#43: Alison Young – The City Nature Challenge

#43: Alison Young – The City Nature Challenge Nature's Archive


Today’s guest is Alison Young, Co-Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Community Science at the California Academy of Sciences. Alison has a background in marine biology, including a MA in Marine Biology from Humboldt State University and a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College.

At the Cal Academy, Alison is a driving force behind the City Nature Challenge, which is a 4 day global BioBlitz event that had over 1.25 million nature observations in 2021 across 400 different global locations. Mark your calendars! This year it runs from April 29 to May 2 local time, and I hope all of you plan to participate! I know my calendar is full of fun and unique events all four days!

Today Alison and I discuss the community, science, and fun that is the City Nature Challenge, and how you can participate in this year’s event. Whether you live in a city or not, in northern or southern latitudes, or are stuck at home, you can participate, and Alison offers wonderful insights for all of those scenarios.

Clockwise from top left: Purple Prairie Clover, Privet Leafhopper, Desert Pupfish, Killdeer, and a native bee on an aster flower (center). Photos copyright Michael Hawk

We discuss the goals of the challenge, and of course, exactly what it is. Alison also tells us how the City Nature Challenge grew from what was initially thought to be a one-time competition between two rival cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco, to the massive annual event that it is today.

And Alison offers several tips for making useful observations in iNaturalist, taking good photos, and how to make the City Nature Challenge a fun and enticing event even if the season or weather isn’t what you’d consider optimal for your area.

You can get more information at citynaturechallenge.org, and follow the city nature challenge at citnatchallenge on both twitter and instagram. And follow Alison at alisonkestrel on Twitter and Instagram, or just kestrel on iNaturalist.

Did you have a question that I didn’t ask? Let me know at naturesarchivepodcast@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get an answer! I’ll add these Q&As to my monthly newsletter, so if you aren’t already subscribed, go here. I promise, no spam. I share the latest news from the world of Nature’s Archive, as well as pointers to new naturalist finds that have crossed my radar, like podcasts, books, websites, and more.

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People, Events, Organizations

Great Southern BioBlitz – an event for the Southern Hemisphere

Julia Butterfly Hill – lived in a Redwood tree for 738 days to draw attention and prevent cutting of rare old growth redwoods

Lila Higgins, Senior Manager, Community Science at Natural History Museum of LA County

Snapshot Cal Coast – A California Coast bioblitz event


The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen. This 1997 book was influential to Alison.

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/


Transcripts are automatically created, and are about 95% accurate. Apologies for any errors.

[00:00:00] Michael: Alison, thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:00:02] Alison: Happy to be here

[00:00:03] Michael: So I guess this is going to be my third year participating in the city nature challenge. And since the podcast is only about a year and a half old, I thought why not do an episode about it so that I can learn more? And hopefully my audience can learn more and we can just continue to grow this thing.

[00:00:19] Thus, I’ve asked you to be here. I’m really looking forward to talking about it.

[00:00:23] Alison: Awesome. Thank you so much for inviting me. I love talking about this. Any nature chat.

[00:00:26] Michael: Yeah, it’s a really interesting origin story as well. But before we jump into that, I’d like to understand a little bit about you and where did you grow up? How did you get interested in nature? I would like to hear your path to the city nature channel.

[00:00:40] Alison: Yeah. So I grew up in the east bay of the San Francisco bay area in Lafayette. Born and raised there. And in terms of my interest in nature, like I can’t point to one specific being that really got me hooked, but I was in girl Scouts growing up. We spent a lot of time outside, camping as a family as well.

[00:00:58] And I think what really. Put me on this path that I am on today is, you know, when I decided to go to college and I was trying to figure out what my major was going to be. And I decided to go into college as an English major. And I decided I also go to college on the other side of the country, over on the east coast, over in Philadelphia. And it was, I got to college and I was just like I’m interested in biology too. So I’ll take the intro bio class. And the first intro bio class at first semester was, a lot of lab work like cellular biology, things like that. But then the second intro bio class was ecology.

[00:01:27] And like suddenly all my classes were like outside and we were like walking in the forest, the Pennsylvania . And I was like, wait a second. This is a job I can have a day-to-day life where I get to be outside. Most of the time, forget being an English major, I’m going to be a biology major.

[00:01:42] And that put me on this path that I am today now, where I, trying to spend lots of time outside in my personal life and as much as I can in my work life, but organizing events that get other people outside as well.

[00:01:53] Michael: That’s amazing. And I was having flashbacks to my schooling and yeah, biology was just classroom work for me. And I don’t think I realized that there was this whole other world that existed and the light bulb just went off with you saying that it’s I really hope we’re doing a better job these days in showing kids that you can actually go outside there’s field work.

[00:02:13] There’s a college is all this other fun stuff to get people to.

[00:02:17] Alison: right. It’s not just like lab coats and beakers and microscopes. Although that part is certainly super interesting and super important, but for some folks that’s just not the path that’s going to interest them.

[00:02:25] Michael: Yeah, especially throwing people at dissecting worms or frogs or something right out of the gate. That’s not necessarily the best entry point.

[00:02:32] Alison: Exactly.

[00:02:33] Michael: So now you’re at the California academy of sciences. Can you tell me a bit about that organization and how it relates to the city nature challenge?

[00:02:42] Alison: Yeah. So that Cal academy for folks that haven’t been there is located in the middle of golden gate park in San Francisco. It’s been a San Francisco institution now for. I think we’re going on 168 years now, if I’m doing the math. But yeah, we’re a natural history museum. we have a public floor where people can come and learn about biodiversity.

[00:03:03] We also have a planetarium, we have an aquarium, we have a rainforest but like most natural history museums, we’re really focused on biodiversity and teaching people about it and connecting people to amazing places around the world that are super bio-diverse. And, what a lot of. Might not know about the Cal academy and maybe about that term history museums in general is that there’s also like a science of natural history.

[00:03:24] Like we have scientists, I’m one of them folks that travel around the world, studying biodiversity and biodiversity hotspots, where they go and describe new species in those places. They work to understand relationships between species and things like that. And I ended up at the Cal academy as a way to think about how can we get. More people involved in the science of natural history. How can we basically do what was called at the time, citizen science, how we tend to call it community science more, but how can we get the public involved in this type of research and documenting and discovering biodiversity, wherever they are.

[00:03:56] Michael: And for listeners of the podcast, I had a previous guest that had an affiliation with the Cal academy, and that was a cricket respite. We, our episode about doc fouling.

[00:04:06] Alison: Nice.

