Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cool App: Project Noah

We are slowly getting settled in Southern California and I... mean.... sloooooowlyyyyyy.  I suppose that is to be expected when I am simultaneously trying to unpack a home and act as the primary caregiver for three little girls.  It seems most days I make some progress in one area of the house and the girls are systematically creating chaos in another part.

Systematic chaos?  Now, who's being dramatic?  Fine, I admit it.  But, someone out there sympathizes.  Right?

And, our welcome has been a bit chilly thus far.  Not from the neighbors, who seem lovely, but from the weather.  Southern California has just experienced a massive cold snap; we even had frost on the car windows for several mornings in a row.  My father, hearing me say that it was "cold" here, sent me this picture:

Ha! I was beginning to worry that we had somehow brought the cold weather with us from Michigan.  Not to mention the fact that I think I oh-so-generously bestowed upon my northern friends all manner of cold weather equipment like ice scrapers.  Or, maybe they are in the filled-to-overflowing garage.  Let's not even go there...

We've had a bit of a delay getting our oldest into kindergarten (the schools around here are not dissimilar to our garage), but that's given us more opportunity to explore the new neighborhood.  And, Explorers we have been!  We have four parks within a 10-20 minute walk or bike ride.  (How cool is that?)  Along the way, we have been collecting leaves and seeds from the local flora that the girls promptly stick into their bike's little pack.

The only problem is that, to be honest, many of the plants looks quite foreign to me.  Luckily, I remembered a great (free!) app I downloaded a while ago called "Project Noah".  (Note: I have it on my iPhone but they also have an Android version.)  From the Project Noah website:

Our ultimate goal is to build the go-to platform for documenting all the world’s organisms, and through doing this we hope to develop an effective way to measure Mother Nature’s pulse. 

I just love the phrase, "...measure Mother Nature's pulse".

Anyway, the girls have been collecting a cool looking seed from a tree near our house - spherical, brown, about 1 1/2" in diameter with spikes and holes all over it.

Source: wikipedia
We collected many of them as well as a few of the remaining leaves - it was tough to find one that was really photogenic as the tree is currently dormant (yes, there are seasons in SoCal!).  When you log in, you can create a "spotting" that includes both photos (up to 5) as well as notes or a description.  If you know the organism, common or scientific name, you can add that when you create the record.  If, like us, you don't know what it is, you can mention that in the note.  Here's a screen shot of the spotting I created:

As we didn't know what it was, I was able to indicate that and added that in the note about the organism and within 48 hours, I had a species suggestion from a fellow Project Noah user: Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar sytraciflua). You can check out this spotting as well as our spottings of the Ctenucha moth larvae, a monarch butterfly, and a luna moth from this summer.

This is such a great tool for citizen science! Spottings can be added to "missions", such as "Birds of the World" or "Global Urban Biodiversity".  There are also the "BioBlitz" in which participants identify and count all the organisms found in a given area, say Rocky Mountain State Park.  You can also create your own mission - this would be really cool to do in a school, nature center or homeschool setting!  Maybe we should do a BioBlitz of our new backyard!

Other tools on the website and mobile application include a map on which you can search for spottings in your local area or by types of organisms.  It's pretty cool to see the spottings that are posted from all over the world.  You can also share your spotting via Facebook or Twitter and connect to friends that are also also using Project Noah. 

We have lots more to learn about our new community.  In the meantime, we have added the collected sweetgum seeds to our new Nature Jar on our mantle.  We haven't quite figured out where to put our Nature Table, especially with a very mobile and curious 10 month old, but seeing it up there every day is a great reminder of the beauty and adventure awaiting us.

Do you use Project Noah?  If you do, please let me know as I'd love to connect!