Archive for the ‘smart phone apps’ Category
The first blog post in our new series titled “Citizen Science Test Drive,” (where we present first-person reviews of citizen science apps, tools and platforms) featured reviews of three nature apps by SciStarter contributor Lisa Gardner. Today, we bring you Kate Atkins, a regular SciStarter contributor and avid birder. Here, Kate shares her list of personal, favorite apps for birding. If you would like to contribute to this series and share your experiences with our community, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The best citizen science apps for birding used to be iOS-only. I’ve known many an Android birder to switch to iPhone or buy an iPod Touch because the apps on that side of the divide were so darn good. But with Android smartphones now commanding more than half of the market, the gap is starting to close. Here’s the best of both worlds.
BirdsEye is precisely a bird-finding app, based on the citizen-driven eBird database. Want to see a specific bird? BirdsEye will show you the most recent, closest sighting and give you directions. Want to see what birds have been observed at a specific hotspot over the last 30 days? What rare or notable birds have been seen near you recently? Done and done.
While helping people find and view birds, this app also teaches newer birders which birds can be found where and when. Yes, this one is still iOS only, but an Android version is likely to materialize soon.
The Audubon Birds app recently added bird-finding functionality via eBird to their existing field guide app. Study birds at home, on the subway, or in the park, then go find and observe birds in the real world with a little help from your friends at Cornell and Audubon.
A good birder keeps field notes. A citizen scientist shares the data. Cornell’s eBird is the key crowd-sourced database, so the ability to either directly submit to eBird or to export lists in eBird format is a must-have feature for any logging app.
If you are not familiar with the project and wish to report your bird sightings using one of these apps, I strongly urge you to first create an eBird account and use it in a browser before taking the plunge with mobile data-logging.
Very simply, this app records and uploads sightings to eBird, from your fingers straight to Ithaca. I’d like to see it more deeply connected to my eBird account, but for base functionality and total simplicity, BirdLog is indispensable.
A nice option if you want the bells and whistles BirdLog lacks. This app is pre-loaded with US, Mexico and UK bird lists. Add your locations via GPS, and list for them again and again. Exports to both eBird and Google Map formats so you can easily share your adventures.
The developers have carefully crafted interactions for use in the field. Big day and group count usage is well thought-out, and as your list archive grows, the more fun it will be to study your own patterns. This app makes a compelling case to trade in your notebook for your phone.
Study & Skill-building
Before, during, and after birding, reference materials and study guides are key elements to the birding life. Most marquis field guides have wonderful app versions with extra illustrations, photos, audio files and links to web resources.
Each is a little different, so it’s worth some thought before purchasing one over another. I’m partial to the Sibley guide for its illustrations, audio files, and side-by-side bird comparison, but beginners may prefer iBird for its guided search.
- The Sibley Guide to the Birds of North America
- iBird Explorer
- Peterson Birds of North America
- National Geographic’s Handheld Birds
Birding by ear
- Nemesis Code’s Bird Codes and Band Codes apps. If you want to be a real ace in the field, these apps will teach you the 4-letter banding codes for birds. Learning these will cut your data entry time, and help you interpret bands if you see them on birds in the wild.
I use some non-birding specific apps to enhance my days in the field. If you’re as phone-fiddly as I am, and like tramping around outside, find out what my home screens hold at Birding Philly.
Today, we are launching a series of SciStarter blog posts titled, “Citizen Science Test Drive” where we will present first-person reviews of citizen science apps, tools and platforms. If you would like to contribute to this series and share your experiences with our community, email email@example.com.
Here’s my review of three mobile apps for exploring nature!
I often get sidetracked after using the W-A-L-K word out loud in front of my dog. Sometimes, I am looking for misplaced sneakers or sunglasses, but today I am downloading a few citizen science apps to my iPhone in hopes of turning our midday walk into an urban naturalist adventure.
Mila, a fluffy herding mix, sits at attention, impatiently staring at me with her “didn’t you say we were going for a walk?” expression as I poke at the phone and the app icons appear on the screen.