[00:04:07] Michael: Getting people interested in community science and biodiversity. It’s a natural, common editorial thing. Tell me then a little bit about the combination of, the interest in biodiversity and community science.

[00:04:19] I believe you were an early adopter of iNaturalist or at least using it several years ago. How were you using it back? Say pre city nature.

[00:04:28] Alison: Yeah. So when we were starting up our community science program, we really wanted people to have that same like that feeling of just getting to be really curious and looking around them and discovering the spaces around them that. Our curators have when they go and travel to places around the world.

[00:04:45] But obviously our curators, they collect a specimen, that’s the evidence of we saw this species here, on this date and then they collect it and they bring it back to the museum where it’s used for lots of different things. But what we didn’t want was to basically send people out there into the world and say, collect a bunch of things and send them to us, like that would have been a logistical nightmare. when we started our community science program, we were trying to figure out kind of an easy way for people to be able to collect that same information and what we call a species occurrence record. Like I saw this species at this place on this date and that’s using like for, in science and lots of different ways.

[00:05:16] But that wasn’t just like them writing it down on a piece of paper And sending it to us. So we started exploring potential apps that people could use to do that sort of work. And that’s how we discovered I naturalist. And so we started running our program basically in 2011, 2012, where we started to ask people, we had developed programs in the bay area like a plant program up on Mount Tam.

[00:05:39] And then. Tidepool program down on the San Mateo coast cause both my co-director and I are actually a Marine biologist. So we wanted to have a project that kind of ties into our work too. Where we are asking people to basically document species using high naturalist at the time because it’s the same information that we have on a specimen.

[00:05:54] So we can actually use the data together, which is really cool, like our historic specimens and this current biodiversity data that people are collecting through eye naturalists. That’s how I’d ask those came into the picture. We tried a few different apps in the very beginning, but eventually settled on my naturalist as easiest for people to use and to understand.

[00:06:11] And then for us to also be able to get the data out of as well.

[00:06:14] Michael: And back in that era, I don’t think there is any concept of artificial intelligence or machine learning in I naturalist. So you had to have a little bit of help unless you were already trained in the subject matter. I already knew, the organism that you were looking at. So it makes sense.

[00:06:29] Curators and leaders already. I naturalist users at that point, or was this just sort a brand new thing across the organism?

[00:06:38] Alison: No, this was brand new across the organization. My co-director and I, we had both been using an actual assault already. And when we started those two projects, the plant project app of Mount Tam, we are collaborating with the Rand municipal water district up there. So then they started using iNaturalist.

[00:06:52] They had been using a few different other. To try to document plant biodiversity, but we liked the fact that I had actual, you could document anything. It didn’t have to be like one specific group of organisms. And so it was through my co-director and I. Using a naturalist and bringing it into our community science programs that, now actually I naturalist is part of the Cal academy.

[00:07:12] But it was the fact that we were such early adopters and we had started using it in this program that the naturalists team actually approached us and said, Hey, like we’re looking for an institutional home. Is there any way that you can help us get into the academy or talking to the folks in leadership at the academy?

[00:07:26] So we began that relationship.

[00:07:27] Michael: It sounds like really a perfect match having this. And then, the progression of the capabilities of the app over the years. So then can you tell me then, as you were starting to use the app more integrated into your programming and partnerships, how did you end up getting involved in this competition with Los Angeles?

[00:07:49] Alison: Yeah, it’s a great story. It when I got my position at the Cal academy, was the first person that had. The words that citizen science in their title. When I first started at the academy and my colleague down at the natural history museum of Los Angeles county, Lila Higgins, she had started working down at NHMLA just like a year or two earlier than I did.

[00:08:10] And so I think she had seen the position get advertised up at the Cal academy and then basically looked me up cold called me, like back when I first got the job and basically said Hey, we both know. Have citizen science and our titles. And we both work at natural history museums. We should talk like we should like collaborate on things.

[00:08:26] And yeah, the natural history museum of Los Angeles county had also been an early adopter of I’d naturals as well. And they had started using it for their community science programs really focused in and around Los Angeles county. And so we had done a lot of talking, we had talked about, Using iNaturalist naturalist and how to get people involved and our programs generally, but we had never done a project together.

[00:08:47] And so back in 2016, there was an announcement of the first ever citizen science day. And that was a result of The white house formerly recognizing citizen science is an important source of data. And they started asking their agencies to develop programs and to involve the public in collecting data.

[00:09:06] And so the citizen science association and another platform called size starter decided together to celebrate this fact that like we’re getting this national recognition for citizen science. And so let’s have the citizen science day. And so they basically put the word out to all of us that are.

[00:09:20] In that realm, the practitioners and things like that. Hey, can you do something like this day at April is going to be citizen science day? Can you do something to bring awareness to citizen science or get people involved doing it? And so my co-director Rebecca Johnson and I, we were sitting in our office and we’re just like what should we do?

[00:09:36] Like, This seems really big. We should do something fun. Like we should do some big for this. And so we started thinking about what if we get something with Los Angeles for this, if we never done a project together. So we called up Lila and kind of brainstorm what this could be. And we said, our two cities are already.

[00:09:49] natural rivals, especially in the sports arenas. But can we make a competition about nature? And so we worked together that first year to come up with the first ever city nature challenge.

[00:10:00] Michael: Yeah, it’s a perfect rivalry. As you said, it’s already a natural rivalry in terms of, it’s two of the larger cities in this state. You have the whole nor Cal versus so Cal sorta dynamic going on the sports teams. So perfect. you consider involving other cities at that point or was it just these are really the only two you saw that were actively engaged in this.

[00:10:20] Alison: We just saw that thought that this was going to be basically a one-off event, like to celebrate this one citizen science day. So we thought this is good enough. Let’s do San Francisco versus Los Angeles. We know that we both use Inaturalist in our community science programs. We also do that.

[00:10:34] We both have the capabilities of organizing our local areas too. So yeah, we didn’t at all think about expanding it. We just thought let’s just take on this.

[00:10:41] rivalry and make this challenge about nature that first year, just between our two cities.

[00:10:44] Michael: Like so many things, it starts small, or it starts with a different objective and then it takes on a broader life. It sounds like.

[00:10:52] Alison: Totally.

[00:10:53] Michael: How did that broader life come to be?

[00:10:55] Alison: Yeah. So that first year, the city nature challenge was actually eight days long, which turned, it turned out to be like double the time. It should have been, it was exhausting keeping that up. But our two museums were taunting each other on social media, right? Like about the things we were finding And who was going to win the, city nature challenge and things like that.

