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The Great Valley Challenge of 2018

SAN BENITO, TEXAS–This is big! Mark your calendars for April 27 – 30. It’s the great international City Nature Challenge. Some call it a Bio-Blitz, and it’s worldwide for the first time.

Given the Valley’s plant and animal diversity, the Valley’s Texas Master Naturalist chapters want the Valley to win this challenge. “We think we have an advantage because of our incredible diversity,” said South Texas Border Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist Vice President Elizabeth Perdomo. “We encourage people to be enthused and commit time to this challenge during the four day operating window.”

Anyone in the Valley with a phone capable of taking photographs, or anyone with a camera and access to the Internet is encouraged to learn about this opportunity and enter the challenge.

The Valley is entering as its own entity. The geographic area considered the Valley’s “city” for this challenge is Falcon to the Gulf Coast, including all of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties.

Last year Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and Houston were the top five cities respectively, with the highest totals of the competition categories.

Competition categories are: 1. Total Observations, 2. Species Identified and 3. People Participating.

“It’s easy to get involved,” said Rio Grande Valley Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist President Steve Lanoux. “All that’s involved is downloading an app onto your phone — or using a camera and computer — then taking photos of native plants, birds, critters, bugs, insects, caterpillars, sea/beach/dune life, fungi — any of the things that make up the Valley’s native diversity. It’s that easy.”

The easiest and quickest way to enter species in the challenge is to download the free iNaturalist app onto your Android or iPhone, and create an account using the provided prompts.

Those who wish to use a camera and enter data from a computer may set up an account via www.inaturalist.org.

Photographers don’t have to know the name of the species they are photographing. The iNaturalist app allows an option for posting without that knowledge, or to select from a data base of like subjects.

Trees and plants do not have to be in bloom to be included. There are options for Geo privacy for those shooting on private land. Without opting for privacy, Geo coordinates are available to anyone using the program. The app also allows opportunities to correct mistakes.

For help getting started, visit your favorite Valley nature refuge or center or visit the links below.



Another way to get assistance is to ask a Texas Master Naturalist. In the Upper Valley, contact the South Texas Border Chapter at mateliza@aol.com. In the Lower Valley, contact the Rio Grande Valley Chapter at s_lanoux@yahoo.com.

The City Nature Challenge is more than a game or contest. The iNaturalist is a repository of valuable habitat information. Considered crowdsource identifications, entrants may connect with experts who can identify the observed organisms. Citizens also help create useful data which helps scientists and researchers understand when and where organisms occur.

More than 75 cities on six continents will be competing to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in this worldwide 2018 City Nature Challenge.

Results will be announced Friday, May 4, 2018; observations must be uploaded prior to that.

“Load up iNaturalist, and we hope to see you out and about April 27 through the 30 for this most important Valley project,” said Perdomo. “Start in your own back yard and then beyond!”

“Species only count for the Valley’s tally that are in our geographical parameters and during the four-day challenge timeframe,” said Lanoux. “Team up, pair up, use the buddy system. Make it an adventure.”

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