Scientists want the public’s help to document the biodiversity of the Kaibab National Forest. From the Arizona Science Desk, Melissa Sevigny reports on a new citizen science project.
The U.S. Forest Service wants visitors to the Kaibab to snap photos of plants and animals and submit them to an online database. The project will run throughout 2017.
Mark Christiano, GIS coordinator, says participants need to download a free app called iNaturalist. “It automatically collects a lot of the data for us,” he explains. “So for example, you’re not just getting the photo, but you get the location where the photo was taken [and] the timestamp. This generates really good data the forest can directly use at the end of the year.”
People can also submit audio clips, for example of bird song. Experts will then weigh in on the identity of the species. Biologists plan to use the data to monitor rare or invasive species and to inform management decisions.
Jackie Banks, public affairs officer, says, “We see this as a way our visitors can receive expert feedback on their discoveries, and we think it’s a great way to connect forest service biologists with citizen scientists and to really encourage that exploration of the Kaibab National Forest.”
The Kaibab covers 1.6 million acres and is divided by the Grand Canyon.
You can also use iNaturalist on your desktop computer. Learn more about the project on the iNaturalist website.