Hows The Water

9.20.11 – Apps

Technology is advancing every day, bringing new devices and capabilities, at a faster pace than many of us can keep up with.  Ipads and other tablets are amazaing, somewhere between smartphones and computers, yet with their own unique capabilities and assets.  As mobile devices become more and more available, apps are being developed to take advantage.  I am in no way an expert, but I do like to take advantage of new technology, especially ones that help understand our environment.

There are many sites and applications available, but I’d like to mention three of my favorites.  iMapInvasives is an invasive species mapping tool which was developed by a consortium  of the natural heritage program of the state of Florida, the New York Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe.  According to the website (  iMapInvasives  focuses on serving the needs of needs of land managers, regional planners and others working to prevent, control or manage invasive species. A particular emphasis is placed on functionality designed to aid in Early Detection/Rapid Response (ED/RR) efforts.”   This will be a very valuable tool to assist in locating and tracking invasive species, and planning eradication and management efforts.   The site is very easy to navigate and use.  There are no apps for tablets or smartphones yet, but they are going to be developed.

One app that I have written about before is “leafsnap.”  This is an app for ipads and phones which was developed by Columbia University and the Smithsonian to assist in identifying trees.  The app has a visual directory of leaves and flowers to assist in identification in the field, which is comprehensive, easy to use, and visually beautiful.  Citizens can assist scientists by using the “snap it” feature.  By taking a picture of a leaf, the tree is identified, and reported back to the Smithsonian and Columbia University.  They can then track where tree populations are, identify rare species, and over time, will be able to see if populations are being lost or changed.

A whole series of apps have been developed by the Peterson Field Guides.  The one I have on my iPad is the Birds of North America.  This is a digital rendering of the Peterson Guides, divided by type of bird (shorebird, owl, woodpeckers, etc.)  It is easy for even a novice birder to use.  When a type of bird is clicked on, the app brings up the page of birds just as it would appear in the printed form.  When a specific species is chosen, buttons are brought up so that the range map of the bird can be shown, as well as hearing the call of the bird.  You can also record where and when you saw the bird. In addition to birds, there are also guides to fish, wildflowers, etc.

I’ll never give up my books, but there are exciting advances in technology which we can all take advantage of to learn more about our natural world.

Last week the Friends of the Bay volunteers found good Dissolved Oxygen levels at all nineteen sites.