New app allows nature lovers to track flora and fauna

It was developed by Kensington watershed group with government support

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 27, 2016

Garry Gregory, a conservation biologist with Forests, Fish and Wildlife, takes a picture of some red fox tracks at the J. Frank Gaudet Tree Nursery in Charlottetown recently. Gregory is using a new P.E.I. nature tracker app that will help track wildlife in the province.

©Guardian photo by Maureen Coulter

Islanders will soon be able to easily record the wildlife and plants they see in the great outdoors with a new nature tracker app.

The initiative was created by the Kensington North Watershed Association with support of the forests, fish and wildlife division of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Funding for the project came from the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

"I think it is a good example of a partnership between watershed groups and government to achieve common conservation goals," said Garry Gregory, a conservation biologist with Forests, Fish and Wildlife.

The smartphone app allows users to record details by entering the species observed, or evidence of the species observed, by including associated notes and taking and uploading a photo. The app automatically records the location and coordinates of the user.

Once the siting is submitted, it goes to their website, peinaturetracker.ca.

A marker will appear on a P.E.I. map of the spotting and will show where other users have seen that particular species.

"The thought behind it was, there are some pretty active people in the province including watershed workers that spend a lot of time in wildlife habitat and provide the great opportunity to collect some information on the distribution status of our wildlife species."

Chris Rice works with the Kensington North Watershed Association and was the main developer for this app, which he started last spring.

"They had a project in mind to keep track of animals so I just went out and created it," said Rice.

He said creating the app definitely had it's challenges, but the database now has a few hundred wildlife species on the server.

"You can type in what you think it is and it can be loaded on to the database later."

Gregory said this app is particularly useful for the P.E.I. Invasive Species Council to track and document the distribution of invasive species in the province.

"It allows people to document the occurrence and it is very important for the P.E.I. Invasive Species Council to know that information, where those species are occurring on P.E.I."

It will also help identify wildlife species of conservation significance or to confirm rare species, said Gregory.

"We are able to use that information to tailor our management for particular species of conservation concern."

Gregory said there are other apps of this kind on the market, but this is the first one tailored specifically to Prince Edward Island.

The app is fully customizable and can be amended and updated at anytime.

Watershed groups in the province will use the app during the summer months with an official public launch sometime this year.

maureen.coulter@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/MaureenElizaC