[00:11:13] And so through that social media promotion, other people were just like, what is the city nature challenge? Can my city do the city nature challenge. And Lila and I. We’re just like maybe there is an appetite for this, like beyond just this one-off event. And is there a way that we could actually think about scaling the city nature challenge to let more cities become involved?

[00:11:32] So yeah, in 2017 we said, okay, we don’t want to open it up too big, too quickly. Cause we were still trying to figure out like how to scale this in a way that they. And so we opened it up to any city in the United States that wanted to participate. And all we asked is that, we have to have an organizer, like someone we can work with, who’s willing to do the work and promote it and, tell people that it’s happening and tell people the results and things like that.

[00:11:54] Michael: Yeah. And the tech back in the I natural as back. And I guess you also have to be careful about not overloading that too, if you suddenly are having. Hundreds of thousands or 10 and maybe at that? Yeah, give me some metrics. Like how many observations, how many species were you seeing back in the early days?

[00:12:11] Alison: no, that first year, but it was just San Francisco and Los Angeles. We had told a reporter where we were actually talking to a reporter at the LA times and she said, okay how many observations do you want to get? And Lila like, 10,000. And I was just like, Oh, my gosh, she’s crazy. Like, why did she just say that?

[00:12:27] But I was like, okay, I’ll roll with it. And I’ll say the San Francisco wants to get 10,001. And sure enough, that first year we did actually together make about 20,000 observations over those eight days. So when we opened it up to any city in the U S in 2017, We had 16 cities participate, which like at the time were like, wow, 16 cities.

[00:12:44] Now, when you think about the city nature challenge, 16 is nothing, but we went from making those 20,000 observations in eight days in 2017, we shortened it to five days and we made 125,000 observations and we completely broke. Inaturalist. In that second year, there were times where people were, we were getting so many emails and people who were just like, I’m trying to upload my observations and nothing’s happening.

[00:13:07] The wheel just keeps spinning or like I’m trying to get to the app, my project on the app and nothing is happening. So Yeah, there were some growing pains that first year luckily I naturalist has done a pretty great job of keeping up with us since that first year.

[00:13:21] Michael: Yeah, that creates sort of like a circle of death in OHVs. You can upload your observation. You keep retrying the more you retry, the more load it puts on the system. Yeah.

[00:13:30] Alison: And it was just really hard at RN because I’m just like, I’m so sorry. There’s literally nothing I personally can do to help you. Cause I don’t work Friday naturalists, like they are aware of what’s going on right now, but compare it to this last year in 2021. 419 cities.

[00:13:46] It’s four days now. And we made 1.2 million observations in four days and I naturalist kept up with us. There was definitely some growing pains in those early years, but they’ve done a pretty great job of basically getting ready for this VH challenge every year now.

[00:14:01] Michael: Yeah, that’s pretty amazing and spectacular growth. It’s evolved a bit over the years. You gave some metrics as to how it’s evolved in terms of participation. If somebody walked up to you and said just tell me, what is the city nature challenge today? It’s no longer a rivalry between LA and San Francisco.

[00:14:17] How would you describe it?

[00:14:18] Alison: Yeah, and it’s gone through evolution beyond just the, kind of the competition focus too. Cause when COVID hit, we didn’t really want to focus on the competition side of the city nature challenge. Right now we still call it like it’s a four day BioBlitz. In in and around cities around the world, basically.

[00:14:36] And so these are trying to make as many observations of nature as they can. They’re trying to document as many species as they can, and they’re trying to get as many people participating in making those observations as they can. Back in the day, we really focused on the competition side. We announced winners every year.

[00:14:54] But the last couple of years due to COVID, we’ve really focused more on the collaborative side of it. What can we do altogether? And so the model hasn’t changed so much, it just more about how we talk about the results these days. We really focus on the it’s amazing what we all did together, all of us around the world.

[00:15:08] Instead of saying like this city one, the city nature challenge.

[00:15:10] Michael: Yeah, of course you can still see the metrics when you go to the website.

[00:15:14] Alison: Oh, yeah. I believe me, the cities that when definitely let people know they got the most observations or found the most VCs.

[00:15:20] Michael: How does one participate in the city nature challenge then if they’re in one of these cities or maybe not in one of these cities,

[00:15:27] Alison: Yeah. So if you’re in one of the cities that kind of, the important thing to figure out is yeah, is your city participating? There’ll be some sort of boundary where you’re either in the store or the city nature challenge or you’re outside of the city nature challenge. And for most cases, like here in the bay area, we do.

[00:15:41] All nine counties that touched the bay. It’s just an easy boundary that people understand, when you’re in a county and when you moved to another county so as long as you’re in the boundary for your city, almost every city uses. I iNaturalist. I’m guessing probably most of the folks listening to this, if your city’s participating, your city’s probably using iNaturalist.

[00:15:56] But all you have to do then is go out and make observations using iNaturalist between. April 29th, which is a Friday. So starting literally at 1201 in the morning that Friday, all the way until midnight of the following Monday, which is May 2nd. So you have four days, you go and use a naturalist.

[00:16:13] You make observations. Once you upload them, they automatically get added to your cities project. So it’s pretty simple. As long as you have the naturalist app, can, you can get out there and document what you see around you.

[00:16:24] Michael: And that start time. You mentioned at midnight, that’s rolling with your local time zone. It’s local.

[00:16:29] Alison: Yep.

[00:16:30] Michael: And I’m curious about you specifically. , as someone who’s organizing and promoting these events, do you get a chance to participate? Are you having to coordinate everything behind the scenes and stuck at your desk all day during the.

[00:16:41] Alison: No we definitely tell the.

[00:16:43] other organizers, we’ve warned them ahead of time. Hey, we want to be outside and making observations too. So if something comes up, go ahead and email us where you might not get it, like an instant response from us. So yeah. Me and my co-director, we usually have tried to strike a balance between organizing events that people come to where, we might spend more of our time kind of teaching people how to use our naturalists and guiding people through that process. Where we personally might not be making as many observations, but we also try to leave like a day or two where we can just go out and on our own, just go in and, go to those places that we know in the bay area, where we can get lots of cool species or interesting places and make observations ourself as well.

[00:17:20] Cause that’s, a huge part of the fun.

[00:17:21] Michael: I’m curious now, what do you focus on? As a Marine biologist, you probably get drawn that way, but then you’re maybe you’re thinking I know where to find some really unique things that maybe other people won’t right. So, W how do you choose what to do?

