Forget Pokemon Go now theres an app for collecting real critters

first_img <> While Pokemon Go continues to be a global smash hit, in spite of Niantic essentially kneecapping the app, a group of scientists are trying to get people to help them “catch” creatures for real.One of the central conceits of the Pokemon universe is the PokeDex, a portable computer that scans and logs information about Pokemon players have seen or caught. Working from that idea, a team set to work on an app that would make it easy for everyday folks to take pictures and share pictures of wildlife.The app, called iNaturalist (available for Android and iOS), helps scientists by dramatically increasing the number of available eyes to catalogue the creatures that inhabit our real world. Individually these posts aren’t all that important, but together they can give researchers a much better idea of what’s out there. Speaking to NPR, biologist Sam Kieschnick says, “It’s just a single dot if you look up close, but when you start to take a step back, you can get to see these patterns that start to develop.”That’s often how science works. One or two data points are just that — raw data. In the same way that you can’t look at a one degree temperature increase over an hour and conclude that it’ll get one degree hotter every hour after that, seeing an insect here or there is trivial. Taken together, though, posts from users on iNaturalist have helped discover new species. In time, biologists could track migration, keep tabs on endangered species, and continue discovering life that no one knew existed — just like a real-world PokeDex.The parallels between video games and iNaturalist aren’t lost on Scott Laurie, one of the app’s developers. He hopes that people, especially children, will get some educational fun out of it. “I think it’s possible,” Loarie says. “Because if you think about it, natural history really is a game. It’s going out there and trying to learn as much as you can about the things that you’re finding in nature.”Plus, with Pokemon Go essentially unplayable for the time-being, what else are you going to do to fill that void?last_img

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