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Fairfield County residents participate in a global wildlife observation challenge

Maritime Aquarium

Fairfield County residents took part in the 2022 City Nature Challenge, a global effort where participants document different plants and animals they come across in their city. Over 300 people contributed their observations in Fairfield County, and Westchester County, New York.

The local effort was organized by Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, and other Connecticut organizations, including the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, and the Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton.

The goal of the challenge is to encourage people to explore nature, but also to collect more data on wildlife in urban settings.

“What’s growing on the sidewalk, what’s flying between those buildings," Bridget Cervero is an education senior manager at the aquarium, said, "that’s also really valuable because that data is not typically being collected, but is really helpful.”

Cervero said citizen science is important because when people learn to recognize different species, they are more inclined to care about changes in the environment.

Using an app called iNaturalist, participants recorded their findings including the name of the species, and where and when it was spotted. All of that data is then archived for scientists to take a look at.

“By having it crowd-sourced and having everyone work together, we’re getting a big set of data, which is helpful because we can really break it down," said Cervero. "By having this be a project that happens year after year, you can make those comparisons over time.”

Over 700 species were recorded in the region, including 436 different plants, 74 birds, 60 insects, 15 mammals and more. Globally, over 67,200 participants in 445 cities recorded nearly 1.7 million observations of over 50,000 species of fauna and flora.

Participants also observed some invasive species of plants and animals, which can be harmful to native ecosystems.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.