Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Mobile Apps for Capturing Wild Life Around You

Photo Courtesy: Dmitri N.
One of the best things about mobile citizen science apps is they are always with you.  Whatever you do, whatever you see, no matter where you are, can be recorded and tracked.  The best apps are also highly intutitive with a simple-to-use interface.  So the two biggest obstacle to participating are easily overcome.

At this point one of biggest remaining obstacle is choosing which citizen science projects to join.  Most people are willing to join one, some join many more.  But you can't do it all.  Not only do you keep yourself from getting burned out, but channeling your effort on just a few projects improves the quality and quantity of your participation.  So focus your efforts on the ones you like best. 

But how do you choose which projects to participate in?  First get to know the variety of apps available...this site and the new Citizen Science for your Phone page are a great place to start.  Also look for projects that will interest you both now and in the future; often this means a variety of different ways to participate, such as collecting data as well as analyzing it.  You might also try apps in different scientific areas...moving between two keeps all parts of your brain busy and help prevent mental fatigue.  These are just a few thoughts (there are entire blog posts possible on this topic!) but there are many more as well.

On that note we present two more mobile citizen science apps below...WildObs-Observer and WildLab-Bird.  Both are wildlife observation tools that help you identify and record animal sightings.  This data can be useful for protecting endangered species, understanding migration, and tracking population growth.  They also both collect data and make it available to public researchers to analyze and interpret (that means us!).  So what are you waiting for...won't you check them out?

Getting Started with WildLab-Bird is Easy
  • Visit the WildLab web site to learn more about the project, and download the iPhone app (not yet available on Android).
  • Register on the home screen with your name, e-mail address, and password.  They don't ask for much.
  • Take a walk in the woods are just gaze out your window for local birds.
  • When you spot a bird use the WildLab app to identify it.  First, tap "Species ID" and decide what type of area you are in: Woodland, Coastal, Wetland, or Grassland.

  • Next, determine the basic type of bird observed.

  • Next, narrow in on the exact species using the pictures as a guide.

  • Finally, confirm the spotting by checking the bird's known range on the map ("Range") and listening to an example of its call ("Listen").  You can then add any notes, take a picture, share it with your friends (on Facebook), and submit it to WildLab.  Your notes and observation will be recorded along with the time and location you made it. 

  • Visit the WildLab user site to view your sightings online and make any changes that are needed.  That's it!
Getting Started with WildObs - Observer is Easy
  • Visit the WildObs web site to learn more about the project and register with your name, user name, and password.
  • Download the iPhone or Android app.  Both are free applications though they are supported by third-party ads.
  • Take a walk in the woods or in your backyard, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife.
  • Once you encounter an animal you wish to record, open the app and click on "Species" and "Lookup by Species name" to determine the exact species being identified.  You can add as little information (e.g., frog) or as much (e.g., American Green Tree Frog) as you know. 
  • Review the hit-list of possibilities (with pictures) to determine the exact species.

  • Make your selection for close-up picture and links to encounters by other WildObs users.
  • Click on "Record Observation" to confirm the animal's identity.  This will bring up a screen for including a picture, description, and keyword tags.

  • Tap "Save" to record the encounter and share it with the WildObs team.  You may also share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ if you wish.
  • That's all there is to it!
Hopefully one of these two new apps will be of interest to you.  They don't require much work, but if you see something interesting and want to record if for posterity (and science!), fire up this app and follow the directions.  Biologists will thank you for it.


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