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Hampton Roads City Nature Challenge: A How-to guide

Welcome back to the nature corner where we’re talking more about the City Nature Challenge! (Click HERE to visit our local Hampton Roads site!)

I mentioned in the March blog that participating in the City Nature Challenge is simple. All you do is find wildlife, take a picture, and share it on the iNaturalist app.

Participation is easy! Find wildlife, snap a picture, and share it on iNaturalist (

But, what is iNatualist and how does it work?

iNaturalist is simply a citizen-science data collection platform. If you search around, you can find numerous data collection sites, such as ebird, which is another platform we utilize at the Park. Please take note, iNaturalist is the only platform we are using for this challenge.

Now that we know a little more about the app, now you can visit the iNaturalist website or in your app store, download it, and create a free account.

iNaturalist works on all devices (

As you can see from the screen capture above, the app works on tablets, desktops/laptops, and Android and Apple devices.

Next is to make some observations! You can make observations all year, but over the four days of the bioblitz (April 30 to May 3) is when that data will count toward the Hampton Roads project.


Let’s say you’re walking around and you stumble upon this beautiful spring flower.

What is this beautiful stuff? Let’s identify it! (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park)

Let’s open the app and start your observation journey!

Now you open the app and come to your “welcome” screen. This is from my account, so I’ve already made observations. If you haven’t made observations yet, this screen would be blank.

Using the iNaturalist is easy on Apple devices. Tap, observe, take an image, use the app to help ID, select the best ID, then share your observation (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park).
Using the iNaturalist is easy on Android. Tap, observe, take an image, use the app to help ID, select the best ID, then share your observation (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park).

Step 1: To make the observation, tap the “observe” camera button at the bottom, center of the screen on Apple, or the green plus at the bottom right corner for Android. Then, take your picture, upload a photo. (See the next section regarding taking images for more detailed information.)

Step 2: After uploading your image, tap on “What do you see?” or “Species name.

Step 3: Make sure the image is as clear as possible so iNaturalist can identify the wildlife. It will give you a list of suggestions. Pick the one that makes the most sense, but also, if you are not 100% sure, pick the most general one. If you are not correct or not specific enough other people in the community will confirm the identity. You will go in later to confirm those new suggestions when they happen.

Step 4: Once you have your items identified and you have checked the other areas on your observation screen, then you can share! On Apple tap “share” at the bottom, and on Android tap the checkmark at the top right of the screen.

Now we know that this plant phlox, and it’s likely moss phlox (Phlox subulata). I can investigate more into moss phlox to make sure I’ve got the correct ID and the community will comment if they think it’s moss phlox, too, or something else. Again, make sure your image is as clear as it can be to help others ID the wildlife, too.


When you create an observation you have three options for pictures: no-image, camera, or camera roll. The two options you all will likely be choosing between are “camera” and “camera roll.”

For the CNC, we encourage you to make observations with a camera (shown here) or with previously taken photos (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park).

Camera: If you choose “camera” then the app will take you to a typical screen to take an image. Please note that when you take images within the app, these pictures are saved to your photo roll in your phone.

Another way to make an observation is using photos from your camera roll. If you take images during the bioblitz weekend, make sure to upload all those photos during that weekend (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park)

Camera roll: If you choose to take an image and then upload it later, then you will the choose “camera roll” option. You can select up to four (4) images for that observation. You must also indicate one primary image as the picture to use for identification. The photo itself is likely geotagged meaning it already has your location, time, and date information (unless you have different smartphone settings).


If you took images with another camera and want to submit them through your computer, it’s simple.

You can upload your images over the bioblitz weekend from your computer (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park).

Sign into your account. Click on the “upload” button (green button in the screen capture above) at the top and then click “add observation” (larger blue circled area below green button). It will take you to a screen where you can upload your images.

In the last step, just like a mobile device, you use the app to determine your mystery creature. Unless you have geotagged images, will likely have to enter in your date and location for that observation. Don’t forget this step– if it’s not taken during April 30 to May 3, it will not count for the bioblitz event.


There are three options for privacy settings within the app. You can change this for each observation if you want. Additionally, you can go into your past observations and change any of these settings.

You have three options for privacy in the app: open, obscured, or private. Note that private observations cannot be used in research usually (Andrea Rocchio/The Mariners’ Museum and Park).

Open: The first option is “open” which simply means your location is exactly marked. Generally, this is a good option, especially for the City Nature Challenge. If you’re in a park or natural area, it is ideal to have the exact location, or very close to it, of a sighting. Since people may be using this for research purposes, exact locations are often important for accuracy and to check the area again in the future for more of that species.

Obscured: The second-best option is “obscured” meaning that it won’t record you exactly your location of the observation. Some people use this option if they are taking observations in their own yard area. Additionally, if you find wildlife that is registered as engaged, threatened, and other protections, they will automatically have the obscured setting placed on it.

Private: The setting “private” literally means that no one (except the user) knows where the observation was made. Avoid this setting during CNC or your observation will not count for the challenge.

Bon voyage for now…

In our next blog (April 30), the first day of the City Nature Challenge, I will share with you some interesting creatures you might find in The Mariners’ Park if you choose to visit us! Thank you for reading and have a great day!

2021 City Nature Challenge (
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