by Aimee Bonanno
Seek by iNaturalist is a fun, safe way to engage kids and beginners in exploring local biodiversity with an interface half way between game and citizen science. Seek does not collect, use, or disclose personal information. Geo location is blurred so exact location of street name, even city is not identifiable. It also does not generate or share information with iNaturalist, but it does get information from iNaturalist. If you merely want to explore biodiversity nearby, it is a great way to learn about what you are seeing or what others have seen nearby.
To use the app, you simply take photos of the plants, animals, and fungi you encounter. When starting there is a friendly reminder to be safe while gathering your photos. To reward you and make it fun, there are many badges to earn. There is a series of badges for number of observations, and then badges for your first, fifth, and twenty-fifth observation of 9 different taxa. The app keeps count of what you’ve seen, how many species, and how many badges you have. The badges are the game part of it and encourage users to look for a variety of life.
The app uses the image recognition technology of iNaturalist. Once you take a picture, the app recognizes the species and adds it to your collection. A big drawback is that if the picture you take is not recognized, there is no way for you to enter it. Each species that is in your collection or that has been seen nearby will show up as a tile. Clicking on the tile will open more information on the species: common and scientific name, taxon, map, a graph of when sightings have been recorded, a blurb from wikipedia, and an observation count from iNaturalist. For example, I’ve shown below the Eastern Gray Squirrel information.
This app seems to be a way for iNaturalist to improve its image recognition capability and a way for novices and students to have fun learning about what else is living around them. It is currently only available on iOS devices, hopefully beta tests will soon be complete for Android.