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UMass Amherst Libraries

City Nature Challenge: Pioneer Valley

Information and resources on the Pioneer Valley's participation in the 2020 international City Nature Challenge community and citizen science ecology event.

Be In the Right Place at the Right Time

The City Nature Challenge 2022 will take place from April 29 - May 2.  Only observations taken on those 4 days will be counted.
 - We do get an additional 6 days, May 3 - May 8, to add any photos taken during the Observation days to iNaturalist.  We also have these days to add IDs to observations to bring them up to Research Grade!

The Pioneer Valley is defined as Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties in Massachusetts.  Only observations taken within these geographic boundaries will be counted.

Stay Safe and Healthy!

Please follow all of the recommendations of your area for avoiding COVID-19!  Massachusetts lifted the mask mandate in March but many towns have individual guidelines.  Even without a mandate, please stay safe and consider wearing a mask and social distancing when around folks with unknown vaccination and exposure status.

Some tips for staying safe while taking observations include:

  • Go on walks with household members only - those you are not practicing social distancing with.
    • You can try to remain 6 feet apart from friends during a walk but it is very hard not to come close to look at what they find!
  • Bring your face mask, even if you are only planning on being with your household.
    • You may encounter others on a hike and be unable to pass each other with 6 feet in between.
  • Do not share binoculars or other tools (even if it's to see a really cool thing!).
    • If it touches your skin or you breathe on it while using it, it is not safe to share without a thorough antiseptic wipe down.

Keep in mind the virtual social options available!

  • Coordinate with a friend to hike separate paths but call or chat each other to compare observations.
  • Video call to share the summit or when you're taking a break - don't hike and watch a video screen at the same time!
  • Meet up after the walk to compare iNaturalist observations and see if you can confirm each others' species.

Step 1: Observe


Find any WILD plant, animal, or fungus in your backyard, campus, sidewalk cracks, mountain paths, river banks - anywhere in the Pioneer Valley.  Please avoid landscaped areas planted by people, pets, zoos, etc.

Step 2: Document


Be sure to record where you were when you took the picture - the iNaturalist app and most smartphone cameras do this automatically.  Remember, only observations in the three counties will count!

The iNaturalist app also combines step 3 and 4 (below) in with this step.

*Birdcalls that are unique to a species also count.  As well as pictures of evidence of species, such as distinctive tracks and shed feathers.

Step 3: Upload


Upload your findings to iNaturalist, through the app on your phone or in a browser on your computer at 

This way all of the participating cities have an easy way to compare our results.

Step 4: ID Species


Identify the species of observations collected during the first phase of the challenge online at iNaturalist.  Try to stick to the ones from the Pioneer Valley!