Get ready for the City Nature Challenge!

If you haven’t heard of or participated in a Bioblitz before, it’s a great way to build your outdoor observation skills while helping biologists. These events recruit volunteers to help identify organisms in a certain area during a short timeframe. You don’t have to be an expert to participate, as there are tools and other participants to help confirm what you find. It does help to have a few resources at your disposal though, so here are some tips and a few things to think about.

A green Antheraea Polyphemus caterpillar clings to a twig
A caterpillar, likely a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus). (Photo: Conservation & Parks staff)
  • Pick a Place – Think about what you’re interested in. If you’d like to look for frogs, you could pick a park with a trail near a pond or wetland. If you’re more curious about flowers and butterflies, you could find a trail by a prairie or meadow. The Glenwood Gardens Wetland Loop Trail and Miami Whitewater Forest Shaker Trace Outer Loop come to mind for each of these examples, respectively. Or, if you’re up for an adventure, you could choose a park and trail you’ve never been to! There’s a lot to see once you’re outside and paying attention, so it can help to focus on a small section, maybe 5 square feet to start.
  • Prepare by Gathering Resources – There are a lot of great resources out there to help you identify everything from birds to plants. These include eBird, iNaturalist, Cicada Safar‪i and Seek, to name a few; although accuracy will depend on photo quality and other factors. In case reception is bad or you don’t have a smartphone, it’s also good to have field guides handy. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a wonderful set of field guides for different organisms available for free. Depending on what you’re looking for, a hand lens or pair of binoculars might also help, but those aren’t as essential as water and a sense of curiosity.
A group of people look through binoculars and telescopes during a bioblitz at a park.
Observant participants in a bioblitz. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)
  • Tips & Caution – While we want to know what life is out there, we don’t want to trample any animals or plants in the process. It’s best to observe wildlife from a distance or take up-close photos of plants from a trail. Rather than picking flowers or taking things from the park, we need to leave them for others to enjoy and help identify. Picking up behind you and following good Leave No Trace practices is also a habit of great bioblitz participants. Hazards like poison ivy and ticks are something you need to be aware of as well.

This year, Great Parks is partnering with other local organizations to host the City Nature Challenge. This is an annual worldwide bioblitz held for one week in the spring. If you’re not sure what to look for, there are certain categories that we have little information about at the parks, such as insects. For example, billions of the periodical 17-year cicadas will be coming out this May, making this a rare chance to collect records on the species! Feel free to chat with our interpreters about what else would be good to look for. Great Parks staff will also be leading programming as part of this bioblitz, so keep an eye out for programs you can sign up for.

City Nature Challenge 2021 Cincinnati – Hamilton County

When: April 30–May 3, 2021

Event details: This bioblitz is open to everyone! More information can be found on the City Nature Challenge website.

Happy blitzing!

Jessica Spencer
Director of Natural Resources

Great Parks of Hamilton County is not affiliated with and is not receiving any compensation from eBird, iNaturalist, Cicada Safari or Seek.