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Join the Humber Arboretum's iNaturalist Student Challenge

The Challenge runs September 1, 2022 to April 15, 2023 

Students from Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber studying anywhere in the world can add an experience to their Co-Curricular Record by taking part in the Humber Arboretum's iNaturalist Student Challenge!

The challenge is a fun way to learn about citizen science, get outside, and connect with the natural world, all with the support of Humber Arboretum staff. Do a little background reading, watch a video, sign up for iNaturalist, and get started on your 30 observations! 

Read on for all the details of how to take part. 



Alternative Formats

If you require alternative formats for the video or survey, email with your request.

Blue logo for the Co-Curricular Record

Step 1: Get Ready


  • Create your free iNaturalist account, if you don't already have one. Download the app, or visit

Step Two: Register

After you've completed everything in step one, use this form to register for the challenge.

(You will need to know your iNaturalist user name and be prepared to respond to the article and video.)


Within a few days of you submitting the form, we will add you to the Humber Arboretum 2022/2023 Student Challenge Project on iNaturalist, where our staff will help you identify what you've seen, and you'll be able to explore the observations made by other students. But you don't need to wait to be added to the project to start on step three...

Step 3: Make Your Observations


Get outside and explore! This can be in the Humber Arboretum, somewhere else on campus, near your home, or at a location you're visiting.

(Safety first - please follow all public health guidelines for wherever you are and either stick to areas you know well or take a friend along).



You need to upload a minimum of 30 high-quality observations to iNaturalist before April 15, 2023 to complete the challenge. Please note that we will not count more than 5 observations from the same day, so you will need to go out and use iNaturalist on at least six different occasions during that time.

So what is a "high-quality observation"? Each of your observations must:

  • Be of a wild organism that is naturally present (Ex. plants growing in the wild, a flower growing through a crack in the sidewalk, wildlife, an insect that has landed on a flower in a garden, moss growing on a tree in a park, a spider in your kitchen). The organism can not be captive/cultivated, which is to say, living where it is because a person wanted it to be there. (Ex. a flower planted in a garden, a pet, an animal in a zoo). [Learn more about "captive/cultivated" on iNaturalist's help page]
  • Include at least one clear photo (ideally more than one showing several features/angles), so that an expert would have a chance of identifying your organism. 
  • Include some information in the "Notes" text box. This could be to help with the identification (Ex. features you couldn't get a photo of, your estimation of the size of something, what an animal was doing when you saw it, etc.) or it could be about your personal response to the organism (Ex. Is it your first time noticing it, or something you see regularly? What caught your eye? What would you like to know about it?)
  • An identification to the level you are confident with. iNaturalist allows you to upload observations simply as "Something", but you should at least enter "Plant", "Bird", etc. Try to use the suggestions iNaturalist makes as best you can to help you figure out what you saw.


Members of the Arboretum staff (and possibly general iNaturalist users) will look at your observations and make comments to help you with identification. But be patient, as it may be up to a week between when you post an observation and receive comments on it.

Step 4: Wrap Up (and Keep Observing!)

Of course we hope that you will have enjoyed the experience, and will continue to discover the world around you with your iNaturalist account! We'll keep you in the group's iNaturalist Project until the end of the Challenge unless you ask us to remove you, so that you can see what other students are observing.

If you are located on North Campus, remember that any observations you make in the Humber Arboretum will also be automatically added to the ongoing Humber Arboretum Atlas on iNaturalist, which helps us learn about the organisms people are seeing in the Arboretum.

What is a Co-Curricular Record?

Your Co-Curricular Record is a second transcript offered by Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber which is a formal record of your learning that took place outside the classroom during your post-secondary education. There are many on-campus activities which can be recognized on your CCR, including volunteer opportunities, workshops, and more.

Learn about other CCR opportunities from the Humber Arboretum

Visit the official CCR website


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Do I have to make my observations in the Humber Arboretum?

Not at all! You may make your observations anywhere in the world.


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Can I use old photos? Or old iNaturalist observations?

