With over 7000 protected acres, Land Trust of North Alabama – quite literally – has a lot of ground to cover. There’s tons of information about our properties and the species that call them home that we just don’t know but we’d love to gather details about each space so that we can better protect it.
Better information about what we’re protecting can help improve our property management plans and identify especially vulnerable areas, possibly some that we may not yet be aware of. We often host scientists, students, and other natural experts to conduct research projects on Land Trust properties as a way of collecting important data about these natural spaces.
But with hundreds of visitors to our public preserves each week, we realized that we had an opportunity to gather hundreds of observations as people explore our trails. We just didn’t have the right tool to make it possible. However, we were recently introduced to iNaturalist – a citizen scientist app with a community of over 40,000 users that allows anyone to identify and document flora and fauna as they observe it in nature. The app requires no plant or animal identification knowledge and works with any smart phone. With some help from local natural experts who were familiar with the app, we created iNaturalist projects for Land Trust nature preserves. This will allow us to inventory the incredibly varied species residing on our properties as users document their observations. And the information gathered about our properties is also available to anyone interested in learning more about the biodiversity of our area.
It’s simple to use. First, download the free iNaturalist app to your device so it’s ready to use the next time you visit a Land Trust property. Then, as you find something that you’d like to document…
Step #1: Open the app and tap “Observe” on the bottom menu.
Step #2: Snap a photo of the plant or animal you’ve observed. In this case a Yellow Trout Lily found along Monte Sano’s Wildflower Trail.
Step #3: The app will offer suggestions to identify the species you’ve found. If you’re not sure what it is, select the one that seems to be the best fit or leave it blank. There were several varieties of trout lily listed among iNaturalist’s suggestions. By selecting the blue information icon (an “i” inside a circle) to the right of each species, you can read more information about it and see photos to help with your identification.
The date and time of your observation should be recorded automatically. The location will record automatically, if you’ve allowed that feature in your privacy settings. In the notes section, you can include the trail name that you’re on or additional details about your observation.
Step #4: Then “Share” your observation and it will be published.
Step #5: Your Observation will be available for other iNaturalist contributors, including thousands of environmental experts, to review and confirm the accuracy or help with identification.
If you need more help getting started, iNaturalist offers more detailed step-by-step instructions.
So as you hike, we hope you’ll help by snapping pictures and recording your observations along the trails. We can’t wait to see what you discover!
Land Trust members can come learn more and test it out on our Members-Only iNaturalist Hike at Bethel Spring on Sunday, April 28. Enjoy a hike to the Lost Sink Falls and use iNaturalist along the way to identify and document flora and fauna as you observe it in nature. You can register at landtrustnal.org/hikes.