The City Nature Challenge and Citizen Science Photography Tips

Earlier this year in April, people all around the planet contributed to citizen science by participating in the City Nature Challenge. They then recorded their observations of living (or once living) things in their local area to the iNaturalist citizen science database. I was blessed to join smiling volunteers under the crystal blue skies at two of these events organised by the EcoCentre- one at the newly transforming Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve (formerly Elsternwick Golf Course) and the Graham Street Lightrail Reserve in Port Melbourne.

Participating in the City Nature Challenge is open to everyone and is such an exciting way to meet other people passionate about nature, to learn new skills (citizen science methods, photography, using technology, identify and classify organisms) or to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world around you.

The best bit is spending time outdoors and to feel like you are really part of something huge representing your neighbourhood! It didn’t matter if you had a macro lens on a fancy digital camera, knew your birds or garden plants, or simply had a pen and paper to note species names and interesting facts – we all were left buzzing with new found wonder at all the variety in our living world.

The aim of the City Nature Challenge is to upload as many quality observations of as many identified organisms across the one 48 hour period to the same platform – iNaturalist. This data is a real snapshot of biodiversity in a particular place and time, and is comparable across cities and around the world. 

This is why I would like to end my blog with sharing some photography tips to consider when photographing plants, animals and fungi for citizen science.


Tips for photographing for data analysis and citizen science

  • For fungi – use a small mirror to view under the cap of a mushroom.
  • Take profile and birds eye views of invertebrates, as key features of species might not be visible in only one view.
  • Collect as much detail of the whole organism such as close up photos of bark, fruit, flowers, leaf shape and margins, plus more distant photos showing a trees canopy shape or a shrubs habit and size.
  • Hold a hand or paper behind the object such as a spider web to focus on the subject.
  • Add sound recordings if an animal makes a distinct call


Words and photography thanks to Pascale Jacq – an EcoCentre Education Programs Facilitator.  

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The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukit Willam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional custodians of the land on which we are located.

We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other First Nations and Elder members of our multicultural community.