Miami and the Upper Keys: City Nature Challenge

Written by: Analisa Duran

Kids participating in CIty Nature Challenge

Citizen science took center stage from April 26th-29th when over 500 people from Miami and the Upper Keys recorded more than 12,000 observations of biodiversity for the 2019 City Nature Challenge. Last year, Miami had 200 participants and about 4,000 observations.

Miami and the Upper Keys competed against 150 other cities from across the globe for the title of “most biodiverse.”

Florida International University’s Center for Coastal Oceans Research co-led this year’s efforts alongside Frost Science and Mountain to Sea Education. The groups organized two major events for the challenge.

The FIU biodiversity event held in partnership with Island Ventures sought to record the biodiversity of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems – the coral reef. During this two-tank dive, participants were encouraged to take as many photos as possible of all wildlife. After the dive, observations were identified and uploaded to iNaturalist.

The second event held by FIU was in partnership with Florida Bay Forever and Ocean Studies Charter School. “Blitz for the Bay” brought together students and families to make observations of the natural world. Through student-led kayak tours, seine netting and bug walks – all participants were busy making observations.

In addition, the following organizations led events and activities throughout the weekend to engage South Florida residents in biodiversity tracking.

  • Biscayne Nature Center
  • Rescue a Reef
  • John Pennekamp
  • Citizens for a Better South Florida
  • Miami Eco Adventures
  • Nature Scouts
  • Be the Sealution
  • Florida Seagrant
  • Marinelab
  • Connect to Protect Network
  • Virginia Key Outdoor Center
  • Frost Science

The City Nature Challenge began in 2016 after the first Citizen Science Day. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences organized the event as a friendly citizen science competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In just a few years, the challenge has gone global with people exploring the diversity of plant and animal life in cities across the world.  

Events like the City Nature Challenge give everyone the chance to be a scientist and to be curious about the natural world around them. The identifications that become “research grade” will be sent to other databases which are used by real scientists. This means even an identification made by a 6-year-old in Key Largo of a sea cucumber might make its way into the hands of a scientist who can benefit from it as even new species have been found on iNat.