Map of Life app guides naturalists in the great outdoors

The Wisconsin Gazette

The new Map of Life app tells users in an instant which species are likely to be found nearby. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those to scientific research and conservation efforts.

“The app puts a significant proportion of our global knowledge about biodiversity in the palm of your hand, and allows you to discover and connect with biodiversity in a place, wherever you are,” said Walter Jetz, a Yale University associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the guiding force behind Map of Life. “This vast information, personalized for where we are, can change the way we identify and learn about the things we see when traveling, hiking in the woods, or stepping in our own back yard.”

Naturalists get a digital guide tailored to their location that. The Map of Life presents localized species information via maps, photographs, and detailed information. The National Science Foundation and NASA provided initial support for the map. Google and Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung also have supported the project, according to a news release from Yale.

The map contains a recording feature so citizen scientists can log their bird encounters and dragonfly sightings, adding to the biodiversity data available to scientists around the world.

“Think of a field guide that continues to improve the more we all use it and add to it. That is the beauty of this mobile application, and its great strength,” said Rob Guralnick, associate curator at the University of Florida and the project’s co-leader. “We hope that the Map of Life app, built from 100 years of knowledge about where species are found, will accelerate our ability to completely close the many gaps in our biodiversity knowledge.”

Making it easier and more globally streamlined for citizen scientists to contribute information is a key motivation behind creating the app.

“The world is changing rapidly and species continue to disappear before we even knew where they existed, what role they had, and how we could conserve them,” said Jetz, who is director of the Yale Program in Spatial Biodiversity Science & Conservation and is involved in several global science initiatives for advancing biodiversity monitoring.

“Too much of our knowledge is limited to too few places and species,” Jetz said. “Helping people everywhere to identify and then record biodiversity carries the potential to hugely extend the geographic and taxonomic reach of measuring the pulse of life.”

The Map of Life app is available in six languages for iPhone and Android smartphones.

On the Web …

For more about the app, go to the website.