Science on the Trail – 3 Apps for Making the World a Better Place

Do your outdoor activities sometimes feel like a form of selfish indulgence? Well fear not, a line of mobile applications is offering you a way to help the natural world while you marvel at its beauty. Here are three smart phone apps that help organizations learn more about natural history around the globe.

BirdLog
Who
A companion to eBird, an on-line avian reporting project developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
What
Maximizing the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers, BirdLog offers a simple way to record bird observations and report them to eBird.
Why
Recording bird sightings in the field increases scientist’s, educator’s and land manager’s knowledge of bird abundance and distribution throughout the western hemisphere and beyond. Access to this information, also gives the birder the ability to find a species in their locality.
How
If you aren’t an expert birder already, use this app with Green Mountain Digital’s Audubon Bird, which includes over 770 species and eight hours of bird sounds.
Access
Available on both iPhones and Android systems, BirdLog is $9.99 and the Audobon Birds app is available at a spring special price of $2.99.
Feel Good Factor
Let’s face it, birds are cute and by reporting sightings of birds in your area you are helping protect the species for the long-term. Scientists can use this information to track decreases and other changes in species populations leading to timely conservation initiatives.

iNaturalist
Who
What began as a master’s project at UC Berkley’s School of Information in 2008 has grown into one of the largest naturalists collaborations in the electronic world. Cofounder Ken-ichi Ueda is a naturalist and software developer and Co-director Scott Loarie is a research fellow in the Global Ecology Department at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University.
What
iNaturalist is designed to track the occurrence of plants, animals, and any and all living species across the world with photographs and real-time mapping tools. If you’ve ever dreamt of being someone akin to Charles Darwin, here’s your chance.
Why
The app was developed as a way for outdoors and wildlife enthusiasts to share their discoveries with each other, be it their favorite birding area or the wildflowers and creepy crawlers in their backyard.
How
Pack your smartphone and favorite field guides in a bag and set forth on discovering what lives in your backyard.
Access
iNaturalist is free to download for both iPhone and Android operating systems.
Feel Good Factor
iNaturalist’s goal is to create “a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers can use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone can use to learn more about nature.” The app also gives you the option to compete with other users on monthly species tallies. So grab your smartphone and start snapping away.

What’s Invasive!
Who
What’s Invasive is a collaboration among the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and EDDMaps developed by the University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health to map invasive species across the United States.
What
Locate invasive species by making geo-tagged observations and taking photos to alert the What’s Invasive! team of their presence.
Why
By mapping plants and animals that have the potential to destroy natural habitat and wreak economic havoc on public and private land, you can alert concerned officials and environmental professionals in your area of impending outbreaks.
How
Look up a local group or initiative in your area that tracks invasive species or offers education programs for identification. Once you feel comfortable with identifying these opportunistic invaders head out with your phone and save the world.
Access: Currently this app is available on both the Android and iPhone operating systems at no cost.
Feel Good Factor
Although they have no evil agenda, invasive species do cause harm to native species, outcompeting them in their native environment and costing the US more than $123 billion a year in economic losses. So help out your wild neighbors and boost the economy by nipping invasive species spread in the bud.

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