New smartphone app helps you identify Alberta's wildlife

Alberta’s nature is diverse — and a new smartphone app will help users learn more about the species around them.

Naturelynx is a crowdsourced database for people to post, ask and educate about Alberta's nature

Naturelynx is a new app that allows people to take photos of Alberta wildlife, like this sage grouse, and post their observations and ask questions about them. (Jerret Raffety/Rawlins Daily Times via Associated Press)

Alberta's nature is diverse — and a new smartphone app will help users learn more about the species around them.

Naturelynx is a made-in-Alberta app that is essentially a crowdsourced database. People can post pictures of basically anything in nature and post as much or as little information on the subject as they want.

The app is used as both a database for observations and behaviours as well as a place for people to learn more about Alberta species they're curious about.

"The goal with Naturelynx is really to create a biodiversity network in Canada," Tara Narwani, the director of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, told CBC's Radio Active.

The app shows where the photo was posted, the date it was taken, and what is in the photo. On the left, the poster wasn't sure what the species was. On the right, users in the app confirmed the species to be a common fireweed. (Naturelynx)

Narwani called the crowdsourced database "citizen science" where anyone can attribute observations. The idea has been more popular in the last decade among the science community, she said.

"They [citizens] really can contribute more data than the scientific community can collect," she said. "The more people interested, the more people making observations, the better and the bigger the dataset you can collect."

Members can post pictures identifying the photo subjects or simply post "unknown." Verifiers on the app will be able to confirm the species that people write or explain the ones that are unknown.

"If you're new to this, you can learn about the species that have captured your curiosity," Narwani said.

Users can also set up what's called a mission in a certain area. People in the surrounding area can contribute the diversity in plants, animals, insects they see to the mission. In future, the species collected on the mission will be added to the database and show which wildlife appear in that area.

Once enough data is collected, Narwani said the app can be used by anyone to find out what's going on around them.

"It can be used for anything you can see with your eyes," she said. "If you're new to Alberta, you're a tourist, you're a new immigrant, or you've never really ventured out into some of our natural spaces, you can use the app."