Richmond science teacher encourages engagement in global competition

Richmond will be one of more than 150 cities competing next year to see who can be the most observant and find the most number of diverse species in the 2020 City Nature Challenge (CNC).

Next year might seem to be a bit “far away” for some people, but Neill McCallum, a science teacher from A.R. MacNeill secondary school, has already planned to educate Richmondites on how to document local species through an online social network of naturalists called iNaturalist. 

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The City Nature Challenge is a global event that encourages residents and nature fans to observe and submit photos of wildlife and plants using iNaturalist. McCallum hopes a good number of Richmondites will participate in the event, from April 26 to 29. 

People can contribute to science research by just simply uploading their findings on the app, and scientists can build a more comprehensive catalogue of the globe’s biodiversity, said to McCallum. 

“It’s like the Pokemon game where people go outside and catch Pokemon, except this time it’s (documenting) plants and animals...and the data collected through the game is valuable for protecting our environment,” said McCallum. 

McCallum has led students from his classes in the competition last year. 

They were able to make a total number of 1,000 observations during that time, and some students capture multiple photos on their own.

“Because our school is right next to the Garden City park, a lot of rabbits came upon my students’ observations (through the game), now they have a common idea of what kind of animals live in Richmond.” 

He aims to help more students connect with nature by participating in the event. 

“Students could have more reasons to go outside, and they could get connected with the environment.”

However, McCallum doesn’t want to stop here; he hopes to raise more awareness throughout the community by holding a series of workshops in the fall to help other teachers, parents and members of the general public learn how to use the mobile app.

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