[00:17:32] Alison: When the years where the city nature challenge is during some good low tides, we almost always try to have a public. In the tide pools at least one day, just because there’s hundreds of species all in one concentrated place. And so we can get lots of people out there documenting what we find in the tide pools and we can get a lot of species for the bay area.

[00:17:49] And so definitely we try to hold a Tidepool event for anyone to show up, but then I live in Sonoma county. And so I really like to get up into the corners of the bay area that not miss many people go to north Eastern Napa county has some cool serpentine areas that I like to get to you where you can get some rare plants and rare insects and things like that.

[00:18:07] Although I am a Marine biologist because I’ve been using natural snow for so many years and in so many different ways, as we think about. You’re getting the public involved in using a natural, some holding events that I feel like I’ve definitely learned a lot more about like terrestrial biodiversity also.

[00:18:21] So I get really excited about, Yeah, those rare wildfire flowers you can find or just areas that are just like, amazingly bio-diverse on the trust Yael side as well.

[00:18:29] Michael: Yeah, absolutely. That you get to the edges of. Have any boundary and you’re probably going to start touching habitats that transition zones anyway that afford you some new and unique opportunities.

[00:18:41] Alison: Exactly.

[00:18:42] Michael: So I’m focusing a bit on you at the moment, but during the city nature challenge, have you found anything that jumps to mind is exciting or rare unexpected during these events?

[00:18:51] Alison: I know I have found things in the past, especially if, when I get up in those like corners of Napa county that were like, I found a moth once. That was like the first record of it on I naturalist back in kind of the early city nature challenge events. I feel like Ella and also me just going to serpentine areas.

[00:19:08] I feel every year I find, really amazing Jewel, flowers, rare Jewel, flowers, and fritillaries and things like that. But I feel like also the bay area is such nico focused place. And because we’ve been, we’re one of two cities that have been doing this the longest, lA is the only other one that’s done the city nature challenge, as long as we have that more and more people now are keyed into those places to go and get those rare species.

[00:19:29] And so every year during the city nature challenge, someone documents something unique and interesting. There’s usually lots of Of examples of unexpected fines, just because we have so many people around the world out there documenting and looking for species. But Yeah, here in the bay area I feel like we had have had those like unique and rare corners totally covered these days.

[00:19:47] Michael: Yeah, got it. It reminds me a little bit maybe of, around December timeframe. There are all these Christmas bird counts that have. And people, they’ve been doing it for well, Christmas bird counts were going on for a hundred years plus, and some people know where to go and where to look, but then uncover the vagrants and the rarities and all of that.

[00:20:07] So then you have the nice outcome for the next couple of weeks after that, you can go look for these things yourself too.

[00:20:14] Alison: exactly.

[00:20:14] Michael: Yeah. So speaking of, the useful outcomes of the community science outcome, Can you tell me a little bit about what the city nature challenge has been able to accomplish? And I suppose this could be measured in a, a variety of different ways.

[00:20:28] Alison: Yeah, for sure. Like looking at the data side of the city nature challenge, we know that there’s just there’s the inherent fact that like when you’re making a cheering observations on iNaturalist, You’re contributing to this big data side right. Of, of where species are found around the world.

[00:20:42] And we know for sure that those data get used in lots of different ways that people download data sets off of GBIF. That includes city nature, challenge data, as they try to answer big questions. Species distributions and how they’re changing and things like that. So there’s that general contribution to science that we know the city nature challenge does, we have had people look just at city nature, challenge data to kind of understand biodiversity and land use in and around urban areas.

[00:21:07] We’ve had a paper published that used a set of, city nature challenge data from one year to look at that and then. The focusing on what observation being really important. We do have lots of examples of like I said, kind of people finding things that were unexpected, here in the bay area.

[00:21:23] And one of the city nature challenges, I want to say maybe in 2018 someone was looking. I think in a botanical garden, in the east bay and discovered this hammerhead warm, that not only was the first observation for California, it was also the first record for north America, which was pretty amazing.

[00:21:41] Discovered here in the bay area. We’ve had a species that were thought to be like locally extirpated refound during the city nature challenge that we had a high school student in 2020, over in Washington, DC and a county actually I’m in Virginia discover a white spotted slimy salamander. I think that was.

[00:22:02] It had thought to be extricated from the area since 1977. No one had seen it since then. And he re founded as part of the city nature challenge as well. We always have amazing examples of, first records of things or things that we didn’t know it was in this place and someone found it during the city nature challenge.

[00:22:17] And so there’s this like amazing discovery side of the city nature challenge data. And then finally in terms of immediate use of the day, A lot of our city nature challenge, organizers are either city governments or city parks departments, or like county parks departments, or they partner with their local city governments or their parks departments.

[00:22:34] And we definitely have a lot of examples of. A new population of a non-native species that the parks department didn’t know was there. And so they were able to go in and remove it before it became a problem, like discovered or in the city nature challenge or a new population of a rare and endangered plants that was found that they can now make sure they protect and manage for and things like that as well.

[00:22:53] So often in terms of how that data directly translates into use on the ground, we often see that more at the local level for the city nature challenge.

[00:23:00] Michael: That’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought so much about that. And I know every land manager, I talked to stresses the importance of early detection of invasive species and newly introduced species. And yeah, that is a really good point. Speaking of the organizers. Of these events. He said that you need a local contact in each city that participates, but I know then they work very hard to reach out to maybe other parks departments local organizers, community organizers, to create events and sub events and so forth that correspond.

[00:23:30] I guess we could take this in a couple of directions. Do you have any interesting anecdotes or stories about things that have worked well for organizers in the past, whether it’s at that city level or more at the individual group, that’s like maybe organizing a sub BioBlitz that just is intended to overlap with the city nature challenge.

[00:23:49] Alison: Yeah. We’ve seen. interesting partnerships happened because of the city nature challenge, so at that city level, a lot of our organizers many of them have jobs where they can organize the city nature challenge as part of their job. But we do also have organizers that have to do it like totally as a volunteer, they do it outside of their regular jobs as well.

[00:24:07] And we’ve seen definitely interesting collaborations come up with people reaching out to their local. You know, We think about parks departments or like other museums, but also people who are really getting amazing networks with their local Audubon society, their local native plant society, their local chapters of girl Scouts and boy Scouts and things like that to build those partnerships with.

[00:24:27] What are those different audiences that each of our organization touches that would all potentially be interested in kind of this, getting people out in nature or connecting people to nature, or like documenting more biodiversity and how can we all work together to make this happen in our city? This is some great examples of those cool partnerships that have happened.

