Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Smartphone flowersBy Quinta Mazatlan / Center for Urban Ecology / John Brush

Urban wildlife is far more diverse than one might think as we bustle about our daily lives. Yet if we slow down to look at a flower, peer in a tree, or listen to the sounds in our neighborhoods, that perspective shifts. And with iNaturalist, learning what life is around us is easier than ever.

The main feature of iNaturalist, available for free on iOS, Android, and online, is sharing nature observations and getting help identifying what plant or animal we have found. It might be a moth beneath a porch light, or a lizard skittering across a fence, or a tiny flower poking up through a lawn. With iNaturalist, all it takes is quick photo to get started.

The program works in two ways. First, it uses computer vision to give you identification suggestions, based on photos and identifications from other iNaturalist users. Second, once you share your sighting, other iNaturalist users can help identify it as well.

Smartphone flowersYou can also explore your city’s, state’s or just neighborhoods biodiversity with the program. For example, there are nearly 15,000 observations shared in the city of McAllen, representing over 1,800 species! Each of those species is linked to an associated Wikipedia page, making it easy to quickly learn something about the organism.

For kids under 13, iNaturalist recommends parents and teachers try out the Seek by iNaturalist app, which does not include any publically shared information. It features monthly challenges, species badges to earn, and level-ups earned by finding more plants and animals. For kids 13 and older (or with parental permission), they can link Seek to an iNaturalist account and contribute their sightings to an international community science project!

Easy-to-use nature apps like iNaturalist and Seek by iNaturalist make exploring the Valley’s plants and wildlife easier than ever, perfect for anyone from a schoolchild to a professional biologist! The website is located at www.inaturalist.org, and both apps are available on iOS and Android. Visit Quinta Mazatlan’s YouTube Channel and Facebook for tutorials on adding iNaturalist observations, exploring biodiversity, and tips and tricks for finding urban wildlife.

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