A.I. and Collaborative Databases Grant Easy Access to a Wealth of Knowledge
Hunters, anglers, hikers, and horseback riders venture into untamed territories to experience the wealth and beauty of nature. Part of what makes nature so captivating and mysterious is the sheer variety of landscapes. And life forms we encounter as we move through wild country. Thanks to advances in mobile apps, the primary identification of plants and animals is more accessible than ever. In addition, we now can cross-reference plants and animals with a database of images, academic articles, and user-generated field notes.
What follows is a summary of some popular mobile apps for plant and animal identification, available on iOS and Android. These apps are for the casual naturalist and are by no means a replacement for true expertise. But they are a great way to learn more about flora and fauna around us.
“Seek” by iNaturalist
This application targets beginners and young users. It features an easy-to-browse database of plants and animals based on the user’s current location. The app also features a “gamification” system. It racks up user points based on how many plants and animals the user successfully identifies. In addition, users can submit field notes and, once approved, share with other users who recognize the same plants and animals.
This app is focused entirely on plant identification. It features a simple-to-use interface and includes a database of plants arranged by taxonomy, perfect for aspiring botanists. This app relies on plant “leaf prints,” identifying plants by matching leaf vein patterns with your photo. Its database is massive, featuring more than 600,000 species of plants, trees, mushrooms, and cacti.
The premium plant identification app with extensive information on each species and some app features are locked behind a paywall. Free users get 10 “snaps” per day. Plantsnap Pro is $19.99 for iPhone or Android and offers a full-featured experience, free of ads.
National Park Service App
The National Park Service offers this field guide. And allows users to view plants and animals based on what park they plan to visit. In addition, for users who anticipate weak or spotty cell service. Entire park databases can be downloaded before your outing, keeping all that vital information locally stored on your device.
Each park in the app features a detailed map that includes roads, trails, points of interest. Other valuable information you’ll need for your trip. In addition, users can select their “favorite” national parks. And receive regular news updates about those parks in their National Park Service App.