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The City Journals

Taylorsville Library patrons find, photograph bugs as part of worldwide contest

May 20, 2019 01:59PM ● By Carl Fauver

This young bug hunter, Peter, netted something called a moth pupa outside the Taylorsville Library as part of the worldwide City Nature Challenge (Elizabeth Weaver/Taylorsville Library)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

For the record, our local team lost to London and Tokyo, but we beat Buenos Aires and Indianapolis. And there’s always next year!

Cities across the globe competed this spring in something called the City Nature Challenge 2019. Locally, the competing “city” included residents of seven northern Utah counties: Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, Utah and Weber.

The contest required participants to observe and photograph any living thing: animals, plants, bugs, fish, mold, whatever.

“This is a way to get people who are interested in our living world active in observing it more closely,” said Natural History Museum of Utah Exhibit Developer and Interpretive Planner Lisa Thompson. “This is only the fourth year of the challenge and only the second year it was international. We are excited the staff at the Taylorsville Library wanted to become involved.”

Taylorsville Youth Services Librarian Shelly Ward said she learned about the challenge during a librarians’ meeting and quickly volunteered her branch to host the culminating party for the four-day challenge, called the “City Nature Challenge 2019 BioBlitz.”

“We were excited to be a part of it because it was a wonderful way to take advantage of the green space outside our library,” Ward said. “It was a great way to get people out of their house and to enjoy some of our fun trails and the park right outside our doors.”

Parents and kids who attended the three-hour event were armed with nets to try to capture bugs and insects. Those who found something unusual showed their find to NHMU Entomology & Malacology Collections Manager Christy Bills, who was on hand to help identify species.

Participants in the challenge were instructed to download the iNaturalist app to their phone, take pictures and then upload the photos to the app. Naturalists then worked to identify each species.

All of that was probably too technical for the youngsters on hand at the BioBlitz, but organizers said they were happy to be outdoors with their parents, running around with nets.

Utah Natural History Museum Entomology & Malacology Collections Manager Christy Bills participated in the educational iNaturalist event outside the Taylorsville Library. (Elizabeth Weaver/Taylorsville Library)

A year ago, a Sandy family made a very rare find, which the experts later identified as a Megalepthyphantes nebulosus spider. 

“We took the photo in our backyard shed at night after putting our kids to sleep,” Heather McEntire said. “We just went out to see if we could find anything different in the dark.”

The McEntires found the challenge to be a great way to entertain and educate their children. 

“We have always loved being outside but couldn't put any real names to the birds, insects and spiders we saw,” Heather McEntire said. “With the iNaturalist community giving identifications to our pictures, we quickly learned the common names of the creatures in our area. It was so nice to hear my young children say, ‘Look Mom, that's a mourning dove.’ I really believe so many of our children today have a nature deficit. This was an opportunity to help immerse them in their local environment.”

It would seem the McEntires’ attitude is contagious because participation growth in the City Nature Challenge has been rapid.

“The challenge began with just the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco competing against each other in 2016,” Thompson said. “In 2017, it was expanded to include the entire United States. This is only the second year for the City Nature Challenge to be a worldwide event.”

A comparison of the numbers in those two years quickly shows how it is gaining in popularity.

2018: 8,600 species found by 17,000 observers, with a total of 441,000 observations.

2019: 28,000 species found by 31,800 observers, with a total of 816,000 observations.

“I’m glad I learned about the challenge and also glad we were given the opportunity to host the BioBlitz,” Ward said. “We are always looking for fun activities for our patrons.”

To learn more about the City Nature Challenge, visit www.iNaturalist.org. To learn more about other activities at the Salt Lake County Library Taylorsville branch, visit www.slcolibrary.org/gl/glal/libraryTaylorsville.