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Citizen science can reconnect Hoosiers with their community, nature during pandemic

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For the fifth year, Indiana Sciences and a coalition of partners are challenging Indianapolis residents and surrounding communities to stay connected with the urban wildlife around them by becoming citizen scientists. People of all ages are encouraged to participate in the social distancing edition of the 2021 global City Nature Challenge from April 30 to May 3.

Joining Indiana Sciences to engage Hoosiers across the state include Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW), Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), Indiana Wildlife Federation (IWF), Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA), Indianapolis Office of Sustainability (Sustain Indy), (DNR), Marian University and Indy Parks and Recreation.

“When citizens of all ages can be in nature and identify the diversity of species that exist across the state, it helps them understand the interconnected ecosystems that link all plants, animals, insects, waterways and human,” said Rufus Cochran, state coordinator with Indiana Sciences. “Not only does this fun challenge lead to better understanding, it can also lead to better care of these natural resources.”

The Indiana City Nature Challenge (#IndyCNC) offers Hoosiers an opportunity for friendly competition between Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and other major cities in the Midwest. From 2018 to 2020, over 1,000 citizen scientists have completed over 11,000 observations during Indianapolis’ three years participating in the City Nature Challenge.

In response to the pandemic and the need for distancing, partners are organizing self-guided events. Organizers encourage folks to participate in their own yard, or green-spaces and parks, while staying safe following appropriate social distancing.

“We see this as an opportunity for individuals to rediscover wonder and beauty in the natural world as spring brings new growth and we continue to take pandemic precautions,” said Julie Rhodes, collective impact director of ROW. “We especially welcome people to explore the unique plant, animal and insect life around our waterways.”

Both budding and veteran citizen scientists are encouraged to participate by:

· Finding wildlife. It can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses) found in your participating city.

· Taking a picture of what you find and noting the location of the critter or plant.

· Sharing your observations by uploading your findings on our iNaturalist project.

To get ready for the challenge, join ROW and partners from 6 to 7:15 p.m. April 27 for an event, Do Citizens Science: Identify Backyard Plants, Animals & Insects. Participants will learn how to use the iNaturalist app and more. Register here.

The City Nature Challenge has expanded to more than 300 cities in over 40 countries across the globe. Kicking off April 30 at 12:01 a.m. in each time zone, the challenge runs through 11:59 pm. on May 3. Then citizen scientists will verify identifications until May 9. The multi-city, global event calls on current and aspiring citizen scientists, nature and science enthusiasts, and people of all ages and science backgrounds to observe and submit pictures of plants and wildlife using the free app iNaturalist. Indianapolis participants should add observations to the “City Nature Challenge 2021 Indianapolis” project in iNaturalist. Results will be announced on May 10.

For more information, contact:

· Julie L Rhodes, Reconnecting to Our Waterways, at Julie@OurWaterways.org  or

· Rufus Cochran, Indiana Sciences, at IndianaSciences@gmail.com

Julie L Rhodes is collective impact director of Reconnecting to Our Waterways.

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