City Nature Challenge – Final Push & Wrap Up

Latest email from Sarah Flournoy of Houston Audubon, one of the people running the program for greater Houston area, about City Nature Challenge:

Hello City Nature Challenge Participants and Partners!

We all feel very proud that Houston (and Texas overall) has made quite a splash in our first year of the City Nature Challenge. We have a wonderful and growing community of naturalists.

There is one final push to victory, so please help!

All observations within the event period (April 14-18) must be uploaded and all IDs must be made by 11am (Central) on Sat, April 22. *Please upload any remaining observations. *Also, please help us make IDs so that we can engage/inspire iNat participants and so that we can increase our species counts. A lot can happen in the next couple of days as the various cities tie up loose ends. Please share this information and deadline with your communities.

If you haven’t already, check out our progress on the Texas LEADERBOARD here. Also, check out our Houston PROJECT PAGE so that you can explore local species, see top observers, and make IDS.

Thanks for your help in this one final push–and for all your help in the IDs, info sharing, and event coordination. Great first year!


There is still time to upload photos taken between 4/14-18.

Leaderboard nationally:

Leaderboard Texas: TPWD link

Note, Houston is still leading the nation in # species, but Austin is catching up fast 2308 vs 2293 as of 12:18. Please help maintain our lead – see below.

Thanks to Sarah Flournoy  for answers to some of Katy Emde’s questions! Jenn Drummond already sent to GCMN members Sarah’s email. If you did not get that, it is pasted at the bottom.

Q & A about the City Nature Challenge

1   What photos can still be uploaded onto iNaturalist?

Photos you took between April 14 – April 18 and that is time stamped as such.

2    When is the deadline for uploading photos? For identifying the species?

Saturday, April 22, 11 am CDT

3    We are ahead now on species count, but Austin is catching up fast. How can I help?

Go through the photos and help identify the species.

4    Do cultivated species count?

From Sarah: “Cultivated species DO COUNT for the challenge.

5.    How do I know which photos need to be identified:

    Go to Houston Challenge page. Click “observations” in left column. Then on the new page, click “filter” (upper right), click “needs ID” box (left), click “update” (bottom). It will show all observations needing IDs. I think they need two ID’s to confirm.

     Tips for ID:

6    How do I know, what species have been already posted for Houston Project?

Go to Houston Challenge page.  Click “species” in left column. Then on the new page, in the search box, start typing the genus (and species) name. When it shows up, click the box. Then the screen will show how many observations of that genus (and/or species) your project has recorded.

7.    Do I have to show a location for my photo to be aceepted to City Nature Challenge Houston Project?


8.    My camera does not have location (or I turned location off to save battery), what do I do?

City Nature Challenge Houston project will not accept photos without a location, BUT, you can upload a photo and manually add the location. Note: I tried entering Deer Park Prairie, it did not take. So I used google maps to get the lat, long of a point on the prairie and manually entered that for each photo taken there. If you need help to get latitude & longitude off google maps, email

From Jenn Drummond (for email to her, send to & I will forward):

If you’re having any trouble at all with uploading your observations, or if it seems like an insurmountable task because it goes slowly, please let me know; I’m sure I can offer some tips that will speed up the process or get it going for you….I had contemplated suggesting an upload-and-ID pizza party or something, but I don’t think we quite have time to get it together. If that sounds especially good to you, though, drop me a note and maybe some of us can meet up with laptops somewhere.

TODAY thru Sat, 4/22: Three UP (Urban Prairie)Team Opportunities

THIS AFTERNOON, 4/20, at Carnegie Vanguard HS: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
1501 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019, google map of school (713) 732-3690
We will be planting and seeding the Cargnegie Vanguard High School’s roof prairie garden along with teacher Jaime Scott and her students. If the parking lot is full of parents picking up their children at 3:00 pm, park on the neighborhood streets. RSVP to by 2:00 pm today to get my cell phone number.

Saturday, April 22, St. Thomas University, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Address of the Father Meyers Pocket Prairie is 4106 Graustark, 77006. Google map link:
Help university students and Dr. Shivas Amin plant the Father Meyers Pocket Prairie, rain or shine unless there is a safety issue. Rain is predicted for part of Saturday morning, so please dress accordingly. Event day contact is Dr. Cassidy Johnson at 832-746-7584. Free street parking is available, but do abide by the “no parking” signs. There is also a parking garage on Graustark for $5 fee. Above is the new sign to be installed shortly.

Saturday, April 22, Deer Park Prairie, 9:00 am – noon

Help maintain this platinum quality prairie by invasive control and weeding the demonstration garden. Someone will be at t1222 E. Purdue Lane, Deer Park, 77536. Please do not park directly in front of our neighbors’ houses. Please park in front of our house and along that side of the street or in the driveway. Please RSVP to by 6:30 am, 4/22, for event day contact phone number.

