Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Map of Life

A new app was just released and it actually seems to be a very promising one. The idea is to allow people to check out local wildlife wherever they are in the world with the app telling them what species of animals and plants might be nearby.

Building on the Map of Life website, which provides a database of everything from bumblebees to trees, the app tells users in an instant which sets of species are likely to be found in their vicinity. Photos and text help users identify and learn more about what they see. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those observations to scientific research and conservation efforts.

Map of Life assembles and integrates different sources of data describing species distributions worldwide. These data include species range maps, species occurrence points, ecoregions, and protected areas from providers like IUCN, WWF, GBIF, and more. All data assets are stored, managed, backed up, and accessed using a hosted cloud instance.

Thanks to a recording feature, citizen scientists everywhere can log their bird encounters and dragonfly sightings directly into the app and add to the biodiversity data available to scientists around the world. Making it easier and more globally streamlined for citizen scientists to contribute information is one of the key motivations behind creating the app. 

The world is changing rapidly and species continue to disappear before we even knew where they occurred, what role they had, and how we could conserve them. Too much of our knowledge is limited to too few places and species. Helping people everywhere to identify and then record biodiversity carries the potential to hugely extend the geographic and taxonomic reach of measuring the pulse of life.

The Map of Life app is available in six languages for iPhone and Android smartphones. I just installed it on my phone and after 10 minutes playing with it I can say it is really cool, fairly accurate and fun to work with. It is perfect for young citizen scientists, very accessible and easy to handle. Perfect for family outings, classroom excursions, even university courses.

The app puts a significant proportion of our global knowledge about biodiversity in the palm of your hand, and allows you to discover and connect with biodiversity in a place, wherever you are. Think of a field guide that continues to improve the more we all use it and add to it. That is the beauty of this mobile application, and its great strength.

My recommendation - get it, go out over the weekend and put it to the test, and don't forget to record and share your findings.

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