A new version of a child-friendly app, which harnesses the latest image recognition technology to allow immediate identification of wildlife and plants, is being launched in collaboration with global conservation organisation, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The Seek app, which is part of the iNaturalist platform (a joint initiative between the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society), comprises a suite of educational tools presented by the WWF and Netflix to engage young people in the global conversation on saving our planet that was sparked by the hit series, Our Planet.
WWF ambassador and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, who narrates the series and some of the key education films, said: “Young people are the future of our planet. We must equip them with the information, insight, and practical skills to understand the importance of biodiversity - both intrinsically and for the survival of humanity. Educators have a key role to play in preparing young people for the challenges that lie ahead. There can be no greater legacy than giving young people the tools they need to save our planet.”
In a bid to get young people outdoors and into their local environments, and to unlock their curiosity, the updated version* of the Seek by iNaturalist app forms part of the world’s largest online community for nature enthusiasts and challenges its users to find certain species and earn badges.
On opening the Seek camera and pointing it at wild organisms such as animals, plants, and fungi, the app informs the user on what they are looking at via an augmented reality interface. Users can also share wildlife records from Seek with iNaturalist and contribute to citizen science.
Abhas Misraraj, Product Manager for Seek, said: "Seek is an incredible tool for helping people understand and connect with the nature all around them. Simply by scanning the organisms they see, anyone can identify and learn about the plants, wildlife, and fungi in their backyard and around the world. We hope that this will inspire young people, families, and curious naturalists of all ages to get outside, learn about the organisms that surround them, and embark on a journey to become stewards of the rich biodiversity and ecosystems with which we share our planet."
A “Citizen Science for Our Planet” toolkit is available for schools, colleges, universities, and youth groups.
Users can use the updated app “Seek by iNaturalist” or the offline recording tools provided to monitor local biodiversity and initiate a biodiversity action plan to improve conditions for wildlife in local communities.
Matt Larsen-Daw, Education Manager at the WWF, said: “We’re the first generation to know the full impact of what we’re doing to our planet, and the last that has the chance to do anything about it. As the youth movement leads the charge around the environmental crisis, our resources are already in demand due to their appetite to learn more about the path to a sustainable future in which people and nature need to thrive.”
About the Seek by iNaturalist app
The updated version includes:
- On-screen identification which guides the user towards taking a more identifiable photo by getting the right angle or features in the frame. When the app narrows it down to a particular species, it prompts the user to take a picture, which earns the user a badge and unlocks more information about the species. In version one of the Seek app, which was launched in March 2018, a photo had to be taken before the user had a sense of whether or not it was even identifiable by Seek. Now, the user gets immediate feedback about the species.
- As of June 2019, Seek users can optionally submit observations they make within the app to the iNaturalist community, where experts and enthusiasts can further assist with identifications.
- Seek challenges are a new feature and include the :
- Connectivity Challenge: encouraging users to discover ten new species nearby, in their garden, street, or local park
- Community Challenge: focusing on capturing all the different levels of the food chain hierarchy - a producer, a herbivore, a carnivore, and a decomposer
- Biodiversity Challenge: getting the user to record at least one new species from many different taxanomy – from birds and reptiles, to insects and arachnids, to plants and fungi.