Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Michigan: iNaturalist offers tool for citizen scientists to explore Pigeon River Country State Forest

Viewing wildlife in its natural habitat sometimes is easier said than done, especially when visiting the 106,500-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages citizen scientists visiting the forest to try iNaturalist, a tool that can help them navigate the forest’s natural features – providing an exact location to observe a bull elk or find white pine trees, for example – and then share their observations.

“We want to increase the recreational use of the Pigeon River Country State Forest by encouraging visitors to record their observations on iNaturalist,” said DNR Field Operations Manager Brian Mastenbrook. “This tool fosters an appreciation of Michigan’s natural habitats by getting visitors to interact with and learn about the environment around them as they explore the forest and share their findings for everyone to enjoy.”

A social network where people can share information about biodiversity as well as help others learn about the natural world around them, iNaturalist.org has an application that can be used directly from a smartphone, making recording observations from the field easy. Users can take photographs through the app, and these pictures are then geo-referenced to the exact location where they were taken and uploaded onto the website, where other iNaturalist users will be able to see where and when the picture was taken. The species and habitat type also are noted for each posting, with multiple field guides available to help users with identification.

Mastenbrook explained that citizens can become scientists by recording the range of biodiversity they find within the Pigeon River Country State Forest. This information can help biologists gather critical information on species of interest, such as the American marten, elk, black-throated blue warbler, golden-winged warbler, pileated woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk, ruffed grouse, wood thrush and wild turkey.

Additional citizen science projects can be found by visiting www.michigan.gov/wildlife and clicking on Wild Science.