Connecticut residents help develop app for hikers, birdwatchers around world
DERBY >> The days of lugging around backpacks full of field guides while hiking or bird watching are over, according to Michelle Duong, a project coordinator for the free phone app Map of Life.
And the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is touting ways in which residents can use the new technology to help in conservation and data collection for the department.
“The more people are engaging and participating, the more information we are able to glean,” said Susan Quincy, an environmental educator for the DEEP’s Kellogg Environmental Center.
Quincy said DEEP wildlife biologists and conservation scientists use public data all the time, especially bird-watching logs provided by the Connecticut Audubon Society, but Map of Life will help more people to be able to be involved and see the results of their work.
“What’s helped recently is the ability of technology to make that data open to the public,” Quincy said. “Now, we can see the results of our research.”
The hope is that the more the public participates in data gathering and learning to recognize the species in their own backyard, the more they will be interested in protecting those species, Quincy said.
“We need more eyes on the ground,” she said.
Quincy and Duong will lead an information session about how residents can use the app to tag species and contribute to data collection for the DEEP at 6:30 p.m. April 27 at the Kellogg Environmental Center.
HOW IT WORKS
The app, developed in partnership with Yale University and the University of Florida, allows the user to pull up a list of plants and animals that are most likely to be seen in the region in which the user is walking or hiking. Each species comes with a full description and a number of pictures to aid in identification.
“We’re not just a citizen science app. We’re also a field guide app,” said Duong, who is based at Yale. “It’s a new era of using technology for whatever we can. Our app brings all of that (information) together.”
The app has species information for local flora and fauna worldwide, Duong said, and can be used anywhere.
“You can use this locally in Connecticut, or when you travel to Mexico,” said Duong, who has used it all over the country.
Just recently, the company started creating downloadable lists of species for a region so a user did not have to have cell service in order to use the guide, Duong said. There may be a Connecticut downloadable list soon.
Identified species can be “tagged” on the app and that information enters a data center the DEEP and public will be able to access, Duong said. So a user can log onto a website and view the tags made during an afternoon hike, she said. The app is being improved all the time, Duong said. There are about 30,000 users, she said.