Pruning High-Tech Naturalist
You may feel like your cheating at times and perhaps taking from the natural experience by monitoring heartbeat, cadence, route elevation profile, points-of-interest (POI’s,)air temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure. Though combined with identifying wildlife by sight and sound field guide applications it takes the nightmare out of carrying maps and reference books into the forest that you’re feeling geographically displaced. As a wilderness guide I would carry up to 10 pounds of books on tours in a separate dry bag even with years of experience in a particular area. Sure I can look at the sun to know my direction or better, know my exact coordinates with my GPS.
Technology and nature don’t seem like they should go together though nature geeks are bringing the tools to your smartphone that allow budding naturalist looking to stay fit a wilderness experience like never before. Gone are the days of getting lost reading a guidebook or the poisonous trail mishaps of uncertainty. Become a cartographer, entomologist, a geologist, and biologist with a quick download to your smartphone or tablet with these applications to get you started:
Audubon Nature Applications - A Field Guide to North American Mammals & A Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians: Developed by Green Mountain Digital (in alliance with the National Audubon Society), a digital media publisher from Vermont specializing in outdoor-oriented apps, brings the helpfulness of the Audubon nature guides to your smartphone. With this app you can browse the mammalian, reptile, and amphibian species of North America by shape, family, name, or by using an advance search query. The species fact sheets include nice photos, range maps, voice sound clips for some species, and a cool function to locate, report, and share your sightings. You can also keep a journal of the species you have spotted for later reference. There are over 25 Audubon Nature Series applications for specific species and regions of the world you can learn more about at www.audubonguides.com/field-guides/mobile-apps.html.
iBird Pro Guide to Birds: Developed by the Mitch Waite Group it is by far the best bird identification application on the market, Loaded with features I’ve used to call-in predator birds, owls, and during breeding. Allowing for song recognition and habitat descriptions I’ve been able to trump ole school birder’s identifying song and shorebirds alike using this application.
Leaf Snap: A joint project by Columbia University, University of Maryland and Smithsonian Institution is assisting people identify plants with a photo. Using facial recognition software for trees–all you need is a leaf and a white background and this application should be able to help you. The app currently covers trees of the Northeast and Washington, DC.
MyNature Tracks: Need help identifying animal tracks or scat? This app has a number of animal tracks, scat and sound information that can come in handy when you’re exploring the great outdoors. Keep in mind, it helps to measure the length of the track when it comes time to identify! MyNature also offers several other great applications like MyNature Tree Guide and even park specific apps. Check them out if you are planning on visiting a specific area, like the Grand Canyon for regional identification help.
The above applications should answer your nature identification needs though the one I’m most excited to introduce you is the Map My Fitness application at http://www.mapmyfitness.com . Here is where I’m going to do more than tell you about a trail by defining its route and challenging us all to get out and enjoy what we drive by without wonder in during our busy days. Conditioning us to pack a lunch and hit a trail instead of a drive-thru with a colleague or friend at noon. To answer the question, I’m bored, what can we do during the weekend with the kids.