Be a smartphone naturalist!

Have you ever found a strange looking bird perched on a neighbourhood tree? It looks so pretty and beautiful and you want to know what bird it is, whether there are more of them, where they came from, and when you can see it again. Somehow, descriptions like “colourful, medium-sized bird with a pointed beak” don’t really help identify the bird. And no one else is able to tell you whether they had ever seen it before.

What if we say you can simply take a picture of the bird with your mobile phone and upload it to a photo sharing network that would tell you not only its name but also who else spotted it in your locality and in other parts of the world, where else in the world the bird exists and whether there are scientists interested in studying that bird. Sounds too futuristic?

Not really, because that is exactly whatwww.projectnoah.comis set up for.

Apart from being able to upload cool photos of your favourite animals and birds and discovering others that take fabulous photos of nature, the project plugs into a network of eco-conscious people to help the world’s conversation efforts on a daily basis. Backed by the National Geographic, Project Noah allows ordinary citizens like you and me to be part of the global movement to document our biodiversity, study, conserve and enjoy nature.

Biodiversity mapping and preservation is an arduous task. When there are only a few scientists, ecologists and volunteers patiently spotting, counting and tracing species can be extremely time-consuming. Yet threats to those very species can rapidly get bigger.

Project Noah attempts to get everyone to help document and preserve biodiversity. And all it takes is a tiny effort to spot species of interests and upload it on to the web – through almost any internet enabled device.

If each person in your neighbourhood simply started tracking species of interest as and when they spotted them, pretty soon we’ll have a detailed biodiversity map – without large crews of scientists and volunteers spending great amounts of time coming to your home and your backyard to count bugs, insects, birds and trees.

What’s more, at Project Noah, you could set up your own mission and have the rest of the world help you out. For instance you could create your own mission; perhaps to document the “colourful, medium-sized bird with pointed beak”.

If you have enough users joining and working on the mission, you’ll be able to identify the kind of habitat the bird lives in and go further to protect its habitat. You’d be able to tell if the bird migrates and where it goes to depending on how its spotting pattern changes over the year. There’s no end to the number of investigations you can take on along with your fellow citizen scientists.

We all love our smartphones with their fancy megapixeled cameras. Why not put them to work and learn more about our planet!

This feature is from Agastya International Foundation (www.agastya.org), which runs hands-on science programmes for students

Try joining the International Spider Survey onwww.projectnoah.com

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