Tuesday, November 29, 2011

iNaturalist Mapping Project for Middlebury Area Land Trust

I spent a lot of time working on a new project today, and while it isn't directly related to watershed issues, it is related to technology and natural science so I thought I'd mention it here.

I've posted before about iNaturalist, a website and smartphone app that allows people to upload sightings of different living things found in nature, along with photos and location (located by GPS in the case of smartphones).  There are a lot of neat potential applications for this program, and I decided to set up a project to help gather data on the organisms living around Middlebury, Vermont; especially land managed by the Middlebury Area Land Trust and/or along the Trail Around Middlebury.

This project allows anyone who downloads the iNaturalist app or registers for the website to upload sightings found in the area.  I haven't gotten anyone else involved in this project yet, but I've been doing informal surveys of the vegetation when on solo explores, and have gathered quite a bit of data.  You can see what I've found so far by visiting the project website here.  While you can't view all the data at once, you can view up to 200 occurrences at once at this link, or navigate to a particular location and refresh to get data on a more local level.  Yet, this data is only the tip of the iceberg compared to what is possible using this program.  If I can get a few students at Middlebury College or a few of my friends into using this program, we can gather a nearly unlimited amount of data - and with the photo and GPS capability with smartphones, even people who aren't sure of IDs can participate.

One of the funnest parts of this project is that it is possible to create range maps of different species in the area (and throughout the continent if enough people participate!)  For example, you can see locations of white pine here (this is a very common species - it's really everywhere - but that means I've documented it many times)... you can see the distribution of white oak (a more restricted species in Vermont) here, and you can look for occurrences of invasive Glossy Buckthorn here (though I have also mapped some on What's Invasive and may make a new 'park' for this area also).

I've also included a Google map below.  Note that it is a work in progress - for some reason it is not displaying the occurrences in Battell Woods and I haven't yet figured out why.

View iNaturalist MALT Project in a larger map


  1. Very impressive! I'll have to remember to play w/it when I'm down in the valley next.

  2. Yay! You can also use iNaturalist up your way and just add occurrences to the general database, or create a separate project. MALT actually has some land holdings up that way so you could probably justify adding them to this as well.