[00:24:43] There’s other folks that, you know, one of our organizer in Hong Kong, he actually organizes a whole second separate city nature challenge event for schools in Hong Kong. But they do it in November basically to get ready to participate for the city nature challenge. So they have a whole big school competition that

[00:25:00] Michael: program. It sounds like.

[00:25:03] Alison: but it’s great because it teaches those students like how to make good observations and what is it? Really looking for wild plants and animals, not just your cat and like your potted plants and things like that. So it does actually teach them how to really be part of that global community and contribute good data and interesting observations to the city nature challenge as well.

[00:25:21] And then there’s been some great, volunteer organizers who have. Created their own naturalist club through the city nature challenge. they reach out to all of those other people that they see are using a naturalist and their cities, kind of those power users and they’ve come together and actually like sustained a group, pass that first city nature challenge that they participate in, where they go out on do hikes on their own together, and they lead other events for each other as well.

[00:25:45] And then they work together to organize the city nature challenge.

[00:25:47] Michael: So there’s so many ideas in here and I’m hoping that we’ll get this interview published at least a month in advance of the city nature challenge. So anybody out there who has kids in Scouts, Like here’s an opportunity. You can get badges, like there’s different things that they can do to coordinate this.

[00:26:04] You mentioned schools, environmental clubs, ecology clubs at schools. So many different ways to to get people out there and also start to reach beyond the choir of those who are already engaged in nature.

[00:26:17] Alison: Totally. Yeah, for sure.

[00:26:18] Michael: And in fact, like I’m thinking back to two, I guess it was 22. We’re in this time warp right since the pandemic started.

[00:26:25] Alison: is time these days? Who knows?

[00:26:27] Michael: And in fact, two of my past guests on the show Chloe van loon and Merav Von shock, they did a presentation in collaboration with a local nonprofit, helping people prepare for the city nature challenge. And I remember just learning so much. I thought I knew a little bit at that point, but I learned so much.

[00:26:43] Where to go look and how to go look and how you can do things like light trapping at night or light attracting at night for mobs and, different things like that. I guess the, my long-winded monologue here is basically to say, look for events. If anybody’s out there wondering about how they can participate.

[00:27:02] Look for events that you can search YouTube, you can search all over the place and see presentations and ideas. And sky’s the limit.

[00:27:09] Alison: Yeah. And a lot of our local organizers, have created their own city nature challenge websites, where you can go and learn more about it. And what I’ve actually one of the cool things.

[00:27:17] One of the silver linings to the pandemic is that so many of our organizers had. Pivot to virtual events, especially in 2020, but we now we’ve been able to share that capacity across our organizers. So especially ahead of the city nature challenge, some of our organizers have said Hey, I’m going to hold a training on how to use a naturalist and I’m going to hold it in Spanish because we actually have a ton of Spanish speaking cities.

[00:27:39] But I’m going to open up to anybody. Like I’m doing it particularly for my city, but anyone who wants to come. And so we’re actually. Going to be publishing a list on the city nature challenge.org website to have kind of these bigger events that organizers that they might not be in your city, but you can come to their event ahead of the city nature challenge and learn how to participate or like how to use a naturalist or how to take good photos with a cell phone.

[00:28:00] Like all those things that you might want to teach people ahead of the city nature challenge.

[00:28:04] Michael: yeah, And yeah, I was going to say beyond, just say, Googling city nature, challenge, Boston or city nature challenge your local city. It sounds like then this year there’s going to be a bit more of a direct. To help people find these things. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and how to find that.

[00:28:21] Alison: Yeah. It always takes us awhile to get like the full like official city list. As we’re working with our organizers and making sure they have all the pieces in place, like a project and all that sort of stuff. But we will have up on the city nature challenge.org website, there will be a full.

[00:28:35] Official city list or you’ll be able to see if your city is participating and there’ll be a link to that, that cities project as well. So that’s a great place to start to see if your city is participating in this city nature challenge. And then usually on the city’s projects, the organizers may have linked to another.

[00:28:50] Here’s our website for the city nature challenge. Here’s where we’re going to publish all of our events, or they might actually publish it in the naturals project itself. And the journal, like here’s the events coming up and things like that. So the city nature challenge.org website will then also have kind of those virtual events that are going to happen before the city nature challenge as well that you can participate in.

[00:29:07] If you want to learn how to get ready to participate in the city nature challenge.

[00:29:11] Michael: And if you’re not in one of those cities, are you just out of luck or is there still a way to participate?

[00:29:16] Alison: No, we have figured out a way to make it more inclusive because we do every year, we feel so sad. We have people who are like, why does no one organize my city? Like I can’t do it, but I really want to participate?

[00:29:26] The last couple of years we have created the city nature challenge, global project on I naturalist and the big difference with this project.

[00:29:35] But it’s an easy step is you have to join that project. For your observations to count. But if your city is not part of the city nature challenge, you can go to the city nature challenge, 2022 global project. And as long as you join it, your observations will count for the city nature challenge, no matter where you are.

[00:29:51] Michael: Great. That’s that sounds great. So one extra step, that sounds like a simple step, because you could probably just link people directly to that project and then you just click join.

[00:30:00] Alison: Yeah, you could join and you have say I think yes. I want to join again. Like you join it and then you say yes, I really want to join it. I think it’s a two click process.

[00:30:06] Michael: bad. So if you are in a location where your city is not directly participating in the city nature challenge, and you want to become an organizer, how do you do that? What would be the qualifications, the timelines to enable someone to do that?

[00:30:22] Alison: We try to make it as easy as possible to be an organizer for a city, but we do require that someone or someone in that?

[00:30:28] city is organizing. One of the things that you would want to do is we have on the city nature challenge.org website, a form, just to say Hey, I’m interested in potentially organizing my city for 2023.

[00:30:39] So you can fill that in. You’ll get added to our email list, and then what we try to do basically is give organized. All of the resources and the tools and the training that they need to make the city nature challenge happen in their city and like the way that works best for their city. And so we are not super prescriptive on how it has to happen.

[00:30:58] Basically, we put up guidelines. We ask organizers is that we ask you to get the word out in your city in whatever way you can. We ask you to be responsible for your own cities, city nature challenge project. So you’ll make that project on a naturalist. So that’s a platform you’re gonna use.

[00:31:12] And then we ask that you like report back out, somehow tell people what the results were. And the easiest thing is that I’d actually projects have a journal and you can publish the results in the journal, just as a way for people. Find out what happened with the city nature challenge. That’s really the only three requirements we ask people to do except come to our meetings so you can learn how to do this stuff.

