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Snapping Snakes for Science — with your iPhone

An innovative citizen science project gains momentum, sprouts new branches

Tad Arensmeier/Flickr

Tad Arensmeier photographed this Yellow-Blotched Palm-Pitviper for iNaturalist.

The organizers of a new effort to catalog the world’s reptiles want to enlist you and your iPhone for their cause. The Global Reptile Bioblitz launched last month and aims to collect amateur observations of every species of reptile on Earth — all 9,413 of them. The project is the sister effort of the Global Amphibian Bioblitz which launched earlier this summer and, thanks to submissions from citizen scientists around the world, has already collected photos of more than 700 of the nearly 7,000 known amphibian species on the planet.

The observations are all logged at iNaturalist.org, an online citizen science community with more than 2,000 members who’ve cumulatively logged more than 30,000 field observations of species ranging from redwoods to coyotes.Observations can be uploaded to the site directly, or through an iPhone app, also called iNaturalist, which was launched earlier this year. Since we first reported on it back in January, the app has been downloaded more than 3,000 times, according to its developer Ken-ichi Ueda. Continue reading

Saving Redwoods: There’s an App for That

Redwoods: There's an app for that. (Photo: Michael Limm)

We’re not the only ones who think iNaturalist is pretty cool. Save the Redwoods does, too.

The San Francisco-based conservation organization has teamed up with the biodiversity-tracking social networking site to create an iPhone app exclusively for monitoring redwood and giant sequoia forests. It’s called Redwood Watch. It uses the same technology as the iNaturalist iPhone app, aggregating data on a special Redwoods page within iNaturalist.org.

“We hope that this will help us have a better idea of where redwoods are, and then we can use that data to understand what kinds of conditions they can tolerate,” said Emily Limm, director of science and planning for Save the Redwoods. Continue reading

Why the Pros Need “Citizen Science”

iNaturalist Update: A biologist’s take on the potential for citizen science in a changing climate

(Photo: Richard Morgenstein)

Last month I went out to Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve near Stanford, where Scott Loarie and Ken-ichi Ueda showed me and about a dozen docents how to use the new iNaturalist iPhone app, which Ueda created. The aim of the app is to make recording and sharing of accurate field observations incredibly simple. It’s still in testing mode and not yet available to the public. “Citizen scientists” can already upload their digital photos and share them with an online community of naturalists around the world, at the iNaturalist website.

This week I spoke with Healy Hamilton, who directs the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences. Below are some excerpts from our interview about climate change, citizen science, and iNaturalist: Continue reading

Citizen Science: The iPhone App

A new iPhone app aims to make recording and sharing observations of the natural world fast, easy, and could eventually help bring climate models into better focus.

Ken-ichi Ueda and Scott Loarie demonstrated the new iNaturalist iPhone app at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (Photo: Richard Morgenstein)

At Jasper Ridge, a biological preserve and study area on the Stanford campus, a dozen of the preserve’s docents gathered this week to learn about a new iPhone application that could ultimately help scientists study how ecosystems are adapting to climate change.

The new app, called iNaturalist, is the mobile version of a citizen-science website by the same name.  The iPhone app is still in testing and not yet available, but the website, iNaturalist.org, is already an active online community of citizen-scientists around the world who use the site to record and share their sightings. Continue reading