Published on 27 April 2020

Calling citizen scientists

Are you keen to become a citizen scientist? Join local naturalists and council staff in co-contributing to the online Naturehoodz project.

Community members interested in local flora and fauna are invited to join in the new Naturehoodz project being managed by the council via the iNaturalist mobile application and website.

iNaturalist is an online platform connecting people to nature. It has been used internationally for several years and is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. Users of the app share information about the plant and animal life in their region to help others learn about nature. The app serves as a crowdsourced species identification system and records the occurrence of organisms.

Observations uploaded to iNaturalist contribute to the digital Atlas of Living Australia, an open infrastructure that creates a detailed picture of Australia’s biodiversity. The data is made accessible and reusable by the general public, and is a primary source for many scientists, policy makers, environmental planners and land managers.

By taking a clear, full-frame photograph of an organism and uploading it to iNaturalist, members of the community keep track of their observations and get help from the app’s community to identify and verify the species that has been found. The app allows users to search for specific species to see where they’ve been sighted. Or, users can search via location to see what flora and fauna is in that area.

The app is an opportunity for residents and council staff to work together by making recordings of field observations and the locations of species, then sharing the information to contribute to site planning, benefitting local people, plants and animals alike.

The council regularly receives requests from community members for information relating to the biodiversity in local reserves. Previously, photographs and other data captured by council staff was recorded on their computers, making it difficult to share the information with others.

Senior Natural Areas Conservation Officer Ben Moulton, says the Naturehoodz project is an opportunity for residents and council staff to collaboratively collect and share details about natural spaces.

“iNaturalist is an interactive online network that will enable the Onkaparinga community to collect and share information about our local flora and fauna, the detail of which the council could never establish on its own, given the large number of reserves in our region,” Ben says. “It’s a great platform of ongoing data, not just a record of one day.

“Now, council staff can capture information in reserves that our community can access, and vice versa. The knowledge is then accessible to everyone interested in what nature lives in our neighbourhood.”

As Ben explains, you don’t have to leave home to enjoy iNaturalist and be part of Naturehoodz.

“People are enjoying iNaturalist, and everyone is welcome to join Naturehoodz. Many local retirees have a valuable range of experiences in being able to identify plant and animal species.

“Some people are going out and taking photographs, while others aren’t, preferring to look at other people’s captures and help verify the information. University students are using the app to develop their skills in botany, for example, as are year 12 biology students,” Ben says.

iNaturalist is a handy tool for schools as it relies on observations but integrates well with young people who are interested in technology.

Old Reynella resident Geoff Cox has been using iNaturalist for two years and is a member of the Naturehoodz project.

“I’ve always had an interest in the natural world,” Geoff says. “I came across iNaturalist while trying to identify a plant my children had pointed out in a local park.

“iNaturalist connects me to knowledgeable people who can help identify species from my photos. Without it, I could spend hours reviewing field guides and identification keys, getting lost in the scientific terminology, and still not be certain of what I was looking at,” Geoff says.

The observations Geoff is making are contributing to the understanding of our local species.

“While out hiking I had an encounter with an unusual orange fly and uploaded photos to iNaturalist. The community identified it as similar to a Queensland species, but one that is not known from South Australia, so likely represents an as yet undescribed species.”

iNaturalist Australia

City of Onkaparinga Naturehoodz

Atlas of Living Australia

Join local naturalists and council staff in co-contributing to the online Naturehoodz project.