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New nature app lets users become plant, animal experts

A new app for the smart phone lets users become experts when it comes to nature.

iNaturalist allows you to take pictures of plants, animals, and trees, upload and share them, and identify the species from the app’s database. 

The app is free and simple to use. Once you enter your email and create a username, you’re ready to go. First, the app will ask for access to your phone’s camera and location. The screen then goes to your homepage, where you’ll find five icons at the bottom. They include: explore, activity, observe, me, and more. 

Explore allows you to see where other users have taken pictures across the world. Simply zoom into the map with your fingers and and touch the location icon.

The activity button shows pictures you’ve shared and news about discoveries across the world. Next to that button is ‘observe,’ which you touch to start taking pictures. Once you’ve taken a picture you can add notes about the photo, location, or recent weather events that might have impacted what you found. You can also add your location so other users will know what you’ve seen in a particular area, in case they want to check it out as well.

You can even search national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone to see plants and animals found in those parks. Of course, you can also stay local and search for species found near you.

"There’s lots of species loaded into the app, so if you don’t know what you’re looking at you can ask for suggestions, and it’ll give you the top ten suggestions," said Molly Olson, a naturalist at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

River Bend is using the app to identify invasive species like buckthorn so they can stop it from spreading. The app is also being used on a global scale for scientists to see where certain species are located.


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