Mobile phones have changed our lives in many ways. It seems there is an app available to meet all our needs, from baking to banking and everything in between.
At Ontario Parks, we generally encourage green time over screen time; However, there is one app that we think every visitor should have on their phone.
It’s called iNaturalist. It’s free and allows you to connect, share and discover the incredible diversity of your park with just a few clicks. And, even more importantly, that information helps you better manage your park.
To date, more than 11,000 people have contributed more than 500,000 records to help develop our knowledge of the flora and fauna in Ontario parks by using iNaturalist to take and share photos of animals and plants.
And some really, In fact Interesting things have been discovered.
Photo: Colin Jones
Colin Jones, provincial arthropod zoologist with the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre, used iNaturalist to report on a crayfish he found in Ojibway Prairie Provincial Park. However, it was no ordinary crayfish: it turns out it was a Paintedhand Mudbug, a species of crayfish never before reported in Canada!
Visitors to Algonquin Provincial Park were quick to draw when a Canada lynx crossed the Old Railway Bike Trail — they managed to snap a photo and submit the record to iNaturalist. Bobcats are extremely rare in southern Ontario and this record was one of the first confirmed records from Algonquin in recent history.
Photo: Donald Sutherland
Thanks to this tool, many other species that were previously unknown in the park’s inventories have been discovered and cataloged. The northern two-lined salamander was one recently reported in Silent Lake Provincial Park. With salamanders in decline around the world, this new record will be useful in tracking the impact of climate change and disease on these important species.
How to start
Perhaps the most interesting thing about iNaturalist is that you don’t have to be an expert. He connect you with experts from all over the world.
A strange moth? A strange flower? An invasive species? You can use this app to get an ID and improve biodiversity knowledge with nothing more than your fingertips and your phone!
Getting started is easy:
Follow Ontario Parks’ iNaturalist project for up-to-date wildlife sightings.
You can also join the Natural Heritage Information Centre’s Ontario Rare Species project and share your sightings of at-risk species with our provincial species experts.
We can all help get to know these special places. What will you discover? The next Mudbug? A new population of plants or animals?
Download the app and start your exploration!
Please respect wildlife and park regulations while exploring. Check out some great tips on how you can use your phone or camera responsibly in the parks.