In the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of Facebook to Congress, Lew Stringer, the Presidio Trust’s director of natural resources, sees the inaugural Presidio Nature Challenge as an opportunity to restore some faith in what we find on our phones.
On Saturday, participants will disperse into the Presidio’s nearly 1,500 acres to capture as many of the 323 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and fish as possible using iNaturalist, an app developed by CalAcademy. (Google phones and tablets will be made available by Project Homeless Connect for those who do not have smartphones.) This “bioblitz” is part of the 2018 City Nature Challenge, a competition with 60 cities worldwide vying for the honor of a top global biodiversity hotspot.
“In some ways, technology is making us more isolated,” Stringer told SF Weekly. “But the Presidio Nature Challenge is all about using technology to get out into nature to meet people and explore the amazing natural diversity of the Presidio.”
Although Stringer insists the objective isn’t to kick the scat out of the rest of the world, considering the amazing flora and fauna found in the Presidio, it sure feels like San Francisco has a leg up on the competition.
From the famous Rurik Expedition of 1816, when poet and botanist Adelbert von Chamisso discovered and named the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), to 14-year-old Peter Raven’s discovery of the Raven’s Manzanita nearly 150 years later, the Presidio has an impressive track record of scientific discovery that anyone free this Saturday could become a part of.
And, unlike the process of verification involved in Facebook posts (recently downgraded from humans pointing and clicking to bots pointing and clicking), participants will bring their finds back to the Officer’s Club to be reviewed and confirmed by scientists before being added to the official database.
According to Stringer, the long-term goal of the Presidio Nature Challenge is to continue gathering “research-grade” material from the Presidio over time to build a reliable database, a pulse of what’s in the Presidio. Scientists can use this data to tell if populations fluctuate and then decide on whether something should be done to address the changes.
Science aside, Stringer emphasizes that he really just wants people to have a great time. “We want people to come together as a community and help connect them to this wonderful place,” he says.
Presidio Nature Challenge 2018, Saturday, April 28, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Presidio Officer’s Club, 50 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco. Free; presidio.gov