Weatherford Living

How local naturalists can go global

Your nature walk or forest hike is going along fine and then, whoa, you spot something you don’t recognize or want to get an expert opinion on. Well, you guessed it, there’s an app for that! It’s called iNaturalist, and you can learn all about the free app and website from biologist Sam Kieschnick at the next meeting of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Cross Timbers Chapter, in Weatherford on Thur., Jan. 14.

“I call it ‘Facebook for nature nerds.’ It is a citizen science network and community that is focused on documenting the biodiversity that's all around us,” says Kieschnick, who uses the technology tool in his work as Nature Education Specialist for the city of Mansfield, working primarily out of Oliver Nature Park.

People can use the tool to increase their identification skills and network with other naturalists around the world. They can report plant sightings that add to other sightings to help build a global map of where species exit. They can take photos and ask for IDs from experts. The app is for data collection (which can also be done with a camera), and the website is used for looking at the data and conversing with the naturalist community. It’s a great tool for science educators as well.

“Ooooh, how I love it. It's revolutionized the way I go outside,” said Kieschnick, whose enthusiasm for anything botanical is infectious.

Kieschnick earned a master’s degree from Tarleton State University, has taught biology at Weatherford College, and has worked as a botanist for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, a naturalist with the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, and a science interpreter at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. He is an active participant in citizen science, helping others with identifications of organisms, and curating the citizen science network iNaturalist.

The program will be presented at Cherry Park community building, 313 Davis St., in Weatherford. It will begin at 7 p.m., following a short chapter business meeting at 6:30 p.m. The public is always welcome and light refreshments will be available.

The Cross Timbers Chapter promotes conservation, research and use of native plants in the rich biological region west of Fort Worth. Chapter meetings are held the second Thursday of the month. For information, go to www.npsot.org/wp/crosstimbers.

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