[00:31:30] We like, read these resources that we’re going to give you and be like, take the handbook. Things like.

[00:31:35] Michael: So I’m focusing on the term city in all of this and city nature challenge. Is there a minimum size that a, an area needs to be to.

[00:31:44] Alison: No, we are, we have a very loose definition of a city in 2018. We even had. Research station in Antarctica participate as a city during the city nature challenge. No, we usually ask that there’s like a city in quotes. It can be like a town. It can be a borough, whatever you call it, like somewhere within the organizing year.

[00:32:02] Like Don’t just give us a state park. Give us a city that’s near that state park too. And that include that whole area in your area.

[00:32:08] Michael: That’s interesting. So in theory, if you live somewhere and you’re nearby some really interesting enticing natural area that doesn’t have a big city, you could still organize people to go there for the city nature challenge. And yeah, that’s really intriguing to think about. So this sounds very grassroots in terms of how the organization works.

[00:32:30] And you have this network of people organizing each city, they may have their own personal media contacts or their own network within the parks departments, or what have you are you seeing much traction from the traditional news media in helping to promote this talking about.

[00:32:47] Alison: The year that we got the absolute most like traditional media coverage for the city nature challenge was 2020. Basically because the city nature challenge happened six weeks after everyone went into full lockdown. And everyone was looking for these uplifting stories about what you can still do to still feel like part of a community while yours sitting alone in your house or like in your backyard or only being able to take walks around your neighborhood.

[00:33:10] And so that year, especially, we actually had a ton of traditional media who was really interested in the city nature challenge. I think locally people are great at reaching out to their own local, media sources.

[00:33:20] But that was the year that we got a lot more kind of like big national coverage of the city nature challenge when people really were looking for those stories that they can tell about how you can still go out and do things and be part of something, even when you’re by yourself, in your house.

[00:33:34] Michael: Yeah, and oh, we need more of those stories. Even now. I think positive community stories like this, there’s no politics in this. It’s just, going out and having fun and learning from each other.

[00:33:47] Alison: Being together while we’re still

[00:33:49] Michael: Yeah. I’m curious, you started to touch a little bit on what it takes to make a good observation. And I know there’s always a balance here because you want to make it a frictionless easy process for people, but it’s still community science.

[00:34:02] So you want it to be useful. Do you have any suggestions or tips or pointers to resources for those who may be interested in optimizing a bit more?

[00:34:11] Alison: . I naturalist itself already has a bunch of little short videos on . How do you make good observations? How do you take good photos? Things like that. So I would point people there to start off with, you know, for the city nature challenge itself. We really try to get people to focus on the wild nature.

[00:34:25] That’s an inner around our cities. And so although documenting things in your backyard is totally fine and it’s a great way to learn how to use the app. Like we always tell folks like, Hey, try to look for those weeds that are like growing in between those beautiful flowers that you planted, or like the insects that are visiting those flowers that you planted.

[00:34:40] Things like that as well. For this immediate challenge itself, I would say, try to focus on kind of those wild organisms that you can find out there in nature as well. But then yeah. Th the main thing that we always tell folks is especially now that I, naturals has such great artificial intelligence, is that, you don’t need to know what it is.

[00:34:56] You’re taking a photo of what you need to be able to do is to say this thing looks different than this thing. So I’m going to take pictures of both of them, but then you also have to take a good enough photo. That the artificial intelligence and then someone else natural is can also identify what it is that you saw.

[00:35:10] And so our general tips are to like, try to have just that one thing in the photo, as much as you can, like really zoom in on that one thing. There is the option that if it, if that first photo comes out, blurry, use that retry option to take another photo. And then the fact that you can take multiple photos of things, if you see an interesting tree, like by all means get a full photo of that tree, but realize it’s hard to ID a tree from just one big photo of it, right? Like then get in close and take a photo of the leaves or the bark or whatever it is that you see that seems like it makes that thing.

[00:35:40] Interesting. Try to get those features in photos as well.

[00:35:44] Michael: Yeah, that’s a good point. And I’ve learned the lesson the hard way, many times thinking that, oh yeah, here’s a flower. All I need is a picture of the flower. Then I get home and I start researching and then, oh, there’s six different species that produce a very similar flower. So I really needed to get the.

[00:35:59] Alison: if you had just taken a photo of the underside of the flower yeah. You could’ve figured out what species it was. Exactly.

[00:36:06] Michael: Yeah. And so there’s no limit to the number of photos you can submit. And that’s what if I have the time and I’m thinking straight on the moment, and then it’s okay well, I’ll get the upper side and the underside of the leaf and the bark and the, the growth pattern and whatever you know is interesting.

[00:36:23] One tip. I give people on the photography side that seems to help a lot is when you’re taking a picture of a plant, you have all these sticks and leaves and the camera doesn’t always know where to focus and putting your hand behind it shields the background, the distractions that trick your camera into focusing on the wrong thing.

[00:36:40] So that’s a simple little trick to getting photos and it doesn’t hurt the AI algorithm at all, doing that.

[00:36:48] Alison: No it’s good to teach. The AI had to distinguish between a human hand. And I think you’re actually taking that photo of right. So the more photos it gets, the more it gets better and telling the, telling those things apart.

[00:36:58] Michael: Exactly and people that have listened to my podcast for awhile, they know I’m a huge advocate of the habitat in your own backyard. And you mentioned, you can’t go in your backyard, you can look for the insects, the weeds, things like that. And I would even go a step further and say, If you look closely enough, you’ll probably find like rust fungus on your plants or a what’s another good example, lichen growing on an old tree or, something like that.

[00:37:23] There’s a lot of interesting discoveries even in your own yard.

[00:37:26] Alison: Yeah. Or if you have flowerpot sitting on the ground, look under those flowerpots and you never know, like what little interesting things might be and growing underneath those services or living underneath those surfaces, and. What does it, especially during 2020, when people really could only be in their backyard, we also were really encouraging folks.

[00:37:42] And you mentioned this earlier is to like, yeah, put a light out at night and see what Moz and other insects you attract to that light at night time. Because the great thing is a lot of times they get attracted to that light and then they just sit there. So it’s actually relatively easy to take photos of as well.

[00:37:56] So now thinking about moth lighting at night is another great thing to do in your own bedroom.

[00:38:00] Michael: Yeah, and that’s a wonderful. Ecology lesson right there too. As we’ve learned more about what lights, what light pollution does to to insects and animals, you can ask the question. If you have kids or whoever’s participating, why is that moth not leaving? And what’s the impact to its life. If we leave this light on all night, and you can start to realize the connection now of oh yeah, .

