Better Forest Challenge - Blue Hills

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Better Forest Challenge – Blue Hills

Do you love being in the great outdoors? Do you want to help protect it, just by taking photos? Then join the Better Forest Challenge – Blue Hills!

When you sign up for the Better Forest Challenge, you can share your observations of plants and animals with the Friends of the Blue Hills team on iNaturalist. As a citizen scientist, your data will help researchers and nature enthusiasts better understand the health of the forest, how climate change is affecting the forest, and how to better protect it.

How does it work?


Download the App

Download the iNaturalist app to your iPhone or Android mobile device.



Make Observations

Record your encounters with plants and animals here in the Blue Hills. Upload photographs along with the date, time, and location of those observations.

Improve the Forest!

Your data helps researchers know exactly who and what is living in our forest, and how we can protect it!

How to Get Started

Step 1

Create an iNaturalist account (if you don’t already have one). This can be done on the iNaturalist website, or via the app downloaded to your phone. Remember your iNaturalist user ID! You’ll need it for step two.

Step 2

Join our Better Forest Challenge – Blue Hills project.  Click on ‘projects’ in the menu on the bottom of your phone.  Then search for ‘Better Forest Challenge – Blue Hills.’  Click on ‘join’ on the top of the page.  And then start taking photos of the life you see in the Blue Hills, including plants, animals, insects and birds!

Ready. Set. Observe!

Once you’ve created your iNaturalist account and signed up for the Better Forest Challenge – Blue Hills, you’re ready to start making observations! This short video will show you how:

The iNaturalist website has additional video tutorials for you to view as well, along with text-based guides for making observations with your iPhone, Android phone, and through their website. These helpful links can also be found at the bottom of this page.

Why am I recording observations?

The Blue Hills is home to an incredible number of species. As a member of this project, you will take photos of the plants and animals in the Blue Hills. You can even record bird songs! As many people make observations of the different species, we’ll better understand:

    • What’s growing the Blue Hills at different times of the yearPhoto by Brian Baldeck
    • When plants are in bloom and fruiting (and measure how it changes from year-to-year)
    • Where invasive plants are most prevalent and most threaten the forest ecosystem
    • What and when animals and birds are found in different parts of the park

By making observations at different times of the year and of a variety of species, you will provide the data for scientists to evaluate how climate change is changing the plants and animals in the Blue Hills. This information ultimately will help us better understand the health of the forest and identify where and how we can best protect it.


What observations should I record?

Photo of a chipmunk eating on a rockAny wild plant, animal, insect, or fungus! If it’s an organism, observe and record it!

Unsure of what something is? All the more reason to record it! iNaturalist’s community and image recognition software will help you identify it. Not only do your observations help the Blue Hills, they help you expand your nature knowledge as well! The iNaturalist app allows you to keep a life list of all organisms you’ve come across in your exploration, serving as a wonderful journal of your own observations here in the Blue Hills, your own neighborhood, or anywhere in the world!


What Observations should I NOT record?

While it’s extremely helpful for you to record most of the plants and animals in the park, we do ask that you do not share observations of rare species with site-specific information. Don’t worry about posting a photo of a rare species by mistake. We’ll remove photos of rare and endangered species with location information to protect those species from harm.


Helpful resources