Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the LA BioBlitz Challenge?

​This challenge in the City of Los Angeles engages participants in fun, interactive activities to observe, photograph and map animals, insects and plants around their homes, neighborhoods, parks, hiking trails and other natural areas using the iNaturalist app to enhance their awareness and connection to the city’s biodiversity.

Who is sponsoring the challenge?

Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is partnering with L.A. Sanitation & Environment (Department of Public Works), L.A. Recreation & Parks, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to support the city’s current and future strategies and indices for protecting urban biodiversity in the City of Los Angeles consistent with the international Convention on Biological Diversity.

Why is the challenge important?

The goal is to enumerate the city’s existing native biodiversity (indicator species), reduce the white colored cold spots (no data) on the observation heat map, increase the health and wellness benefits residents obtain from ecosystems provided by biodiversity, and promote an understanding of urban biodiversity’s connection to the ecosystem.

Where is the challenge being held?

Participants can make observations and take photographs of animals, insects and plants anywhere in the City of Los Angeles. Please be mindful to not disturb or touch any of the wildlife and ensure your safety.

What is the cost of participating in the challenge?

There is no cost to participate in the challenge, only the opportunity to learn about our interconnectedness with wildlife and the environment.



How can I join the LA BioBlitz Challenge?

Start by downloading the iNaturalist app from Google Play or the App Store and create an account. Watch the video tutorial to learn how to record your first observation. Familiarize yourself with the challenge indicator species we would like you to photograph, and look for them around the city. Visit white colored cold spots (no data) on the observation heat map and record your observations to help researchers understand which species live there.

What if I want to use just a digital camera?

You can upload pictures from your digital camera using the iNaturalist Upload feature, you can then drop a map pin to indicate where you made the observation.

Can I participate in the challenge if I do not have a camera or mobile device?

Yes, you can participate by visiting any LAPL location and request to have a game card printed out at the reference desk. You may also download a PDF of the game card on the BioBlitz Challenge webpage. Just check off the species you observed on the game card or write down the species you saw if it is not on the list. You can turn in your game card with your observations at an LAPL location or fill out the online completion form.



When is the challenge being held?

Observations can begin on Sunday, October 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m. PDT. The challenge ends Tuesday, October 31, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.

The important dates are:

  • Saturday, November 4, 2023 is the last day to submit your observations on an LA BioBlitz Challenge game card at an LAPL location or online completion form.

  • We will announce the winner of the opportunity drawing on November 7. Winners will be notified by phone and/or email.

When will the results of the challenge be available?

The results will be published on the LA BioBlitz Challenge webpage in mid-November.



What kinds of observations should I make during the LA BioBlitz Challenge?

Make observations and share pictures of any wild (non-cultivated or non-captive) animals, insects and plants. We need your help to observe, photograph, and upload at least 10 observations to iNaturalist, including three or more of the indicator species and at least one observation in a data cold spot. Do your best to take good pictures of the species you observe!

What if I am not sure the picture I took is one of the indicator species? How do my observations get identified?

You don’t have to know what species it is – you just need to take a clear photo. Here are the ways you can get your observations identified:

  1. iNaturalist’s built-in Computer Vision/Artificial Intelligence will provide suggestions about what it thinks you took a picture of.

  2. Once you upload your picture, it can be seen by the entire iNaturalist community. The community can agree with the ID you made or clarify the ID to specify the species level or correct a mis-identification.

iNaturalist says it is for ages 13+, but I am under 13. Can I still participate?

You can invite your parents or guardian to download the iNaturalist app to participate in the challenge with you. You can also upload and share your pictures using the anonymous observation form on LAPL’s Neighborhood Science website. Be sure to select the project “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” on the form and move the map pin to indicate where the observation was made.

I am using a school-provided device and I am not allowed to download any apps. How can I participate?

You can request to have a game card printed out at the reference desk of any LAPL location, or you may download a PDF of the game card on the BioBlitz Challenge webpage. Alternatively, you may upload and share your photos using the anonymous observation form on LAPL’s Neighborhood Science website. Be sure to select the project “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” on the form and move the map pin to indicate where the observation was made.



What are some tips for taking photos?

  • Focus on one species in each photo: As much as possible, try to have the one species you are interested in as the focus of your photo, and center your species in the frame.

  • Use the option to have multiple photos in one observation: On iNaturalist, you can have more than one photograph for each observation you make, allowing you to photograph different parts or angles of a species. For example, one photograph of an entire bush of a plant, taken from far away, won’t be very useful in identifying that species of tree, but combining that “full shot” photo with other photos that show close-ups of the leaves, the stems and any flowers or fruits, will allow that plant to be identified.

