Park Alert

Ferries to Georges Island are suspended through Tuesday, June 25, due to waterline repairs. Ferries to Spectacle Island and Peddocks Island will operate on the regular summer season schedule.


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2023 City Nature Challenge

Written by Harley Monteiro, Science & Stewardship Program Assistant at Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park

Whether it’s the wildflower creeping through the sidewalk crack, the hawk keeping watch in the local park, the mushrooms peeking out the tree in front of your building, or the seashells greeting the ocean waves at the edge of the marina; you don’t have to travel far to find the nature you may yearn for. The spider in your windowsill, the pigeon outside the bakery, the excited chirping of an unseen squirrel, or the butterfly floating through the big city; nature is just beneath your nose, just behind your back, just beyond your phone, & just above your ball cap! All just in time for the 2023 City Nature Challenge, & we want you to join us!

This is a yearly event taken on by cities across the entire globe to empower their residents to recognize & connect to the nature we often take for granted every day. The results of the event are also a vital tool for scientists, as they seek to further understand the scope of biodiversity in these urban environments, particularly in the context of a dynamically changing global climate!

Part 1: Observation

Utilizing the free iNaturalist phone app, you’ll be entrusted with an adventure around your city from Friday April 28th through Monday, May 1st. During this time is when we want you to go out exploring, taking pictures of the different examples of nature you can find, & uploading them to the app. This kind of event is what’s known as a Bioblitz, where people document the natural biodiversity in a given place at a given time. With that said, we want you to focus on just finding “natural” nature, so be careful not to be tricked by the tree planted in the park, or the pot of flowers out on the patio. However, these are great places to look for the wild organisms that utilize these captive/cultivated lifeforms, such as butterflies, spiders, birds, squirrels, moss, fungi, & more! When uploading, make sure you include the date, location, & some notes to help the identification process (more on this to come).

Many types of what we call “evidence of organisms” can also be uploaded if you cannot locate the physical organism itself. Some examples include feathers, footprints, fragments of shells, audio recordings of calls (bird, squirrel, insect, etc.), nests or hives, bones, & even their scat! 

This year, we’ve set our sights more ambitious than ever before. Lucky for you though, the Boston Area for this year’s City Nature Challenge (CNC) event is very large & encompasses many areas outside of the strict “Boston” geographical interpretation. Hopefully, this will empower even further adventuring to our many unique natural habitats that live adjacently to our urban ones, & helps us towards our goal of over 2,100 participants & 27,000 observations! However, no matter where your CNC experience brings you, we kindly ask that you follow “Leave No Trace” principles & appreciate wildlife from a respectable distance so as to not bother them while observing. “Leave No Trace” is an expression to follow when entering & exploring in natural settings that stipulates higher awareness for not leaving behind litter or taking anything out of the natural environment. In other words, “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs”.


Part 2: Identification

Starting on May 2nd, after the observation period has passed, this is when the identification period begins! From then till May 7th, the iNaturalist community comes together to help identify our observations. If the community agrees on a species ranking for an observation, the observation can become Research Grade. When an observation reaches this status, it becomes solidified scientific data that is extremely useful to researchers. For this reason, we are aiming for an additional goal of at least 50% of our observations reaching the Research Grade designation. Keep an eye out in the days following the observation period, to see if anyone has offered any identifications to your uploads that you’d like to agree with, to help contribute to this goal. We also encourage anyone & everyone to help in the identification process however they can. Due to the sheer number of uploads we are hoping to have, it will be easy for observations to be overlooked, so even basic knowledge on common animals or plants can be extremely useful to our efforts!


Get Involved:

If you’re looking for a way to connect with the nature around you while also contributing to science, we’d love to have you participate! There are many events being hosted that observation weekend if you’re looking for a more organized, guided effort. You are also able to participate individually & go out exploring on your own or with your friends or family. As long as you stay within the geographic boundary of the project (nearly all of Massachusetts east of interstate-495), your observations will be featured in the project! We recommend everyone, regardless of participation style, to join the City Nature Challenge 2023: Boston Area project on iNaturalist after signing up for an account (for free). 

Here at Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park, we are hosting two public CNC bioblitz events that weekend, which you can find on our Boston Harbor Islands Calendar! We have two great days for you planned at Thompson Island & Condor Street Urban Wild in East Boston, so we hope to see you there!

For further information about the Boston Area City Nature Challenge & how to use iNaturalist, you can find out more on their dedicated Zoo New England website, & you can learn more about the CNC as a whole on the official City Nature Challenge page.





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