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Fairfax County Park Authority celebrates biodiversity with City Nature Challenge

Starting next week, Fairfax County will join hundreds of cities across the world in documenting local wildlife for the annual City Nature Challenge.

The Fairfax County Park Authority will participate in the challenge this year as part of the Washington Metro area’s team, which includes 14 Northern Virginia counties, five counties in Maryland, D.C., and Jefferson County, West Virginia.

“The ultimate goal of the challenge is to get citizens outside observing nature,” Tammy Schwab, FCPA manager of education and outreach for the resource parks, said. “We love to know folks are enjoying the parks  as that is why we are working hard to preserve these natural resources. We want to share them for the enjoyment and health of the citizens.”

Started in 2016 as a competition initially just between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the City Nature Challenge has evolved into a global event where participants race to find the most plant and animal species in their environment.

Last year’s contest yielded 32,000 species from more than 815,000 observations, according to the City Nature Challenge website.

Organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, this year’s competition will begin on April 30 at 12:01 a.m. local time and conclude on May 3 at 11:59 p.m.

Participants can upload their findings to the free iNaturalist app, and the specimen will be identified through crowdsourcing. Results will be announced on May 10.

Schwab says that, as a zoologist, she enjoys getting to review and identify the many species sent in during the challenge.

“There are lots of side benefits for the parks as the data collected in the parks can help us improve our resource management efforts, and we get to work with partners across the region like the Fairfax Master Naturalist,” Schwab said.

As part of this year’s challenge, the Fairfax County Park Authority will help local Girls Scout troops get involved. Schwab will host a free online program tonight (Wednesday) from 7 to 8 p.m. for scout leaders who want their troops to participate in the City Nature Challenge.

More information on how to sign up, opportunities to volunteer, and other contest information can be found on the FCPA and City Nature Challenge websites.

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