For most dogs and the people attached to the far end of their leashes, a walk around the neighborhood is a regular part of the day. This is especially in urban areas where fenced in backyards aren’t common. Taking the dog for a walk around my city is one of my favorite things to do, especially on a sunny afternoon, and this happens to be a sunny afternoon. If we are going to make a transect through the neighborhood, why not be a citizen scientist along the way?
I choose three citizen science apps: SciSpy, iNaturalist, Project Noah. They sound like the high tech naturalist gear I’ll need. All three center around the same idea – that with all the people on our planet wandering around looking at plants and animals, why not capture the information they see? It could be useful, or at least fun.
Tree! Crow! Some sort of vine! I take pictures and make several observations in the first couple of blocks of our walk. There is also a “pets” category, so I take a picture of Mila and add that too. In this app, one must take a picture to submit for each spotting, which means that wildlife that isn’t photogenic (like the tiny birds that I can hear more than I can see) don’t seem like good candidates to record. The interface and data entry view are easy to use even when I am entering the information with one hand while my other hand clutches the leash. I’m not quite sure if there is any scientific need for this data, but it is fun and easy to make observations and it’s getting me to look at my neighborhood in a different way. I’m on an urban treasure hunt for wildlife.
On the maps screen, I see my blue dot wandering about and I add observations as we walk with pictures, species names, and location. On all of these apps, the location information is automatically generated by the phone’s global positioning system (GPS), which seems to be on the right block. My blue dot wanders a few more blocks and I find another couple of plants to add. Mammals seem to be scarce today unless you count people and dogs.
I discover that I need to login to sync my observations with the iNaturalist database and allow researchers to use the data. It’s a little cumbersome to do the signup process on the phone since I have to go to the iNaturalist web site, then check email for confirmation, then go back to the website and login with the app. This is a bit challenging when there is a dog tugging at her leash and we wander on.
Aha! I can join missions, which seems like a much more direct contribution to scientific research! Mila, like most dogs, seems like a natural contributor for Project Squirrel so I choose that mission. But, alas, Mila is chasing the squirrels away, and I am unable to take their pictures for the mission. The “new spotting” button comes in handy when I see pigeons wandering the sidewalk. I’m not sure if there is a pigeon mission, but this way I can capture the observation as it is happening instead of browsing the missions.
In the “fieldguide”, there is a screen that allows me to see what wildlife has been spotted nearby. Someone spotted a duck in a nearby park yesterday and the plants on a green roof. And there is a silver maple on 11th Street. A fox squirrel was spotted near the library several months ago. I wonder where he is now. Someone spotted a spider at the state capital last year.
In summary, I realize that while the three apps have their differences, all changed the way I was looking at my city. Smartphones are usually thought of as a tool to make us oblivious of the environment that we are in. When focused on the screen of the phone, we are not noticing our environment. So many of the people I pass on the sidewalk are holding smartphones. How many are uploading pictures of the plants and animals they see along the way?
So, I challenge you all to download an app that gets you focused on the environment around you and test it out for yourself. Get out your phone, spy on the wildlife, take pictures, and join the wildlife paparazzi!
Announcing Philadelphia’s newest citizen science project: MyHeartMap Challenge!
This project aims to crowdsource the first-of-its-kind map of Automated External Defibrillators in Philadelphia by photographing AEDs.
When someone collapses and stops breathing, an automated external defibrillator or AED can save their life. [Home AEDs are available for purchase.] In Philadelphia, PA, a city with about 1.5 million people, AEDs are all around us. Near our homes, workplaces, and even grocery stores! Currently, there is no comprehensive map, and, as a result, AEDs are often not used when they are most needed. With the crowdsourced information collected from this contest, the organizers will build a map of AED locations in Philadelphia that can inform 911 services and the public.
The MyHeartMap contest will officially go live January 31, 2012 at 9am! Until then, you can download the app from the iPhone store and Android marketplace and start submitting entries. Clues will be posted at the project website myheartmap.org and philly.org. The contest closes on March 13, 2012, at 6pm ET!
