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Backyard Biodiversity with the 2020 Nashville City Nature Challenge

April 13, 2020

Biodiversity is everywhere – even in thriving urban areas like Nashville! We are so excited to give you an opportunity to get outside, explore nature, and learn more about what lives near you with this year’s City Nature Challenge.

What is the City Nature Challenge?

The City Nature Challenge is a worldwide event that celebrates the biodiversity all around us and “challenges” you to find nature near you! The Nashville City Nature Challenge will be held from April 24th – April 27th this year, so mark your calendars! This event allows everyone to learn about their surrounding environment. 

It is impossible for scientists to gather biodiversity data from all over the world by themselves, but the City Nature Challenge brings people together to reach that goal! By using the iNaturalist app, people from countries all over the world can become citizen scientists. The observations you make contributes to the data that scientists use to better understand the world’s biodiversity. Last year, Cape Town, South Africa won the most observations and species recorded in the challenge!

Nashville has participated in the City Nature Challenge since 2017 and each year we have gained more observations, species, and observers! During the 2019 City Nature Challenge, Nashville recorded 2,367 observations and 707 different species on iNaturalist. We also had 188 different observers on the weekend of the City Nature Challenge. Wow! Our goal this year is to have more observers get involved in the City Nature Challenge.  

This year, we ask that our observers observe from the places closest to them.  This could be from inside your home looking out your window, from in your backyard, or even from around your neighborhood. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how much there is to see. Make sure to visit the City Nature Challenge’s Frequently Asked Questions Relating to COVID-19.

Healthy Water, Healthy Biodiversity!

Thriving biodiversity, whether it is terrestrial or aquatic, relies on clean and abundant water. Assessing the biodiversity of our land and waterways is extremely important in determining the health of our urban ecosystems. Having high biodiversity, or lots of different plants and animals, means that an ecosystem is very healthy.  But, when we see areas with low biodiversity, it might be a sign of an impaired ecosystem. 

Want to explore a nearby creek during the City Nature Challenge? You can use our iCreek database to find a waterway near your home. iCreek will even tell you if your waterway is healthy or not, and you can compare this to what you find when you visit.

Where to look?

Here are some different ways to search for nature near you! These are great places to start if you’re feeling stumped about where to search for observations. We’ve also got a video that outlines all of our tips! 

  1. Check out your garden! If you are observing plants that have been planted by you, make sure to click the ‘cultivated/captive’ button on the iNaturalist app. 
  2. Search in unmowed areas!  These may have lots of different plant or animal species.
  3. Flip over rocks to find what is underneath them.  But make sure to put the rocks back gently where you found them.
  4. You can also flip over logs or objects outside.  Try checking under your doormat, your trashcan, or any stepping stones you can lift up!
  5. Creating your own habitat is another great way to find new critters.  You could build a bird box or place a bird bath outside to attract new animals.

Don’t forget to put everything back the way you found it after searching; the critters will thank you! 

How can you get involved in the City Nature Challenge?

Getting involved in the Nashville City Nature Challenge is easy! The City Nature Challenge is on April 24th – April 27th this year, but you can always use iNaturalist to explore nature.  

  1. Download the iNaturalist app or visit the iNaturalist website (if you want to manually download your observations)!
  2. Go outside and search from nature around you.  Plants, animals, fungus! All are welcome on iNaturalist. 
  3. Snap a photo using the iNaturalist app. 
  4. Learn about the nature you found on the iNaturalist app.  It will give you the name and specific information about your organism!  
  5. Help identify what people find during
  6. Extra:  Take photos of you and your family participating in the City Nature Challenge and tag us on our social media (Instagram: @crcompact, Twitter: @The_Compact)


If you are looking for more help with iNaturalist, here are a few resources to help you become an observation pro! You can also check out the City Nature Challenge Education Toolkit to learn how to turn your participation into a learning experience!