This April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In typical years, there are scheduled events throughout the month of April designed to educate about the environment, celebrate the planet, and bring people together outdoors. This year, due to COVID and social distancing regulations, many events for Earth Month have had to be cancelled or modified. In Wellesley, the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and the Wellesley Conservation Council (WCC) have cosponsored a town wide initiative, Wellesley Will Enjoy Time Outdoors, to keep the community engaged, document the wildlife in town, and prepare residents to participate in this year’s City Nature Challenge (CNC).
Throughout Earth Month, there have been weekly bio-blitz competitions that encouraged self-guided nature walks in backyards and green spaces, and provided practice using the iNaturalist app for data collection. These events offer an opportunity to celebrate the earth while still maintaining social distances. The culmination to Earth Month is the global event, the City Nature Challenge 2020, which starts with the bio-blitz portion of the event from April 24-27, followed by an identification portion of the event from April 28 through May 1.
The City Nature Challenge is an international celebration of biodiversity, where people find and document the variety of wildlife in cities across the globe. This bio blitz-style competition challenges participants living in metro areas in a friendly contest to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people. This year’s focus has shifted from a competition to a family event, encouraging people to stay home and explore the nature around their homes, maintaining quarantine regulations.
This year’s participants will join other towns across the globe as citizen scientists observing, and documenting with photographs, the biodiversity in their city. Residents are encouraged to search for nature in their backyards, or on town trails like Longfellow Pond and Town Forest, Guernsey Path, Morses Pond, Centennial Reservation, Boulder Brook Reservation, The Charles River and the North 40 woods and vernal pool. Remember to practice social distancing guidelines.
Last year, participants collected data that showed a wide variety of biodiversity living and thriving in town, from microscopic daphnia found in the local vernal pools to the coyote, the largest predatory mammal that lives in the region. The biodiversity speaks of Wellesley's ecological health, and underscores the importance of continuing the efforts of residents and town government on the many green initiatives in place.
This citizen science project helps bring to light the incredible biodiversity that exist in towns and cities across the globe, reminding people that there is nature all around them. In addition, knowing what species live and breed in cities, and where they are, helps to study and protect them.
For more information about how to get involved in City Nature Challenge 2020, visit https://wellesleyma.gov/1324/City-Nature-Challenge.