RGV to compete in worldwide nature challenge

With the upcoming BioBlitz, or City Nature Challenge, the entire Rio Grande Valley has the opportunity to be recognized on a global level for its ecological diversity. Better yet, all are invited to participate.

The initiative backed by the local chapter of Texas Parks and Wildlife and surrounding nature centers.

All that’s needed to submit photos captured — of any plant, bird or otherwise wildlife species — are a camera and Internet access, or simply the iNaturalist app available for download on smartphones.

The three-day challenge kicks off Friday; winners in the categories of participating population, species diversity and number of logins will be announced Friday, May 4.

Dozens of cities across six continents will be participating. With the amount of ecological diversity of South Texas, and with enough active participants, Elizabeth Perdomo, Texas Master Naturalist and vice president of the South Texas Border Chapter, is confident the Valley will be recognized.

“One of the reasons we want to do this is to show off our special area and encourage its preservation,” she said. “We have so many native birds that aren’t found anywhere else in the U.S.”

According to Perdomo, 97 percent of the region’s native habitat has been lost to man-made developments.

By partaking in the nature challenge, members of Texas Parks and Wildlife are hoping to inspire the community to replant some of what has been stripped away and forgotten.

This activity is perfect for all ages, said Perdomo, whether “6-years-old or 90,” and can be done in one’s own backyard or a public park.

Among the most populous plant and animal species of the Valley are the Texas prickly pear cactus and green jay. Regardless of how many people upload a photo of either, they will be tallied for the total number of submissions.

Local wildlife conservatories are also assembling teams throughout the weekend to contribute toward the effort.

Saturday, Quinta Mazatlán in McAllen will host a “Mini BioBlitz” led by Urban Ecologist John Brush. As a precursor, an introduction to iNaturalist program was hosted last week.

The nature center will be providing a few handheld cameras for public use, but encourages visitors take their own.

Even if the photographer can identify the living organism, the photo may still be submitted and will be identified by a team of scientists and experts.

Brush has made use of the app himself, citing an instance in which he uploaded a photo of a beetle, unsure of its complete classification. It was fully identified by one of the app’s users from Germany.

Whether or not the Valley takes a win, Perdomo encourages this be taken as an opportunity to “just get out and enjoy nature.”

To find out more, visit inaturalist.com.

rvillalobos@themonitor.com