Encyclopedia of Life and iNaturalist work together to support citizen science

Encyclopedia of Life and iNaturalist work together to support citizen science

New free iPhone application allows professionals and amateurs to collaborate on shared species observation projects

Washington, DC - June 18, 2012 - The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), in collaboration with iNaturalist, is pleased to announce support for citizen science “observation checklists.” Using the free tools provided by EOL and iNaturalist, approved species lists created on EOL can now be turned into mobile observation checklists on the free iNaturalist iPhone application (app) and the iNaturalist website. Observations made through the iPhone app in the field can be shared with the world through iNaturalist, where observations are organized, managed and posted for others to see.

Launched in 2007 with the support of leading scientific organizations around the world, EOL provides global access to knowledge about life on Earth by building a web page for each of the 1.9 million recognized species from trusted sources of information. iNaturalist is a growing community of biodiversity enthusiasts dedicated to recording observations of plants and animals to generate research-grade biodiversity data for science and conservation. On average, a new observation is posted to iNaturalist every four minutes; tens of thousands of distinct species from around the globe have been documented on iNaturalist.

The new capabilities announced today address an urgent need to link reliable information about biological diversity with the tools to easily record species observations. Together, EOL and iNaturalist make it possible for everyone to contribute to our knowledge of nature by sharing observations of animals and plants listed in collections reviewed by members of the scientific community.

Joining forces with iNaturalist has been an excellent pilot project for EOL to launch these participatory citizen science capabilities. EOL invites other collaborators with online natural history observational platforms to consider working together to better serve global audiences in sharing their data and linking them directly to in-depth information on EOL. In participating collections, the contributed observations can be viewed from within EOL in a new Observations tab on the collection.

Screenshot of an EOL Collection's iNaturalist Observations page, showing a map containing push pins. The push pins illustrate the locations of the observations which are also listed beneath the map.

In participating collections, the contributed observations can be viewed from within EOL in a new Observations tab on the collection.

“The new observational features enliven EOL Collections and make them more useful and fun for exploration and investigation. The EOL-iNaturalist projects are easy to use tools for cataloguing a list of species in a backyard or for school-based or citizen science projects while also tapping into a larger, collaborative community of naturalists and the rich EOL pages," said Dr. Marie Studer, Director of EOL's Learning + Education group, based at Harvard University.

Dr. Scott Loarie, Co-Director of iNaturalist and a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, is also enthusiastic about this new collaboration. “Being able to record species that make up Encyclopedia of Life collections will give the public a new way to engage with and learn about the organisms in their backyard,” said Dr. Loarie. “This activity, in turn, will create new streams of biogeography data for use by science and conservation communities to help them with their work of increasing knowledge about, and helping to manage, global biodiversity.”

Several EOL partners and users are excited about these new capabilities and offer the following insights:

“The integration of iNaturalist with EOL will provide exactly the kind of features a lot of educators are looking for. It will empower them to make use of free mobile and web-based applications that they are able to customize to suit their specific site's learning objectives. We've really been looking forward to this and are making it a core component of many of our events and initiatives working with Parks Canada and the U.S. Forest Service.”
- Andrew Munroe, Project Manager, Get to Know Canada, Vancouver, BC, Canada

"The EOL-iNaturalist observation features will help the families we work with to extend their coastal exploration experiences beyond their World Oceans Day events by connecting them to EOL's in-depth learning materials. This application will serve to advance our goal of increasing Ocean Literacy by inspiring participants to collect and share their observations with people in their community and around the world!"
- Kate Leavitt, Marine Science Program Coordinator, Seacoast Science Center, Rye, NH

“I believe these enhanced features are excellent tools that can help further the science education of students and communities and encourage ordinary people to become citizen scientists and take a more active role in learning more about the natural world around them.”
- Scott Sevin, Assistant National Director, Officer Snook Water Pollution Program, Coral Gables, FL

For additional information, please visit: http://eol.org/info/making_observations and http://www.inaturalist.org/docs/getting_started.html

To download the free iNaturalist iPhone app, please visit: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/inaturalist/id421397028?mt=8

For information about how to integrate with the Encyclopedia of Life, please contact: http://education.eol.org/contact

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) operates as an ongoing collaboration of individuals and organizations who share the vision to provide global access to knowledge about life on Earth. EOL is supported by founding sponsors the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional support comes from EOL member institutions and donations from around the world.