[00:38:22] Nighttime lighting is a problem for a lot of insects, too. In this case, using it to your advantage to learn a bit though.

[00:38:29] Alison: Exactly. And then you can turn that light off and they’ll fly away.

[00:38:32] Michael: All right. So we talked a little bit about how people can participate, even if they’re not in a city. What about those who maybe are in a climate or a latitude where the timing is still not great for them?

[00:38:44] Do they have alternatives? What do you say to them?

[00:38:46] Alison: Yeah, every year we get that question. I think this is the nature. We should have this nature challenge in June because my area is still has snow in April. And, or like the farther south you get, we have people who are like, why don’t we do it a little earlier. Things are already drying out here in June and then our poor Southern hemisphere folks.

[00:39:01] So we’re like, it’s the fall for us? This would be great if we could do this in November when it’s our spring. And like what Lila and I often say. If we had unlimited resources and unlimited staff, and this was our only job we, a hundred percent would hold like rolling city nature challenges that like we’re perfect for different latitudes throughout the year.

[00:39:19] But right now we’ve landed on this. Last weekend in April, going into the beginning of may, just because it does seem to work for a lot of our cities, like a big majority of our cities, a lot of our cities in places where the timing isn’t ideal, especially our Northern latitudes cities where there’s literally been snow storms during the city nature challenge.

[00:39:37] A lot of them have really embraced it as Jumping off point for getting people ready to , do more nature documentation as they move more into their spring and into their summer. So they’re celebrating Hey, the winter is almost done. Let’s get out and do what we can right now.

[00:39:51] And then they actually, a lot of our organizers will hold more events. As they move into better times for documenting nature in those areas and down in the Southern hemisphere directly because of the city nature challenge. There’s some folks in Australia now who organized the great Southern BioBlitz.

[00:40:06] And that does happen. I think it’s November or maybe, but basically during their spring they have a similar issue to the city nature challenge, but they basically organize across the Southern hemisphere, away for people to get involved during their spring.

[00:40:19] And they have a little competition between other, Southern hemisphere countries.

[00:40:23] Michael: I’m glad you brought that up. I know I have a few listeners in Australia, so I’ll make sure that I find a link for that too, to include in the show notes. And yeah, I guess the other thing too, when thinking about places that maybe you still have snow or it’s earlier in their season, and there’s not much leafing out yet, there’s not a lot to see.

[00:40:41] And I guess if you have, you can treat that like a challenge because there is actually a lot you can see and I think. When you start looking, you find that there is more than you realize there are insects that will come out on really cold days on the snow part of their life cycle, might include walking on snow.

[00:41:02] So with good organization and a little bit of research, you might be surprised what you can find. And it may be rare things because people aren’t necessarily looking at that time of year.

[00:41:10] Alison: Yeah, totally. Especially our Northern latitude organizers have been like, so great about that. Where they will still organize events where like people who are, who think that there’s nothing out there right now. Like why are we doing this? That people can actually still come and they’ll have, those naturalists out there helping to lead events and actually showing look what we can find this year.

[00:41:28] And if we look under here’s things that are still around, and moving, even though it’s so cold outside. And you know, I think. One of the other, reasons that we really love, although we know it’s not perfect for everyone having just this one weekend is the fact that we are all doing this together.

[00:41:40] So like from those places that might still be in the snow, like all the way down to the equator, where it’s warm and sunny and super hot during the city nature challenge all the way down to the Southern hemisphere where it’s it’s literally fall for them. It’s, there’s something really lovely and really special about all of us doing it together.

[00:41:56] Even if it’s not ideal for everybody. Yeah. Especially as we lean more and more into the collaborative nature of the city nature challenge that I think is the really beautiful thing about it is that we’re doing this altogether. You’re like building your local community.

[00:42:08] You get to meet other people in your region that are interested in nature. And then in the same time, you’re like we’re becoming hotter, this global community of all of us doing it together and connecting with each other on a naturalist and, just building kind of a larger community around the world of people who are interested in.

[00:42:22] Michael: That’s a great point. Keep in mind what the goal of the city nature challenge is. It’s not necessarily to get all the species and I don’t know, my mind keeps going back to getting species though. And I was going to add one other tidbit to remind everybody of. That’s you can report evidence of an organism as well.

[00:42:38] It doesn’t have to be the live organisms. So if it’s a tree where a bear likes to scratch or footprints in the snow or whatever, the case might be a gall on an Oak tree from last year, those all count to. Yeah. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you about this. I’m excited to participate myself. I’m already thinking about how I can clear out my work schedule to get a few more hours of observation in this year.

[00:43:03] Can you remind me of the dates for for the city nature challenge? I know you said it earlier, but just one more reminder for.

[00:43:09] Alison: Yeah, of course. So for going out and making observations, it literally starts like at 12:01 AM your time on April 29th, that Friday and goes all the way, basically up until midnight, 11:59 PM. Your time on Monday, May 2nd.

[00:43:25] Michael: Great. And then the week after that is the focused effort to help identify. What’s been.

[00:43:32] Alison: Yeah. Because we have such avid participants, we kept hearing like back in the day, when we used to finish the city nature challenge and then report the results immediately, people were just like one, we want more time to go through everyone’s observations and try to ID these things down to species and to especially people who take a lot of photos.

[00:43:50] With real cameras and not just their phone, people who really needed more time to actually go through their photos and upload them and get them into iNaturalist before we announced the results as well. So yeah, we have a week now basically where people can spend time identifying there’s people, lots of organizers now hold identification parties during that week to where you can get together with other people and try to help ID things.

[00:44:09] And then also at that time to get everything uploaded and it’s Your observations are uploaded and iNaturalist or whatever platform your city is using by 9:00 AM your time on Monday, May 9th. That’s when we pull the results. So , your observations will be part of the results. As long as they’re in there by then.

[00:44:26] So may, May 9th is when we announced.

[00:44:28] Michael: That’s another great way to participate too, is helping with identification after the fact, especially if you’re knowledgeable about a specific tax there’s a lot of aspects of eye naturalists that are under. Under re maybe not underrepresented, but under identified where I know that there are experts out there that could really help fill in some of those gaps.

[00:44:46] Alison: Yeah. Like X experts totally help. But we also like to really emphasize the fact that even if you’re not an expert, a lot of people maybe just like you who are not experts when they upload things to iNaturalist, sometimes they’ll leave the species totally blank. And so they get uploaded as unknowns, or they might say.

