Mulligan, a rescue dog who is the official spokesdog of the TurfMutt Foundation's environmental education and stewardship program, loves to observe and bark at wildlife in her backyard. Now kids at home and their families can join her in the City Nature Challenge, an annual, international contest being held April 24 to May 3, 2020 that encourages people to observe and report wildlife and biodiversity they see in their yards and neighborhoods. The Challenge is organized by the National History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences.
"With so many people under stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, the City Nature Challenge is a great way for everyone who is spotting butterflies, birds, insects, and other wildlife in their backyards or neighborhoods to share what they are seeing," said Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation and "Mutt Mulligan's" guardian. "Be mindful of physical distancing from others, of course, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but try to pay attention to nature – it really is all around you."
For a decade, the TurfMutt Foundation has advocated the importance of managed landscapes and other green space as critical to human health and happiness and the importance of these green spaces for wildlife food and habitat.
"Your backyard is a safe green space for families to get outside, de-stress and relax," said Kiser. "Many people cook, read, garden, work and play in their backyards, but they may not always notice the wildlife that shares their yard with them. The City Nature Challenge can open your eyes to your personal piece of the larger ecosystem and help you appreciate your yard even more. Plus, your kids can be learning environmental lessons in the process."
To get started, head to citynaturechallenge.org, download the iNaturalist app and then upload pictures of plants and animals observed. By uploading observations about the animal, insect, bird or plant to the iNaturalist community, you can compare what you see to what others are spotting in their neighborhoods.
"Getting out into green space is also good for you," said Kiser. "Spending just five minutes in a natural setting can improve your mood. So get outside and notice just how diverse and important the green space all around you really is."
The event will not have a competitive element this year, and is open to anyone who would like to participate. Kiser said that he and Mutt Mulligan are planning to join the fun, and will be uploading to iNaturalist what they observe from home.