Skip to content

Citizen Science

Citizen Science

Citizen science encourages public participation and collaboration in scientific research, as well as creating opportunities for the community to come together to learn about and celebrate our wonderful natural environment.

Merri-bek supports residents to get involved in a range of citizen science projects. There's something for everyone, whether you're a budding bug-catcher or a serious bird nerd! 

Ongoing Projects: iNaturalist

iNaturalist is a free, easy to use app that helps you to identify the plants and animals around you. As you record and share your observations, you are also generating data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.

Once you know how to use iNaturalist, you can participate in citizen science events like the City Nature Challenge and the Great Southern Bioblitz. 

How to use iNaturalist

  1. Download the ‘iNaturalist’ App on iTunes or Google Play on your smartphone, or visit the iNaturalist website on your computer.
  2. Sign up to create your profile or log in if you’re already a user
  3. Head outdoors to snap photos of local plants and animals and upload them to the app.

To learn more about using iNaturalist, have a look at the video tutorials on the iNaturalist website.

Past events: City Nature Challenge 2022 

In 2022, over 20 councils across Melbourne collaborated to participate in the global City Nature Challenge. Local residents helped Melbourne to compete with cities from around the world by taking pictures of native plants and animals between 29 April to 2 May 2022 using iNaturalist. 

Over 2000 different species were observed in our city over the four-day event! This is an incredible result, and we extend a huge thanks and congratulations to the 600-plus residents who took part. Their efforts contributed to a fantastic global result - 1.7 million plants, animals and fungi were observed in urban centres worldwide. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no nature in cities! 

You can see the full results from the Challenge here

Past Events: Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2022 

Celebrate National Bird Week in October each year by taking part in the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count (17-23 October). Anyone can get involved - all you need is 20 minutes, and your favourite outdoor space in Merri-bek. You don't have to be an expert - simply record the species you do know, and use the app to help you identify the rest. 

You'll be joining thousands of others across Australia in collecting important data which contributes to our understanding of how birds in Merri-bek - and all over Australia - are faring.

Download the Aussie Backyard Bird Count App on iTunes or Google Play on your smartphone, or visit the Aussie Backyard Bird Count website on your computer to upload your survey results or find out more. 

Upcoming events: City Nature Challenge 2023 and Great Southern Bioblitz 2023

Don't worry if you missed out on the City Nature Challenge - you can still contribute to science by recording observations in iNaturalist at any time. You can also get prepared for the 2023 City Nature Challenge (28 April - 1 May 2023) and the Great Southern Bioblitz (27 -29 October 2023). 

You don’t have to be an expert to get involved. We need everyone to discover and share the incredible biodiversity of Melbourne! 

During the four-day challenge, you simply snap photos of plants or animals and upload them to the iNaturalist app. Your observations will automatically contribute to Melbourne’s tally, as we compete with cities all over the world to gain the most observations. Your observation also added to the Atlas of Living Australia database of plants and animals, helping scientists with their research to improve outcomes for our environment.

Get involved 

We have a recorded three-part webinar series to help you become an urban nature explorer and prepare to participate in our citizen science events, which you can watch at any time. 

The webinar series will guide you through the basics of using iNaturalist and showcase expert knowledge on how to discover and capture quality observations of the biodiversity around us. It doesn’t matter whether you are new to observing nature or not, this webinar series has something to offer for everyone! 

How to use the iNaturalist App 

You will learn the basics of how to use the iNaturalist App, how to participant in the City Nature Challenge and how your findings contribute to better understanding and protection of our native species. 

The Small and Mighty Micro World Webinar 

Fungi and invertebrate experts share their knowledge with us. You will learn: 

  • Tips and tricks to discover and appreciate the micro world of fungi and invertebrates in your own backyard, local parks, waterways, and reserves. 
  • Tools and skills to take quality images of the micro world during the City Nature Challenge 
  • The steps to successfully upload your photos to iNaturalist 

Leaves, Feathers and Scales: the Macro World 

Plants, birds, frogs and reptile experts share their knowledge with us. You will learn: 

  • Tips and tricks to discover and appreciate the macro world of plants, birds, frogs and reptiles in your own backyard, local parks and reserves. 
  • Tools and skills to take quality images of the macro world during the City Nature Challenge. 
  • The steps to successfully upload your photos in iNaturalist

How to use iNaturalist App 

You can also watch this recorded how to use the iNaturalist App video at any time.