Be a citizen scientist


Be a citizen scientist

Nature apps like iNaturalist and Bumble Bee Watch are similar in some ways to the augmented reality games like Pokémon Go. But instead of hunting and collecting monsters, you learn about and “collect” real plants and animals by snapping their pics.

iNaturalist allows you to take photos of any plant or animal and upload it. Info about where and when you saw it, recorded by your smartphone, is added automatically. An AI algorithm suggests what it might be, and a community of other users helps confirm that. The app provides maps showing other sightings of species you’ve spotted, and a feature in the Android app called “missions” suggests nearby species to look for. 

Bumble Bee Watch works in a similar way where the location and species info pops up upon uploading the photo and it is confirmed by bee experts. The images and species info and location become part of a scientific library of information about what species of bees, and roughly how many, are found in different places — including many that scientists can’t easily get to — at various times of year.

While it’s fun to learn about the nature that is all around us, users are also collecting valuable data that helps save and protect birds, bees, butterflies and other important species.

It’s a concept called citizen science — a way of crowdsourcing valuable science data from ordinary people out and about.

Info about where different plants and animals live and how common they are, including endangered species or invasive species, and what types of habitats they need or use, is valuable to scientists and conservationists. It can inform decisions when a habitat or area is being considered for conservation protection or development. It can also help track the impact of changes like urbanization or climate change on different species. –

So, next time you’re on a walk or at your friend’s cottage, take a few photos of interesting plants or bugs and contribute to science and conservation while doing it.

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