Although uploading your old nature photos to iNaturalist is a great practice (as long as you know when and where they were taken), for this challenge we want you to get out and explore. So while you are welcome to upload those photos to your account, they won't count towards your 30 observations.

Similarly, if you are an existing iNaturalist user, you will still need to complete 30 new observations after you submit your registration form. Part of the point of the challenge is for our staff to have the chance to provide information on your observations in real time.


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What if my observation can't be identified?

Don't worry, that happens a lot on iNaturalist. It can be very hard to figure out what something is down to the species level from photos alone, even for experts. As long as you've provided enough information so there's a chance of identifying it, your observation will count towards the challenge.


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Why will you only count 5 observations per day?

Part of the point of the challenge is for you to learn how the iNaturalist identification process works and to get tips from our staff on what types of photos and information will help with the identifications. If you take your photos all in one day, you won't have the opportunity to learn from the feedback! Take it slow, and enjoy the process. :)

Please also note that you're more than welcome to upload more than five observations per day, that just means you'll have to do more total observations as we'll only count the first five towards your 30 minimum.


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Can I use iNaturalist observations I've made for a class?

There are some electives at Humber College which include iNaturalist as part of the curriculum. If you are taking one of these courses, yes, you can register in our challenge as well. Any observations you've made for class after you register in the challenge will count, as long as they meet all of our requirements for a high-quality observation.


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Can I participate if I'm not taking classes this semester?

You must be a currently enrolled student at Humber College or the University of Guelph-Humber, but you do not necessarily need to be taking classes during the challenge to participate. For example, if you are doing a placement or internship off campus, you are still welcome to participate. (Does the company have an outdoor space? Why not make some observations during your break!)

Also, if there is an iNaturalist Student Challenge running during the summer semester and you are not taking summer classes but are enrolled in a multiyear program, you are welcome to participate in the challenge during the summer months. 


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Can I participate if I'm not a student?

The direct support of Humber Arboretum staff is reserved for current students of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber actively participating in the challenge.

However if you are a staff member or another member of the Humber Arboretum community who would like to get started using iNaturalist, we encourage you to create your account, join the Humber Arboretum Atlas project, and follow the Humber Arboretum's iNaturalist account.

You can also click "Join" on the Humber Arboretum Student Challenge Project to receive updates from the project. That way you can help the students identify what they've seen or add comments to provide encouragement or more information on species.


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How does this challenge relate to Humber Learning Outcomes or the CCR Competencies?

Humber College has identified a set of Humber Learning Outcomes (HLOs) for all students. The Humber Arboretum's iNaturalist Student Challenge supports the development of:

A Sustainability Mindset

Connecting with the natural world and learning what lives alongside you can help motivate you to protect and preserve it. Also, contributing to citizen science adds to our collective knowledge about the natural world and is an active step to helping decision-makers at government bodies and conservation organizations.

A Systems Thinking Mindset:

Understanding ecosystems is a natural way to develop and expand your systems thinking. By using iNaturalist, you will start to make connections for yourself about the relationships between various living things, and between living things and the habitats where they can survive.  

Critical Thinking:

Learning to identify organisms is all about critical thinking. Analyze the features of what you see, compare that with available information about what organisms are expected to be found in an area or habitat, evaluate the suggestions you receive from iNaturalist's AI and other users, and synthesize all of that information to reach your well-reasoned conclusion. 

Skills in Action:

Improve your digital fluency as you learn to navigate the app and website, your communication skills as you improve the information captured in your photographs and observation notes, and your professionalism as you communicate with Arboretum staff and people from all over the world through comments on your observations.


All Co-Curricular Record experiences must connect with a similar set of competencies. For the same reasons as above, participating in the challenge will help you develop:

  • Communication: writing; visual literacy
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: analysis; decision making
  • Digital Fluency: information management and evaluation; online etiquette
  • Creativity and Innovation: systems thinking
  • Professionalism: personal and professional management
  • Resourcefulness: initiative and self-direction
  • Sustainability: environmental awareness
  • Social Responsibility and Civic Engagement: active citizenship


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