How to participate graphic - find wildlife, take a picture, share!

How to Participate

North Carolina’s cities use iNaturalist to gather observations for the City Nature Challenge.  Download the free smartphone app for Android or Apple or go to the website at and create an account first.  Then, head outside April 24-27 to document the species you see with photos or sound recordings!

A few details to keep in mind as you participate:

  • All photos of species must be taken April 24-27.  If you have taken them on a different day and upload them during the City Nature Challenge, they will not count toward our totals!
  • If your photo was taken within one of the North Carolina City Nature Challenge areas April 24-27, they will be automatically added to the project for your city.
  • You have extra time at the end of the Challenge to get your observations uploaded to iNaturalist.  Any observations made by the end of the day on May 5 will count toward your city’s totals.
  • Any living organism is welcome on iNaturalist and counts toward the City Nature Challenge results, though wild species (not people, pets, or garden/other planted plants) are the focus of this event.
  • You can use the app or the website to make your observations.
  • Identification of species is an important part of the Challenge!  If you know how to identify any species group, see the “Identification Help” section below to learn how you can help boost our species numbers.

Read on to learn more about how to use the app and the website and how to help with identifications!  You can also download a Quick Guide to iNaturalist for both Apple/website and Android/website that will walk you through submitting your observations.

Participating with Children

Have kids who want to participate in the City Nature Challenge?  Children under 13 are not allowed to create and use their own iNaturalist accounts, but they can participate through the ecoEXPLORE program!  ecoEXPLORE engages children in grades K-8 in documenting biodiversity through a child-safe website.  Children can participate in this program year-round and earn points toward fun naturalist prizes, but they can earn a special bioblitz badge by participating during the City Nature Challenge.  Bioblitz badge and any other ecoEXPLORE observations made during the City Nature Challenge will be shared to iNaturalist after review by ecoEXPLORE staff!

CNC how to 2020


Using the iNaturalist App

The app is an easy way to make your observations as you go! Open the app and make sure you’re logged in.  Then follow these steps:

  1. Snap a photo of a species you find – plant, animal, or fungus.
  2. Need a second photo of the species for someone else to identify it or confirm your identification?  You can take up to 5 photos in a single observation, but they must all be of the same individual.  Don’t take photos of 5 different things!
  3. Make sure the date and time have been automatically entered.  If not, tap the date box and enter the correct information.
  4. The location should be entered automatically if you are taking the photo within the app iteself.  If not, tap the location box and the “find me” button (an arrow, in a corner of your screen) and it will move the map to your location.
  5. Taking the photo in your own yard?  Consider changing the geoprivacy setting to “obscured” so people won’t be able to see where you live!  This option drops your observation in a random location within 10km of your actual location, hiding the exact location from the public.  Note that “private” observations will not count toward the City Nature Challenge.
  6. If the species you are photographing is not wild, i.e. it was planted in your garden or is a pet animal, tap “Captive/Cultivated” and choose “Yes.”  This lets people who use iNaturalist for their research that the species in the photograph was moved there by people and did not occur there naturally.
  7. No need to choose a project!  Your observation will automatically be added to your local City Nature Challenge totals.
  8. Identify the species by tapping on the “What did you see?” area.  This will run the image recognition algorithm and help you identify the species you’ve photographed.  Choose the species that best fits your image by tapping on it.
  9. Tap Save.
  10. If you have the auto-submit setting turned off (your observations will be green instead of white), you will need to tap the “Submit” button at the top of the screen to finish submitting your observations.

Things to consider when using the iNaturalist app:

  • Make your observations as you go – no need to go back later to upload them!
  • Your observations are limited by your phone’s camera capabilities.  Clip on lenses and binoculars adapters can really expand what you can do with your phone, and they’re inexpensive.
  • You can snap photos as you go and upload them later, but there is no option to search for a location in the app.  You will have to scroll through a satellite image and find your location manually.
  • You cannot upload sounds with the app – you must use the website.

Two women document a plant for iNaturalist

Using the Website

Want to use a better camera?  Want to upload a LOT of photos at one time?  Want to upload sounds?  Use the website instead of the app!  Go to and login.  Then follow these steps:

  1. From your iNaturalist dashboard, click Observations, then Add Observations on the observations page.
  2. Drag and drop your photos onto the screen.
  3. Click “Select All” at the top of the page to select all of your images.  Or hold shift and click to select a subset of your images for which you wish to edit the information.
  4. Make sure the date and time are correct.  If not, click the date area to add it.
  5. If your camera does not have a built-in GPS, click the location area to add your location.
  6. Choose your geoprivacy settings.  Choose “obscured” if you do not want the exact location visible to everyone on iNaturalist!  Remember that “private” observations are not shared with the City Nature Challenge at all and do not count toward our totals.
  7. Tap “Captive/Cultivated” if the species you’ve photographed is a pet or a garden plant, i.e. a species brought there by humans that did not arrive on its own.
  8. No need to select a project to share your observations with the City Nature Challenge!  That will happen automatically.  Choose any other projects you’ve joined and want to contribute to by clicking “Projects” and selecting from your list.
  9. For each image, click the “Species” box.  Either type in the name of the species if you know it, or pause after you’ve clicked to let the image recognition algorithm run and make suggestions for you.
  10. Click “Submit” to upload your observations to iNaturalist!

Things to consider when using the iNaturalist website:

  • You can use any camera, then bulk upload MANY images at one time.
  • You can bulk edit the data associated with the images.
  • You’ll need to find your location on the map – but there is a search function on the website!
  • Difficult to use in the field, which means you have to go back and remember to add your observations later.

Four women photograph a toad at night

Identification Help

All iNaturalist users are welcome to help identify – or confirm the identifications made by the software – the observations of other users. Cities can win the City Nature Challenge for the highest number of species, so the more observations we have identified to species the better.  And you can help by becoming an identifier!

To help identify species for others in your City Nature Challenge area, start by logging into your account and visit your city’s project.  Click on any image and either “Agree” with the identifications that have already been made or “suggest ID” to add a new suggestion.  Helping others with their identifications is a great way to boost your city’s species counts while also sharing your specialized knowledge.  Identifiers are an essential part of the City Nature Challenge, even if they don’t submit any observations of their own!

dates for 2020 - April 24-27 for photos, April 28-May 3 for submissions/ID

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