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Notes from the Naturalist!

Grab your smartphone and get ready for this week’s Notes from the Naturalist! This week I’m going to tell you about some of the great new nature apps that are a valuable resource for nature lovers.

This first one is my personal favorite. It’s an app called Seek. This iOS only app is made by iNaturalist at the California Academy of Sciences and with the National Geographic Society. This app works through image recognition technology, which means you upload photos or take your own through the app and it recognizes what species you saw.

I have been using this app when I am out on a trail and see a plant, insect, bird, fungi, or any other object in nature that I do not recognize. It has been about 98 percent accurate and it will come up with possible suggestions of the family the species is in if the app does not recognize the species from your photo. You also earn badges as you photograph more species. Once identified, you can see what time of year the species can be found, where it can be found, and a little synopsis about the species.

The only downside of this app is that you cannot search for a species without finding it first, or see a list of common species in your area.

Another popular app among naturalists is Merlin Bird ID app. This app is produced through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and debuted in 2014. This app is extremely useful when trying to find out what bird you saw. It asks five questions about the bird you saw and will give you options as to what it could be. Recently they added a photo ID option. This way you can upload a photo of a bird and it will identify it for you. It even works with blurry photos. Unlike Seek, you can search for birds in your area as well as birds in other habitats.

One downside is that you have to download “bird packs” that are specific to certain regions around the world. These take up a lot of space and can be a problem for many people who are photo and app hoarders, like me.

Lauren Veach is the interpretative naturalist for Summit Lake State Park. You may contact her with questions or comments at LVeach@dnr.in.gov.