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The Green Life: An App for Nature Loving

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July 06, 2011

An App for Nature Loving

Capturing a Frog Indian pipes, skunk cabbage and a dusky salamander near the trail can turn any idle walker into a naturalist. And in a world armed with smartphones and instantaneous information exchange, sharing these moments can now take place on a vast cartographic scale. Social media site iNaturalist.org harnesses documentary compulsions to share the small wonders of the outdoors. Thousands of species have been captured by camera and plotted with google maps on the website, creating a database that visitors can sort through by location, species, or observer.

It’s not just nature porn. The site provides the organizational skeleton for cataloging projects like Global Amphibian Blitz (supported by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, among others) which crowd source biological data for scientific use. In this case, it’s the frog’s mass die-off, a harbinger of climate change. So far the site boasts 577 species of amphibian, using uBio to assure the accuracy of biological nomenclature.

Little beats knowing your land. Unlike print flora and fauna guides, iNaturalist is up to date and searchable by different constraints. Like EveryTrail, the site lets members connect and compare notes with fellow trail or creature enthusiasts. Some of America’s favorite literature came out of walking in the woods. Could compilations of 100 characters, a photo, and a google map pin become the classics of the future?

--Juliana Hanle


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