There are three ways to play:
1. Find and photograph the most AEDs in Philadelphia County before March 13, 2012 and win the $10,000 grand prize. The team or individual that finds the most “confirmed,” “eligible” AEDs by the contest end date will receive the grand prize of $10,000.
2. Be the first to submit a photograph of a “Golden”AED and win $50. The organizers have identified between 20 and 200 AEDs in Philadelphia County as “Golden” AEDs. These are unmarked, and you won’t know it’s a winner when you photograph it. Clues will be posted at the MyHeartMap project website.
3. Want to help but not compete for a prize? Submit addresses of locations without AEDs or that you wish had an AED – this is just for fun, and it will help with the map.
I love being in the outdoors amongst nature – but then who doesn’t? I also have a fascination for all things technological. Sadly, all too often these two passions are incompatible. For as us techie-lovers know, too many an hour can be spent cooped up inside staring at a computer screen.
The emergence of the smartphone now means that we can effectively carry powerful little computers around in our pockets. Programmers have sought to exploit this new technology and let citizen scientists get more involved.
Hot on the heels of MoGo and SoundAroundYou, Columbia University and the University of Maryland teamed up to create a new iPhone app called Leafsnap. Seeking to use smartphone technology to engage people in their environment, it promises to answer to that question, “I wonder what type of tree that is?,” when you don’t have anyone to ask.
Utilizing visual recognition technology and an Internet-enabled smartphone, the Leafsnap app identifies plant species with the phone’s built-in camera. I was excited by this prospect, and so tearing myself away from the laptop (iPhone in hand), I set out into the great outdoors to put Leafsnap through its paces. Here’s what I found:
Leafsnap performed well on both an iPhone and iPad; it is easy to use and boasts a wealth of great features. After “snapping” and uploading an image of a tree’s leaf, you are presented with a list of likely candidates. Bark, flower and leaf images and accompanying facts then let you work out if Leafsnap has found your tree. Your findings are saved and placed on a world map, letting you see what other people have also spotted in your area. I never knew the Yoshino Cherry tree grew in our part of the world!
This guest post was written by James Robinson, lead Android developer on the OpenSignalMaps team. OpenSignalMaps was founded by four friends who saw the need for an independent means of comparing cell phone carriers. James holds a Master’s degree in Physics and Philosophy from Oxford University.
At OpenSignalMaps, we’re mapping cell signal strength and wifi access points. Through our Android application, 400,000 users have submitted readings — from the remote island of Svalbard north of Norway to Ushaia, the world’s southernmost town, our maps are filling out. We’re building an impartial view of the world’s networks.
For many people, a smartphone will be their first “computer.” Smartphones are cheaper than netbooks, use less electricity, and you can make calls if you have signal. But poor signal or low network speed (another thing the mobile app measures) can make smartphones pretty dumb.
Using our Android app (the iPhone & Blackberry apps in development), we’re building a comprehensive and unbiased map of global networks. Previously, coverage maps have been provided by carriers who have their own interests to serve. We think it’s crucial to give an independent account of the carriers, and the citizen scientists who use the app are helping us determine which network is best for any geographical region.
Adolescents diagnosed with chronic illness have a lifelong responsibility to maintain and promote their health. Chronic illness can impact life in a variety of ways: pain, fatigue, inability to take part in physical abilities, and feelings of hopelessness. To help overcome these challenges, adolescents commonly look to counseling, social groups, and similar online activities.
What would you do to help an adolescent with chronic illness regain control of their health?
The folks at InnoCentive.com are looking for exciting new ways to use gaming technology to help adolescent patients with chronic disease. Their new challenge, Games for Health: Inspiring Adolescents to take Control of their Health, will payout 10,000 bucks, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $1,000.
The goal is to obtain a gaming product that helps adolescents with chronic illness create and maintain their own health. The winning solution will create a feeling of community, provide measures of success, and impacts real life behaviors. A teenager should actually want to play this game, rather than associate with homework!
