Alberta’s nature lovers now have an easier way to share information about their latest plant, animal, and bird sightings.
Hundreds of people have already downloaded the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute’s (ABMI) new smartphone app. NatureLynx, released on July 21, was designed to give users across the province a way to contribute to a potentially huge pool of data on biodiversity in the province.
The nonprofit ABMI, based at the University of Alberta, is one of the largest biodiversity monitoring programs in the world. Every year its staff get out in the field to collect valuable information on Alberta’s flora and fauna.
"But we can't do everything," explained Tara Narwani, director of ABMI’s information centre. "There are lots of species that we don't monitor and that people certainly have an interest in."
That’s where NatureLynx comes in. Anyone can make an account on the app to connect with other users, upload images of their nature finds, ask questions and share details about the things they see. Albertans who’ve already been collecting nature information for years will now have a quick way to find out what their fellow birdwatchers and mushroom hunters are up to.
"So citizens, just by making these observations, can contribute to science," Narwani said.
Newer nature hunters can use the app to learn how to identify common Alberta species, and NatureLynx experts are available to help when users encounter wildlife or plants they can’t put a name to – a mysterious insect or a bird they’ve never seen before, for instance.
Narwani said that ultimately the network of data could have a bigger purpose. One day the province might be able to use the crowdsourced information when making decisions about land use and conservation.
"So we hope that that data will really support better decision making in this province but also to really get people to appreciate the biodiversity that exists here, get out in nature and enjoy it, get a good dose of that vitamin N by participating with NatureLynx," she said.