  • Discard blurry photographs and use the option to retake photos when making observations. If the species moved or there is low light, wait for the species to be still or turn on your flash to retake the photo. On iNaturalist, the app will show you the photo you took and ask you if you want to retry or if you are okay with the photo. You can also opt to take photos on your phone and upload the best ones to the iNaturalist app after the fact.

  • Get close when possible and be safe: For small species in particular, getting a nice close-up shot is important for identification. While it can be difficult to take a good close-up shot using the camera of a smartphone, these days there are inexpensive clip-on macro or telephoto lenses you can use with your phone to take great, focused pictures of species that are small or far away.



How do I submit my LA BioBlitz Challenge game card with observations for the prize drawing?

You can turn in your game card at any one of our LAPL locations. You can also fill out an online completion form.

How many opportunities can I get for the prize drawing?

You earn one opportunity for the drawing by making and sharing at least 10 observations with three being indicator species. You can earn one extra chance for any observation made in a white colored cold spot (no data) on the observation heat map.

When and where will the prize drawing take place?

The drawing will take place in-house on November 6, 2023. Winners will be notified by phone and/or email.



Why should I look for these indicator species?

Indicator species serve as a measure of the environmental conditions that exist in a given locale. They are used to monitor changes in our environment or how well an impaired environment is being managed or restored. When indicator species are present, it typically means there is a high quality habitat.

Why are photos necessary?

The photos you take provide evidence of the species you saw and help confirm the identification of that species. Taking good photos is vital to supporting the research!

What will the data be used for?

Data from iNaturalist is public and available to download for free. iNaturalist observations are used in scientific publications around the world. Ultimately, we envision that the data from LA BioBlitz Challenge will be used by local researchers and local governments to make more informed decisions for sustainable development.

How do I get research grade observations on iNaturalist?

To get an observation to “research grade” status: (1) it must have a photo, (2) it must have an accurate date and location, (3) it cannot be a captive or cultivated organism, and (4) over 2/3rds of the people adding IDs to it have to agree about what species it is. It is key to check back on your observations after you make them to see if anyone has added an identification or left a comment, possibly asking you to provide a bit more information about what you saw. Visit iNaturalist’s Help page to learn more about research grade observations.

Do my observations have to get to a research grade to count for the LA Bioblitz Challenge?

No, your casual observations are counted as well.


My Account

Do I need to join the LA BioBlitz Challenge project and add my observations to it for them to be included?

Yes. To make sure your observations are included in the challenge and the observation heat map, please join the “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” project on iNaturalist. You will get notifications about news posts, and your observations will be recorded.

How do I join the LA BioBlitz Challenge project on iNaturalist?

  1. Tap the ellipsis (three dots) on the menu bar at the bottom of your screen to locate “Projects”.

  2. Tap the “Nearby” button on the search bar at the top of your screen, then tap the magnifying glass icon.

  3. Type “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” and click “Search”.

  4. Look for and tap the icon with a green camera.

  5. On the “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” project, tap the “Join” button on the search bar under the project name.

  6. When the “Join” button changes to “Leave”, you are confirmed to be a member of the LA Bioblitz Challenge.

How can I make sure my observations are in the LA BioBlitz Challenge project?

When using iNaturalist app, you can check if your observations are included by following the steps below to look for your iNaturalist account name:

  1. Tap the ellipsis (three dots) on the menu bar at the bottom of your screen to locate “Projects.”

  2. On the “Projects” screen, tap the “Joined” button under the search bar.

  3. Locate and tap the “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” project.

  4. Tap “Observers” in the menu, and look for your name.

You can also tap the “Observation” you submitted, then tap “Edit” on the upper right to open the “Details” screen. Tap “Projects” and see if “LA BioBlitz Challenge 2023” is listed on the “Choose Projects” screen. As long as you have the project listed, and if your observations meet the required criteria (i.e., good enough photo for identification), it will be included in the LA BioBlitz Challenge and observation heat map.

Where can I see how we are doing?

The LA BioBlitz Challenge webpage includes the observation heat map, and it will be updated after the challenge. Participants can see real-time data on the iNaturist project page, including the number of participants and observations.

I took so many photos during the LA BioBlitz Challenge that there is no way I can get them all uploaded before the end of the day on October 31 – what should I do?

You can still upload the photos to iNaturalist after October 31 as they can still contribute to biodiversity science. However, they will not be officially counted as part of the prize drawings for the LA BioBlitz Challenge.

Can I use the Seek app by iNaturalist app to make observations?

Yes, but you must login with your iNaturalist account to link the Seek app to iNaturalist. This will allow you to post the observations captured using Seek to iNaturalist and ensure they are included in the LA BioBlitz Challenge and observation heat map.

Where can I share my LA BioBlitz Challenge observations on social media?

You can share with us at: @lapubliclibrary and @LACitySan, and tag your post with #LABioBlitz. We encourage you to share your observations on your social media accounts so you can also spread the word about the challenge with your followers.