Happy New Year!
Are you interested in becoming a citizen scientist? It's now easier than ever! Whether you are a backyard birder, a botanist on a weekend hike, a wildlife enthusiast, or a total newbie, it's easy to track your sightings, get help with identifying what you've found, and contribute to provincial records of species at risk.
The iNaturalist.ca app is both Android and iPhone friendly and is a great way to bring technology on your outdoor excursions. The app is free to download, and easy to set up an account so you can begin to track your sightings.
The brilliant thing about iNaturalist is that you don't need to have any experience! iNaturalist allows users to take a photo of their sighting with a cell phone, and as long as your location services are turned on, the photo will be linked to a location on a map. From there, you can request assistance to identify your finding based on the photo you took and post it to your account as an observation. Once posted, other naturalist users will comment on your post and can agree or disagree with the accuracy of the observation; once you have three others confirm your observation, it will be considered "research grade".
Other features of iNaturalist are that you can post your observations to specific projects, and join other communities within the app. Provincial organizations like the Natural Heritage Information Centre and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) use iNaturalist to help track provincial records of species at risk. Observations that are added to iNaturalist.ca will be considered for incorporation into the provincial record of rare species observations and, if suitable, used to create or update Element Occurrences of provincially rare species using standardized NatureServe Core Heritage Methodology. The community of naturalists associated with the app include provincial biologists, environmental consultants, well-known ecologists, and educational professionals. If you are really keen, you can choose to join bioblitz projects that take place across the province (often lead by conservation organizations and naturalist groups) and use the app in the field with a collection of other iNaturalist users.
RiverStone has created a project for The Corner Garden at our head office in Bracebridge, ON. The garden is an amazing spot to attract wildlife and includes a native plant garden with a variety of plant species that are native to the Muskoka region. if you happen to be visiting the office, or walking by, the garden is a great way to test out iNaturalist and help us increase the wildlife sightings in our yard! Check it out!