2020 Houston City Nature Challenge

We at HNPAT whole-heartedly support the City Nature Challenge. What a great way to get people to observe nature in the city and on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Update on City Nature Challenge due to Covid 19 situation can be found on our blog https://houstonprairie.org/2020/04/09/update-2020-cnc/ . Basically CNC will still be on, but NOT as a contest: observations being made and shared April 24 – 27; observations being uploaded and identified April 28 – May 3.

See the following instructional video by NPAT’s Director of Education, Della Barbato:

Participate in Houston’s City Nature Challenge 2020

Going stir-crazy at home?  Want to get outside and have some fun?  Want to help the Greater Houston area through observation of your natural surroundings?  Then join us and learn how to participate in the City Nature Challenge!  It is so easy to participate from your backyard, nearby park or waterway.  First, download the iNaturalist app onto your phone.  Then today on Earth Day, April 22, check out this instructional video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY9xYNe1SdM )on how you can participate in Houston’s City Nature Challenge 2020!  We present how to observe and photograph plants, insects, reptiles or animals on your smartphone and post them to iNaturalist.  Observations posted on the iNaturalist app during the 4-day challenge April 24th to 27th will automatically be counted for the City Nature Challenge for the area wherever you observe.


Della Barbato
Director of Education




What is this? “Cities around the world will be competing to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the 2020 City Nature Challenge.”

Basically, it is a contest on iNaturalist (www.iNaturalist.org) to see which city in Texas and in the world posts the most observations and the most number of species and involve the most number of people between April 24-27, 2020 on that city’s City Nature Challenge project on iNaturalist. Scroll below for detailed explanation.  Houston won the award for most unique species logged during the 2017 event and was third in the world for species in 2019 (click species tab at this link)!

This year HNPAT will be holding an event at Deer Park Prairie on Saturday, April 25, as part of our Spring Wildflower Day celebration.  We’ll have a short session on the use of iNaturalist and then go out into the prairie and make observations in support of our city! We will also have an insect tent and sweep netting.

More information about CNC:


——————-    In the Weeds   ————————-

To facilitate the program and help our readers who are interested, we are posting here any information that we get. Keep checking back to this page – we will be posting updates as we get them.


What is this all about?
“Cities around the world will be competing to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the 2020 City Nature Challenge.”

Where & when?
Any observation between April 24-27, inclusive, in the Greater Houston Area Counties: Harris, Galveston, Chambers, Liberty, Montgomery, Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Austin..

Posting these observations and identification period extends from April 28 – May 3.

Go to iNaturalist and post your observations of living organisms. If you join the project and AND your observation is made within the boundaries and time frame of the Houston CNC project, it will show up there automatically. Observations need to be made from April 24-27. Greater Houston is defined as these counties: Harris, Galveston, Chambers, Liberty, Montgomery, Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Austin.

Do I need a smart phone? You do not need a smart phone or tablet. Take a photo with your camera and upload the photo to iNaturalist on your computer when you get home. Actually, an avid iNaturalist user, Jenn Drummond, says the computer website has many more features than the app.

Do I need to be able to identify what I see?  You don’t need to identify what you see: “Just take a picture of a plant or animal, post it to our project on iNaturalist and the online community will help accurately identify the species.”

Rules:   from Sambiology – one of the managers of Houston’s CNC project: “…ALL observations will count within the time frame and the location. However, the most interesting observations are the plants and animals that aren’t cultivated. Non-natives [in natural areas] are totally ok and useful — so the Chinese tallow and invasives are supremely important and should indeed be documented! [However,]… going to like a botanic garden and observing some of the cultivated plants or going to the zoo and observing giraffes in TX. Those aren’t too useful. As people observe things, hopefully others will provide guidance on what the  is and the native status.”

Note: From past experience, cultivated species do not count show up in the species count.

How do I learn to use iNaturalist? iNaturalist Training:

  • Saturday, April 25, HNPAT have a instructions at Deer Park Prairie.  Free.
  • More training opportunities will be listed as they develop.

Are there organized events?  Yes, there will be and will be linked to on this page. Another option:  make observations on your own or with a few friends in your yard, or in a park, etc. and post to the project


Some iNaturalist tips:

  • If you have limited data on your celluar plan, turn the cellular off for the iNaturalist app. Just take photos and upload to computer using wifi when you get home.
  • Location: you need to put in a location. However, if your camera does not have latitude and longitude, you can write in a location description, such as at the corner of A St. and B Rd.
  • You can hide the location of the observation.
  • If you have trouble doing any of this on the app, just go to the website on your computer.

iNaturalist Links
Getting started: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started (other topics in the menu on the left)
Help page: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help –  #17 What does captive / cultivated mean?

Information Links:

City Nature Challenge: citynaturechallenge.org
Houston’s project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020-houston
Main Challenge website (2019): http://tpwd.texas.gov/naturechallenge