Lincoln City Nature Challenge

What is the City Nature Challenge?

The City Nature Challenge (CNC) is an annual friendly competition among cities across the globe to find and document plants and wildlife over a four-day period. Started in 2016 for the first-ever Citizen Science Day, the citizen science teams at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences dreamed up the CNC as a fun way to capitalize on their home cities’ friendly rivalry and hold a citizen science event around urban biodiversity. The first CNC was an eight-day competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco, engaging residents and visitors in documenting nature to better understand urban biodiversity. In 2017 the CNC went national, and in 2018, the CNC became an international event. The 2019 CNC reached almost 1 million observations. Over 150 cities, including Lincoln, Nebraska, are expected to participate in 2020.

In response to shifting public health recommendations related to COVID-19, this year’s City
Nature Challenge will no longer be a competition, but instead participants are encouraged to embrace the collaborative aspect of sharing observations online with a digital community, and celebrate the healing power of nature safely, with physical distancing, as they document their local biodiversity while following public safety parameters. It is imperative that participants closely follow federal and local public health guidelines as they are updated in real-time in response to COVID-19. For detailed information about how the City Nature Challenge is adapting to COVID-19, visit

During such uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to foster a sense of community,
and the City Nature Challenge allows participants to do just that. For both budding and veteran citizen scientists, participating is easy:

  1. Download the free iNaturalist app to your smartphone.
  2. Find wildlife! It can be any wild plant, animal, fungi, or any other evidence of life, such as scat, fur or tracks, found in your neighborhood, home, yard. You can even document it through your windows. You might be surprised by how many insects thrive in the nooks and crannies around you. The City Nature Challenge for the Lincoln, Nebraska, area includes all observations found in Lancaster County.
  3. Take pictures of what you find and upload to iNaturalist. Check out this video for more information about how to use iNaturalist.
  4. Learn more as your observations are identified and help others identify their observations. Nobody knows everything, but we all know something! Helping others identify their observations is a great way to provide support.

Why participate?

There is nature all around us, even in our cities! Knowing what species are in our metro area and where they are helps us study and protect them, but the ONLY way to do that is by all of us — scientists, land managers, and the community — working together to find and document the nature in our area. By participating in the CNC, not only do you learn more about your local nature, but you can also make your city a better place — for you and other species!

When is the 2020 City Nature Challenge happening?

April 24: Flora, Fauna, and Fungi Friday — Focus on the ground. Plants, fungi and critters are all found on the ground. Please remember to mark if observations are cultivated or captive.

April 25: Soaring Saturday — Winged, flying, and floating observations.

April 26: Sunday Signs — Signs of wildlife including scat, tracks, bones, etc.

April 27: Mega Monday — Look up, down, and all around. See how many observations you can make!

Observations of all types of plants, fish, and wildlife and signs are highly encouraged any time during the City Nature Challenge.

How are observations counted?

All observations made in Lancaster County and uploaded to iNaturalist during the observation period (April 24 – April 27) of the challenge will automatically be counted towards Lincoln’s CNC totals. This iNaturalist project will collect the iNaturalist observations for our project’s totals. The larger international iNaturalist project will display our project’s totals along with the 150+ other participating cities and will act as the leaderboard.


Contact Melissa Panella at