Jessi Rae Morton
UNC Greensboro’s Campus Nature Challenge, hosted by the Office of Sustainability, is returning from April 17 through 23. The Spartan Connect events page reads:
The Campus Nature Challenge returns for a 3rd year! For one week (April 17-23), UNCG students and employees will be asked to use the iNaturalist app to identify as many species across campus as they can. Supported by a grant from the UNCG Green Fund, student participants will be eligible to win prizes including a bicycle, tent, hammock, and gift cards which will be awarded for the most observations identified, the greatest number of species identified, and best photos. Finish the BioBlitz strong with us at Piney Lake for Earth Day!
According to the Office of Sustainability, “The goal of the 2023 Spring Campus Nature Challenge at UNC Greensboro is to engage our campus community in a citizen science project to increase biodiversity awareness by photographing, recording audio, and cataloging the plants, animals (including insects) and fungi during a week-long ‘bioblitz’ on campus.”
The Campus Nature Challenge coincides with work done by the UNC Greensboro Biology Department. The Biology Department currently runs and monitors two wetlands on campus using iNaturalist, the app used during the challenge. In the previous two challenges, “over 100 participants combined to make 2,300 observations and identified 600 species. The species with the most observations was Common Ivy, which is an invasive that continues to be fought both on campus and in the region.”
In explaining the underlying scientific basis for the challenge, the Office of Sustainability notes that “While many studies on biodiversity focus on wilder, rural areas, the expansion of urban areas makes conservation and preservation of species and habitat within urban landscapes increasingly important. Understanding and preserving biodiversity in urban areas is essential because cities have often been built in critical habitats.”
The Office of Sustainability also points out that “we are partnering with the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Appalachian State University and the Office of Sustainability at UNC Wilmington in a friendly competition to see who can get the most observations. Follow App State’s challenge here and UNCW’s here.”
The friendly competition is not just between campuses, though. Current UNC Greensboro students are eligible to win prizes for participation in the Campus Nature Challenge. As the Office of Sustainability explains, “Photo awards will receive an REI gift card. Species awards will receive one of the following: tent, bicycle, hammock.” Because identifying plants can be challenging, the iNaturalist app “makes suggestions to help you and community members confirm the identification.” Participants will need to do their best to take clear photos of wildlife, not landscaping, and to make identifications. To be eligible for prizes, observations must be made on the UNC Greensboro campus.
Funding for the challenge comes from the UNC Greensboro Green Fund. According to the Office of Sustainability, “In 2016, UNCG students elected to allocate a portion of their student activity fees toward environmental stewardship and established the Green Fund. Governed by a committee of students with assistance from faculty and staff experts, the fund operates as a campus-based grant program that offers education, research and professional development opportunities for students and employees by investing in campus infrastructure and programming to help meet the goals of the UNCG Climate Action Plan.”
Green Fund proposals come from the campus community, so if you would like to propose an idea that could “improve campus infrastructure, sustainability education, research or professional development that aids students,” the next Green Fund Proposal deadline will be Sept. 1, so there is plenty of time to prepare.
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