Citizen Science App Lets You Report Backyard Discoveries


If you regularly take photos of birds, animals, bugs, mushrooms and leaves while on vacation or even from your backyard, you may be more a citizen scientist than you thought. And now you can put your natural love for the environment to good use by uploading your images to a new website called SciSpy. A new free app that you can download from the iTunes store or from the SciSpy website makes it easier. I've already uploaded a bunch of images myself from recent vacations. (By the way, I was surprised at how many images of living creatures and plants I had taken.)

The app allows users to selection a “mission,” — for example, "at the bird feeder," "bugs in your backyard" or "urban wildlife" — snap a photo using an iPhone and then upload the image to an online database. The files are date-stamped, geo-tagged and classified by topical experts.

If you're a fan of the Science Channel, you'll be happy to know that the missions will frequently correspond with television series including tonight's premiere of Monster Bug Wars at 9 PM (ET/PT). I suspect if you have any photographs of bugs, you'll be motivated to put them up.

I like this idea of collecting images of nature that you might come into contact while on vacation or just taking the dog for a walk. I saw an owl sitting on a branch one early morning while walking my dog through the city. Having grown up the countryside, this was the first time I was so close to an owl in nature.

My only critique of this new website is that they don't have a category for the flora or fauna one might encounter near the ocean. The closest is "catch of the day." But if you have a photograph of a blue crab (as I did), you're stuck putting it under "general wildlife." Hopefully, the producers of the site will expand the missions.

Other than that, I think the SciSpy site is a great way to kids involved in nature and aware of the world around them. Check it out and report back on what you think.

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