or sound clips and be sure to note the location of whatever you find.
  3. Share Your Observations: upload your findings through to be sure they are counted in Waterloo Region’s tally.

From May 1-3:

Track Waterloo Region’s progress on iNaturalist and see how many observation were made, how many species were found, and how many people participated. Have some naturalist knowledge? Help out your fellow community members by identifying nature observations made during the challenge.

Visit to learn more about the international event and for information on ways to get involved locally. Participate on your own and challenge your friends and family to see who can find the most species — or join an organized event in Waterloo Region to meet other nature enthusiasts and explore a local greenspace! Results will be announced on Friday, May 4, 2018.

By Jenna Quinn, rare Program Scientist – Research Priorities, Partnerships & Monitoring

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