General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

City Nature Challenge:
Houston is ahead in number of species! But Dallas got us beat by number of people posting and number of observations. However, photos taken with date stamp in the time period can be posted up to either Friday, April 21 or Saturday, April 22 and winners will be announced on Saturday, April 22 at noon. More information will be posted this afternoon (2/20) at the blog (right-hand column) at

If you are not an UP (Urban Prairie) Team member, please join our team of volunteers interested in helping at urban pocket prairies and/or to communicate about prairies. See UP Team information and a flyer at this link. Click the buttom below to get monthly emails on Urban Prairies activities that need your help!

As of 11:04 am: Houston 3332; DFW 4996; Austin 3068 in # of Observations for City Nature Challenge

Top observed species in Greater Houston ~11 am, 4/15/17. See link below to access that page on Scroll to bottom for explanation of event.

Latest on progress on City Nature Challenge at this TPWD link .  See what are the most observed species in greater Houston at this iNaturalist link.

We are way behind in number of observations, but ahead in species: 977 vs 903 vs 926 (greater Houston vs DFW vs Austin).  Please make more observations, people, and keep posting different species.

LOTS of Group activities on Saturday, 4/15! To see all the group activities throughout 4/18, go to following sites:

New event: Sunday, 4/16/17 at Galveston State Park: Morning and afternoon are both options, depending on interest. Please respond ASAP if you’re considering coming. Transportation will be provided unless there are more than three of you. Contact and/or Bob Romero,”  That should help with the species count.

Suggestions for center of city: Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire,  Audubon’s Edith L Moore Sanctuary, walk along the various bayous (please note, the wildflower seedings should probably be categorized as cultivated), Memorial Park, Hermann Park.

iNat Tip #1: If you don’t have lots of data on your plan or a wifi only tablet, first login to your iNat app; then turn off cellular; take photos using the camera or “observe” icon in iNat app; enter desired data on site or do everything at home; after each photo hit “next” (on my phone) and then either “share” or “save”; and then upload at home using wifi (or go to Starbucks, Panera….if you have a slow wifi at home). Try it out in your yard first.

iNat Tip #2: Be sure to turn on your location and allow iNat to access your location. That way, you will automatically get the Lat, Long and don’t have to enter anything manually.

City Nature Challenge – contest between greater Houston, DFW, Austin is explained at


Tons of opportunities are there for EVERYONE to be outside in nature at sometime in the next few days (between April 14-18). Go out on your own or join a group! Take some friends and/or young people with you!

Recently, the UP (Urban Prairie) Team was replanting areas of MD Anderson Prairie that had been under tarp and more for about two months for their 75th anniversary celebration. We were amazed at how much vegetation re-grew from roots or seeds since the tarp was removed at end of December.

Plants added were ones rescued before the tarp came down. Some were kept by Ahlene Shong at her home and  some at the COH Memorial ParkGreenhouse by the Gulf Coast Master Naturalists’ (native) Plant Propagation Program, led by Celeste Mead. We also spread prairie plant seeds – some from years past and some residuals from January’s Seed Cleaning and Packing Pizza Party.

Join UP (Urban Prairie) Team and you can join the fun too! (I want to join)

Click on the photo of Jaime and MD Anderson Facilities Manager Alan Wolfe sitting by the garden wagon, to read that caption.


UP (Urban Prairie) Team @ UH Shasta Prairie + Photos of 3-3-17; UP Team Also at NatureFest on 3-4-17

The Team at the UH Shasta Prairie

The UP (Urban Prairie) Team‘s first activity was a planting and cleanup day on March 3, 2017 at UH Shasta Prairie (next to the Science and Engineering Classroom Building on Cullen Blvd. Click here for map). Many UH students and Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) personnel participated. Prairie plants were partly purchased from Flo Hannah and partly supplied by the Katy Prairie Conservancy nursery and by the Gulf Coast Master Naturalists’ (native) Plant Propagation Program.

The following day, UP Team members Wally Ward, board member of KPC, and Kelly Shield, President of HNPAT (Houston Chapter – Native Prairies Association of Texas), volunteered for the prairie booth at Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center’s NatureFest.

ExxonMobil Team Grant @ Deer Park Prairie Workday 1-28-17

ExxonMobil Team (l-r) Bruce Senior (spouse), Lauren Blanton (retired), Lynne Hoefer (retired), Allen Potvin (retired), Hazel Potvin (spouse)

These five retired ExxonMobil employees and ExxonMobil spouses volunteered at least four hours each at the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve (DPP) on January 28, 2017 to earned a $500 ExxonMobil Team grant for HNPAT.  Hazel Potvin with HNPAT board’s approval will use the money to purchase much needed tools for DPP workdays.