[00:45:02] This is a plant or I know that this is a bird, so even if you have one step below that, if you were able to tell that this is a grass, or like this is a Astor ACA for plants, or you would have taken those unknowns. That’s actually a really easy thing for anybody to do is go through those unknown observations that get uploaded and say, this is a plant.

[00:45:21] This is a bird. This is. And then those people who know their plants and their birds and their insects, and actually find that observation and idea as well. So yeah, although expert identification really helps with those trickier taxa and things that we don’t have as much, identification representation of on eye naturalists, that there is a role for everybody to play in helping to identify as.

[00:45:40] Michael: Absolutely. I don’t, I didn’t do a great job characterizing it because the other thing I was going to say is you can learn a lot just by trying to help in the identification process. I’m probably not really an expert in any specific area, but by doing this in the past, I can, now there’s one fruit fly that I can identify really well.

[00:45:59] And so every little bit helps. I suppose

[00:46:02] Alison: for sure.

[00:46:02] Michael: this we need more people like you out there that are passionate advocates for nature and organizing people to do this. It’s been really enlightening to hear about how the. All come to be. And I think that this is a good lead into one of the questions I’d like to ask a lot of my guests basically essentially tying into how did you get here, but was there thinking back like a top of head event or encounter, or maybe a book or meeting somebody that really stands out as escalating your interest in nature and the environment.

[00:46:33] Alison: Yeah. When I was thinking about this, I, again, I can’t point to one specific event, but , there’s definitely a period in my life where kind of a couple of things came together that really kinda got me. The nature and really thinking about what I can do personally, to help, protect and conserve and, make things better for the natural world, which is that when I was in college I read it, it was published and printed at the time.

[00:46:55] Like when I was in college, David Coleman’s book on island biogeography song of the Dodo. So I had read that and got really interested in island biogeography. And then my. First semester, my junior year, me and a whole bunch of my friends decided to go study abroad. But where I went to study abroad was actually Vancouver island.

[00:47:14] So I went to Canada to study abroad, which was always very funny for people like who went to like much farther away places. But I found a program that I was really interested in doing. Coastal ecology and coastal resources, but not just looking at the science side, like actually thinking about the human uses of these resources and the economic side.

[00:47:32] And so I already had island biogeography on my mind and then to go up there and be really immersed in the log-in controversies that were happening up there were clear cuts were still happening. And at the same time in California, where I was from that was the same time.

[00:47:47] I don’t know if any, remember, maybe I’m dating myself, but Julia butterfly hill was living up in a Redwood to try to keep people from cutting it down. Like a huge old growth standard redwoods. And. It was so all those things coming together where I had just really read this book that had really gotten me thinking about like the harm that, of fracturing our ecosystems can do.

[00:48:06] And like, to be in a place where I could see this like really active logging and the.

[00:48:10] harm It was doing. And at the same time having this big fight for the protection of old growth redwoods happening in the place that I was from at the same time, like really got me thinking about Not only what’s my role in helping to protect and steward the natural world, but also really put me on the career path that I was on today.

[00:48:26] Michael: It sounds like it tied so many different things together for you. And I love the idea of island biogeography because that’s that’s a natural experiment, you know, that. Used to show so many different mechanisms and processes in nature and ecology and having all that come together.

[00:48:43] Yeah. Perfect

[00:48:44] Alison: Yeah. Just thinking about how we were creating our own little islands of forest by cutting, just like all of that really came together for me at

[00:48:50] Michael: connectivity in isolation and yeah. All of

[00:48:53] Alison: Yeah.

[00:48:53] Michael: Wow. So do you have any other projects or upcoming events that you’d like to talk about or highlight.

[00:49:01] Alison: Yeah. I would love for anyone who might be listening in California where I am is that we do our department at the Cal academy. We do a similar event to the city nature challenge, but we do it for the California coast every year. And depending on where you are, if you’re like, oh, my city is not taking part this year, but I’m really still be interested.

[00:49:19] Or maybe if going out to the tide pool sounds way more interesting to you than, hunting around your urban areas for nature. That the, in June of every year we hold what we call snapshot Cal coast, which is basically trying to create a snapshot of coastal biodiversity along the California coastline.

[00:49:35] With people, with everybody, anyone who’s interested in helping us every year. And that will be coming up in June this year. There’s great, low tides, early morning, low tide. So you gotta be willing to get up early if you want to go out to those tide pools. But we also were interested in, what people are finding on beaches That people are finding in dunes, what people are finding in your local estuary, things like that as well.

[00:49:53] And so similar to Sydney, Aisha challenge, but really focused on the California.

[00:49:58] Michael: That sounds really interesting. How long has this been going on?

[00:50:00] Alison: So interestingly enough, snapshot, Cal coast also started in 2016. That was like our year of spinning up these big scale bioblitzes, apparently. We make Snapchat Cal coast though, two weeks long. So people have lots of opportunities to go out during those low tides or not during those low tides to get out to their coastline and document their local coastal biotin.

[00:50:18] Michael: Sounds great. And I’ll hopefully the timing and June will work and I can actually participate.

[00:50:23] Alison: Yeah.

[00:50:24] Michael: Okay. So if people want to follow you or your work on social media or the city nature challenge for that matter you mentioned the website earlier, but can you give a few pointers as to where people can go.

[00:50:35] Alison: For the city nature challenge we are on Twitter. CIT Nat challenge. Cause city nature challenge is too long for a Twitter handle. So it’s sitting at challenge and we just started an Instagram account too. So that’s another good place to look for us. And on my own personal accounts I do a lot of posting of tide pools and noodle breaks, especially.

[00:50:57] So if that’s of interest to you I’m Alison Kestrel on Twitter and on Instagram.

[00:51:03] Michael: Nice. And are you on I naturalists then too? I assume.

[00:51:06] Alison: I am on I naturalist as Kestrel.

[00:51:09] Michael: Yeah, because I think that’s a under utilized feature and I naturalist you can actually follow interesting people and see what they’re posting and seeing which can be really cool. Especially if you find someone who knows where to find interesting things.

[00:51:21] Alison: Exactly. Yeah. I definitely follow some interesting folks on I naturalist.

[00:51:25] Michael: All right. Alison, this has been a lot of fun. I really appreciate your enthusiasm and knowledge in this space and all the hard work you do. I imagine the next couple of months are going to. Quite busy for you. So thank you for carving out the time to talk to me today.

[00:51:38] Alison: No problem. Happy to do it. Thank you so much for having me.

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