Have you ever seen the Milky Way from where you live? Most of us have not, and it’s largely due to increased light pollution from outdoor lighting. Light pollution not only wastes billions of dollars a year in energy and money but it causes human sleep disorders and disrupts habits critical to ecology.
Globe at Night is an international star-hunting campaign that needs volunteers to record their observations of particular constellations in order to measure light pollution. This year’s campaign runs from February 21 through March 6, 2011.
Last year, citizen scientists contributed 17,800 observations and raised awareness about the issue all over the world. The project takes just a few minutes of your time to measure sky brightness and contribute those observations online. Those of you that are tech-savvy can contribute in real-time via the Globe at Night web app. Out of this world!
Contributing to Globe at Night is as easy as pie:
1. Find your latitude and longitude.
2. Find Orion by going outside an hour after sunset (about 7-10pm local time).
3. Match your nighttime sky to one of the project’s magnitude charts.
4. Report your observation.
5. Compare your observation to thousands around the world.
Be a star! Join Globe at night!
Ever spotted an amazing critter and wanted to tell your nature-loving friends where it was located? Ever wondered where you could view a white-tailed jackrabbit? WildObs is the app for you!
Short for “wildlife observations,” the WildObs website and suite of iPhone and Android apps allow nature enthusiasts to record wildlife observations and then share photos, stories, and locations of these sightings with other interested people. In short, WildObs is working to connect people, places, and wildlife.
Want to know where to find a Bohemian Waxwing? Looks like one was recently sighted near Manchester, NH! Hoping to spot a baboon? Well, another fellow had luck seeing one in Amboseli National Park in Kenya!
Members post sightings and also list their hopes for sightings-to-come. The most wished-for observation these days is the reclusive cougar.
The WildObs iPhone collection, including Naturalist, Observer, Lookout, and Lookup allows spotters to record their viewing events in near real-time and to figure out what species they are looking at. The app uses GPS to tag the wherebouts of your own sightings, and will also let you see what animals fellow WildObs members have spotted near your current location. To learn how to use WildObs, check out their “how to” videos.
Below, I’ve listed the top 10 Science for Citizen blog posts according to the number of visits. Thanks for joining our journey in our inaugural year. Wait until you hear what we’ve got cooking for 2011!
Happy New Year from the Sci4Cits team!
|To keep young minds entertained as well as enlightened, we recommended 10 back-to-school projects for student citizen scientists. Teachers and parents, please note: Many of these programs provide materials around which you can build lessons. And there are lots more where these came from. Visit our Project Finder for a full list of citizen science projects for primary and secondary school students.|
|As Memorial Day approached and Americans slide into summer vacation, we mixed up a little surf and science cocktail for the lazy summer days ahead. Here are half a dozen citizen science projects you can participate in while at or near the beach. To find more watery science to do this summer, browse through the Ocean and Water category in our Project Finder. If you’d like to recommend other ocean-based projects,|
Looking for a convenient way to identify birds during your next citizen science excursion? Consider the WildLab Bird iPhone app, which uses photographs, audio, and maps to help you determine which bird you’ve spotted and makes it easy to share the observation with researchers at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.
Here’s how it works: Visit the WildLab project description in the Sci4Cits project finder, where you’ll find links to download the app and start a free WildLab account. Using the app, choose the type of habitat where you are, then pick a silhouette like that of the bird you’ve sighted. Next, the app lets you scroll through pre-loaded images of birds and select the one that most closely resembles the bird you’ve spotted. Just to be sure you have the right one, you can also hear the bird’s song and see a map of its range. When you click the “submit” button, your observation, along with date, time, and location, is saved to your online WildLab account. From there, you can create a record of sightings to upload into Cornell’s eBird database. Simple as that.
While you’re on the WildLab site, be sure to check out the free supplemental materials aligned to curricula and educational activities.
In the near future, the WildLab plans to release an app for monitoring horseshoe crabs–sure to be a big hit with fans of those critters (like me!). We’ll let you know when that app is available.