When I give presentations about my job, I mention a new kind of ecosystem. Sure, there are deserts, rainforests, forests, prairies, etc… There’s a “new” kind of ecosystem, and many of us are a part of it. This is the urban ecosystem. This website and blog is devoted to the awareness and appreciation of the other organisms that live with us and around us, and I’ve been finding out just how diverse it is!
Some of you know me as “sambiology” on iNaturalist. Truth be told, I do have a slight addiction to the tool of iNaturalist. Honestly, I deeply believe in it as a way to engage the public with nature. I think learning the name of an organism is the first step in appreciating it. With iNaturalist, I have learned the names of a ridiculous amount of critters and plants that live in the DFW metroplex. As I go outside, I feel like an explorer entering a new terrain to see things that I’ve not seen before.
I’m not alone in this venture either. On iNaturalist, 2615 citizen scientists have documented around 4800 species in over 125,000 observations in Dallas/Fort Worth! That’s phenomenal. In the DFW urban wildlife project, nearly 3000 animal species have been documented by over 2200 people with over 80,000 observations.
It is truly inspirational to see this kind of project grow exponentially. I’ve been fortunate to meet many of these citizen scientists in person, and it’s a lovely experience to meet my fellow explorers. In my biased opinion, this is the kind of thing that can change the world. I really believe this! Documenting, appreciating, and protecting the wildlife in the urban ecosystem is important – iNaturalist is a tool that can guide us in this mission.
One of my favorite things about iNaturalist is the ability to live vicariously through other people’s adventures. I get to see what others see through their observations. I do try to help in the identifications of some of these things (plug: we need help with this! Check out the ‘identify’ page if you’d like to help — iNaturalist > Identify. I especially enjoy seeing some of the obscure insects and little plants that people notice. When I’m outside, I try to change my perspective to focus on these little organisms. It’s great fun.
As an urban biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m quite fortunate to present to various groups, guide management decisions, and conduct a touch of research. My main focus is the biodiversity in the urban ecosystem, and especially how many organisms exist in Dallas/Fort Worth. So, we’re joining in an exciting challenge along with some other cities in the United States. How many species exist in our city? How many citizen scientists care to document these species in our city?
On April 14 – 18, all observations made within the Dallas/Fort Worth region will count to this challenge. Please join me in documenting as many of our neighboring species. If you’d like to join some fellow explorers, there are quite a few events going on during this weekend. Check out the journal entry here if you’d like to know more: City Nature Challenge 2017 Dallas/Fort Worth. You don’t have to go to any of these events to participate though. Any and all observations that you make anywhere in DFW on April 14 – 18 will count!
Most of all, I hope you regularly take the chance to go outside and enjoy the urban wildlife all around us. As far as I know, we’re the only species that has to ability to actively appreciate other species. Let do this. 🙂