That day, a total of fourteen volunteers continued removing branches and smaller diameter woody shrubs and tallows that had been cut recently by a professional crew and left on the prairie for us to clear away. The excessive woody plants and rains last year had prevented mowing / haying of the prairie. (See  previous blog for explanation). Also volunteering, in addition to the ExxonMobil team, were our workday leader Glenn Merkord and regular volunteers: Ian and Barbara Kress, major donors to DPP, Chuck Duplant, Charlie Lindquist on the mower, Frank Orht, Kelly Shield, and Lan Shen plus Becky Martinez, of Bayou Land Conservancy, and her two daughters. (Continued below the photos.)

The branches were moved to the NW corner of the property, where they form a nice brush pile for wildlife. As shown in the above photo, Chuck is in the process of turning our gazebo into a greenhouse around the growout table on long-term loan from Katy Prairie Conservancy.

At noon, we had chili and fixings for lunch provided by Hazel Potvin.  Thank you Hazel!

Earlier that day, Damien Carey and his wife Caroline did the monthly bird survey. When asked what less common birds they saw, Damien replied that they saw grasshopper and LeConte sparrows, other unidentified Ammodramuses, and woodcock (near tree motts). These birds are indicators of a healthy ecosystem.

Deer Park Prairie Workday Photos – 2-25-17

Thanks San Jacinto College Students and Student Engagement and Activities Specialists, Jill Johnson and Samantha De La Rosa!

A group of 10 from San Jacinto College, south and Central Campuses, joined 8 HNPAT volunteers on the prairie for the February 25, 2017 workday. The weather was perfect – sunny and mild.

The largest group worked with Glenn to cut the woody plants on the fenceline and then hauled the trimmings with Glenn’s trailer to the NW corner of the property. There a brush pile has been created for wildlife.

A smaller group cut back plants and thatch in the demonstration bed to about 8 inches tall, a task that needs to be done annually in lieu of fire or grazing. They also weeded. (Continued below the photos.)

Chuck and Kelly Shield were converting the gazebo into a greenhouse. Chuck had taken off the opaque composition roof during the last workday. They were now putting on clear plastic corrugated sheets for the roof. For the sides, they were using chicken wire to keep out the squirrels and other animals.

At noon, Hazel provided a wonderful hot dog and beans and potato salad lunch. Thank you Hazel.

Everyone had a great time!

By the way, ExxonMobil approved  Allen Potvin’s submission for a $500 ExxonMobil Team Grant that he, Hazel, Bruce Senior, Lynne Hoefer, and Lauren Blanton earned on the January 28th workday. The Potvins donated the money to HNPAT and Hazel, with the HNPAT board’s approval, used that money to buy needed tools for Deer Park Prairie. Thanks to all of you!

April 14-18: City Nature Challenge – Houston


Updated on 3/17/17: for more information and activities, go to and City Nature Challenge Activities

Houston, we have a challenge!

In celebration of National Citizen Science Day, Houston, Austin, and DFW are competing in the City Nature Challenge to see which city can find the most species over a five day period (April 14-18) and number of observations posted on iNaturalist.  We are hearing rumblings that DFW is looking strong, but we are convinced April in the Houston region will be hard to beat. Our area covers the Greater Houston Area Counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller.

Here is how you can help:

  • Participate!  Make observations during the event on iNaturalist. Sign up for an iNaturalist account now if you have not already
  • Join the FB (Facebook) event and share it.
  • Join as a participating organization, help promote it however you can.
  • Host or lead an event such as a nature walk where you make observations, or a bioblitz.

***Also, if your organization would like to be listed as a PARTNER, we’d appreciate your help promoting the City Nature Challenge and spending time counting–or better yet–offering a count experience for folks during April 14-18. If you want to be listed as partner, simply reply to Richard Gibbons (, Diana Foss (, or me ( to let us know by next week.

Here are some handy links that explain more about the event. Sign up where you can!

Here is a link to flyers/ppts that can be modified:

Here is a link to a flier about the iNat app:

Let the games begin on April 14! Please pass this on to any individuals or organizations that would enjoy being involved. Diana Foss is engaging the local Master Naturalist groups. Any help spreading the word would be appreciated so that Houston has a strong showing. Apparently San Antonio is feeling a bit jilted, so they are self-nominating as a competing Texas city, too!

To print this information page in pdf, go to Houston Nature Challenge page.

Credits. Words (with permission) from Sarah Flournoy’s email (On Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 8:20 AM, Sarah Flournoy <> wrote:) & photo modified from Houston’s October, 2016 Bioblitz page on iNaturalist