This summer, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched Seek, an innovative and exciting new app, as part of a collaboration with iNaturalist – the world’s largest online community for nature enthusiasts – and Netflix’s Our Planet. It is designed to encourage young children to get out into nature, to explore their surroundings and to discover local biodiversity.
Designed to be as simple and straightforward to use as possible, the app encourages users to identify wild species by using their phone or tablet’s camera. Live image recognition will distinguish the exact species of plant, flower, insect or animal by matching it to one of 30,000 species in the apps database. The app draws from millions of wildlife observations and shows you which insects, birds, plants, amphibians, and other species you are most likely to find in your local area. It is hoped that this accessible technology will encourage young people to find out more about the biodiversity in their local communities.
As you photograph different species, you can add them to your observation list, learning more about them in the process and earning badges along the way. The more observations you make, the more discovery badges you earn, working your way up from beginner (Tadpole) to expert (Explorer). The app also offers a variety of challenges such as discovering ten living species nearby (in your garden, street or local park, for instance), capturing all the different levels of the food chain hierarchy – a producer, herbivore, carnivore and a decomposer, or to record at least one species from as many taxa as possible - from birds and reptiles, insects and arachnids, to plants and fungi.
The app was launched on World Environment Day (5 June), notching up more than 540,000 downloads and recording 20 million observations worldwide. Since the launch, certain schools in the UK have incorporated the app in the classroom. Simon Lewis, head of geography at St Andrew’s School in Woking, introduced the app at the start of the summer term and attests to the positive impact that the app has had on his pupils: ‘The children at St. Andrew’s are fascinated by the insects and arachnids in particular. The app has made all the difference in reconnecting and enthusing our children with the environment. In short, it is brilliant!’
The data collected by Seek is fed back to a global database, helping scientists chart levels of biodiversity, seen as a barometer of the planet’s health.The launch comes at a time where more than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction and nature is declining at a speed never previously seen, according to a recent UN report.
Colin Buttfield, executive director at WWF, said: ‘We’re the first generation of people to know the impact of what we’re doing to the planet, and the last that has a chance to do anything about it. Young people are increasingly demanding that our leaders take action to protect our planet. Resources such as the Seek app are vital to help them learn more about the wonders of our natural world and be part of scientific efforts to understand the impact we are having.’
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