Arboretum News

Kids Activity: City Nature Challenge

Become a citizen scientist and join the City Nature Challenge.

COVID-19 Update: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Find updates and information here.

Photo by Robert Evans in 2019.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

What makes a scientist? That’s a tricky question because the answer is not always the same, but you can be a citizen scientist today! Citizen scientists often help to collect observations from many more places than a few professional scientists would be able to. The City Nature Challenge is one chance for people of all ages to help.

From April 30 to May 3, people from the Twin Cities metro area (and other places around the world) will head out into nearby nature and see how many different wild plants and animals they can find. All you have to do is snap a photo and upload it using the iNaturalist app.

From May 4 to May 9, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and other people with special plant and animal identification skills will confirm which organisms have been found. Learn more about joining the identification team.

The City Nature Challenge started in 2016 as a competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and each year more cities have joined the fun. In 2020, 583 people from the Twin Cities participated, contributing a total of 5,550 observations and 815 different species.  Can we do more this year?

The Bog Walk at the Arboretum is a great place to look for animals and plants.

Here’s how you can help:

– Place with wild plants and animals (like the Arboretum!)
– Smartphone (or other device) with iNaturalist App


1. Head outside and find a wild plant or animal near you.

2. Use your smartphone to take a picture of the plant, insect, or other animal you found. This video can help you take a better photo to help identify your plant or animal.

3. Open the iNaturalist App on your phone and use the green plus sign to share your picture as an observation. Need help? This video demonstrates how to make an observation on iNaturalist

4. Make sure to add your location. Any pictures taken in the Twin Cities metro area between April 30 and May 3 will be included in the challenge. 

5. Click on the question mark for help identifying your plant. You might already know, or the app might be able to give you some help with suggestions. This video shows you how to use iNaturalist’s identify page. (Editor’s Note: Beyond the challenge, this a great feature for help identifying plants and animals in nature — and in your own garden.)

6. Click on the green check mark to save your observation and celebrate.

7. Keep hunting for more different plants and animals to add.

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