Do you want to know more about the world around you? You can get outside and explore biodiversity and the natural environment with iNaturalist!
iNaturalist allows anyone, anywhere to contribute to a global record of biodiversity by uploading pictures of plants and animals with their smartphone or computer. In a new podcast episode (listen below!), co-host Justin Schell talks with Dr. Carrie Seltzer, the Stakeholder Engagement Strategist for iNaturalist, and with representatives and a volunteer from the Appalachian Mountain club.
Tip: add your iNaturalist username to your SciStarter dashboard, and you’ll get credit for your contributions.
Why explore biodiversity with iNaturalist?
In the podcast episode, Carrie says she started working with iNaturalist because she was “deeply excited by everything that iNaturalist can do to get people excited about the natural world and open their eyes to everything that lives in their neighborhood.”
When asked about the mission of iNaturalist, Carrie describes it “as turning photos of plants and animals into useful data. And the way that happens is through crowdsourcing.”
iNaturalist relies on people like you to upload photos of plants, animals, and other living things you see around you. Then, the community helps identify these observations, which become research-grade and are shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility after the community comes to an agreement. Learn more about this process and hear more from Carrie by listening to the podcast episode!
PS: She even talks about the infamous #toiletweasel. This observation of a rare Colombian Weasel went viral on Twitter because, well, as Carrie says, “Because it’s just so funny to think about this rare mammal being spotted in someone’s toilet and being a really important scientific discovery.”
Explore biodiversity with the Appalachian Mountain Club
Featured in this podcast episode is the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the oldest outdoor group in the United States. The AMC runs multiple citizen science projects, and in this episode, the team speaks about how they have been able to supplement the core data fields on iNaturalist with some specific to their project, as well as how they have approached citizen science and research with the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project.
Georgia Murray, a staff scientist at AMC, describes in the podcast episode why the Appalachian Mountain Club engages in citizen science: “We really care about people learning when they’re outside.”
The citizen science projects run by AMC inspire passion in AMC staff and volunteers alike. Sometimes, one becomes the other, as Annie Evankow, a research assistant with AMC, describes in this podcast episode. “I actually started out with Northeast Alpine Flower Watch [one of AMC’s citizen science projects] as a volunteer,” she says. “I started taking photos for the project before I became the Research Assistant, and I will continue to do it even after I stop working at the AMC. I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.”
Above is an observation by Annie of a Bog Bilberry, one of the species the AMC is tracking as part of the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project.
Alina Michelewicz, a volunteer with a number of AMC projects, speaks in this episode about how her love for the outdoors led her to citizen science and iNaturalist. She tells us in the podcast, “iNaturalist was a way that I could get help with identifying the plants from experts and also to contribute to something larger, which was really exciting.”
Want to learn more about the AMC’s work, what this team has discovered so far, their future plans, and how YOU can get involved? Tune into the podcast!
Listen! Citizen science for your ears
National Phenology Network: https://usanpn.org/
Toilet weasel publication: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ele.13200
Justin’s (Mistaken) Coyote Identification: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/13082333
Music for this episode is from MWD, used under a Creative Commons license from the Free Music Archive. Special thanks to Jill Nugent for conducting the interview with the AMC team. A transcript is available here.
Did you know that citizen science can inspire conservation efforts? Learn more on Science Connected.
Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!
About the author
Caroline Nickerson is a Master of Public Policy student at American University with a focus on environmental and climate change policy. She also works with the UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit, the Christensen Project, the DC Gator Club, and the Commission on Local Debates. Caroline manages SciStarter’s Syndicated Blog Network, which encompasses the Science Connected, Discover Magazine, and SciStarter platforms, and manages programs at SciStarter.