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Citizen Science and Endangered Species: USFW Tracks With Anglers' App

Aug 04, 2015 06:09 PM EDT
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The shortnose sturgeon is one type of fish included on the new feature on the FishBrain app.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is collaborating with the anglers' app FishBrain to collect data with a new citizen-science feature. If you used it, you could, in theory, include information about whooping cranes, reptiles, or threatened deer. What else would you include?
(Photo : Wikipedia Commons: USFW Southeast Region)

While citizen-scientist apps increasingly add to the animal information used by scientists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently tied such apps in closer by making an alliance with FishBrain, a free-to-use app and social network for anglers -- to launch a new feature that will help Americans identify and document fish but also up to 50 at-risk animal species, including Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the California red-legged frog, horseshoe crabs, and mammals such as the Columbia white-tailed deer, according to a release

As users, we'd be able to log sightings of any of those species during fishing or other outdoors trips. Conservationists and academics will then be able to use the information to determine where animals are found, type of habitat they need, reasons for decline, and how to protect and conserve them for future generations, the release said.

In 2014, FishBrain had 430,000 registered users, as reported here

"The first step towards conservation is always education and engagement, and we are excited to work with FishBrain to help us reach a new audience," said Gary Frazer of USFW's Ecological Services Program in the release. "Anglers are extremely important to protecting and maintaining healthy aquatic habitats. This is a unique opportunity to synthesize recreational anglers' information and knowledge in local waterways and expand our understanding of various species."

The federal agency's scientists examined occurrences of threatened and endangered species that spent any time near streams, rivers, creeks, lakes and other bodies of water, in order to determine which species would be included in the app. While they found millions of results, they filtered to focus on larger bodies of water and further narrowed the search to species anglers or the fishing community were likely to encounter, said a release

"Of all the different hobbyists, anglers are among the best when it comes to being aware of the need for conservation," Johan Attby, CEO of FishBrain said in the release. "The natural world is such an important aspect of everyone's lives, but it is anglers who are able to experience and appreciate it on a day-to-day basis. Our users marvel at the beauty of animals and fish as a matter of course; the fact they can now channel this interest into something as constructive and helpful as data collection is a very special opportunity indeed."

A full list of species included in the app is available at the FishBrain website, here

Follow Catherine on Twitter at @TreesWhales

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