Citizen Science App Lets You Report Backyard Discoveries

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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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