In order to better understand the effects of climate change on the state’s natural habitats, Colorado’s wildlife will be tracked by the public using a phone app called the iNaturalist. This is part of a bigger movement which encompasses over 150.000 people through the iNaturalist.org program.
The phone application is fairly simple to use, allowing people to take photos and note observations, following by the picture’s post on a wall similar to Facebook’s, while automatically recording the GPS location. Users will also be able to view other pictures taken by tourists along with their observations. The app is currently available for free on Android and iPhone.
This app is hoped to entice people into exploring trails and forests, as well as visiting wildlife parks and reservations more often. It is also extremely useful for bird watchers or professional naturalists as well.
All of the information gathered by the app is added into a massive database, allowing scientists and researchers to analyze them in a more efficient way. By crowdsourcing findings, a higher number of observations will be gathered in a smaller amount of time, when compared to the option of researchers themselves going in the field. Up to this point, 60 users have made around 300 wildlife observations.
If people spot rare animals, the finding is not immediately posted to the iNaturalist app wall. It first passes through a review conducted by professional naturalists. Because some species are endangered and may entice people to enter its natural habitat, news regarding their location is kept secret until researchers are able to go on location and study the animal themselves.
Until now, several strange findings have been made. An Albert Squirrel was found near Durango, a rare rodent similar to a regular squirrel but with rabbit-like ears. A rare fuzzy-winged Purplish Copper butterfly was also photographed near the state park in Steamboat Lake. Scientists are asking people to be on the lookout for the newly reintroduced imperiled lynx, in order to see if the species is thriving in Colorado or not
The iNaturalist app also works as a first line of defense to some extent. For example, after a species of snail was photographed, Australian naturalists warned that this exact species is extremely invasive, urging California officials to immediately dispose of the snail in question. This completely circumvented the damages that would have been caused by said snail to the local fauna and flora.
Taking into account the fact that now, Colorado’s wildlife will be tracked by the public using a phone app, more people may be attracted to the idea of roaming the state parks and forests in search of various animals and insects. If this type of application will spread even further across the US, scientists will be able to greatly benefit from the crowdsourced data gathered by the public at large. Plus, this stands as another reason for people to try to go out of their house more often and enjoy nature to its full extent.