Could a new mobile app help to chronicle changes in the flora of the north woods?
Say you’re portaging and you happen upon a lovely-but-unfamiliar tree. You could: A) Root around in your pack for that field guide, B) Take a photo and research it after your trip, or C) Whip out the iPhone and I.D. the sucker right then and there, with LeafSnap.
LeafSnap identifies tree species by using facial recognition technology on your images of leaves. It’ll then give you detailed info on the tree’s habitat, critical specs, and loads of gorgeous hi-res photos. And because many different leaves look similar, it can suggest multiple options if it’s not entirely sure of the match. That way, you’ll never be barking up the… okay, got it. Right.
Cool stuff, huh? But what really sprouted ideas in our heads, was how LeafSnap could (in theory) assist in following the forecasted changes in Minnesota’s boreal forests, as mentioned in this article:
The app also invites contributions from all citizen scientists; having identified a leaf, users can tag their tree. The data is geotagged and added to a collective map of the different species.
Seems like monitoring the ebb and flow of tree species in the BWCA, could be well-served by utilizing conscientious campers in this way. Or equipping trail maintenance crews or Gunflint Green-Uppers with this tool.
Sadly, that’s just an idea for now; LeafSnap currently only covers trees in NYC and Washington, D.C. (with plans to expand its reach, of course.) A-a-a-and then there’s the whole lack of cell-phone coverage thing in the B-Dubs. Uh, we won’t get into that here.
But we think the app is worth watching, and worthwhile to have – even if only for the pretty pictures. What about you?