Technology is APPlicable for the outdoor enthusiast in you

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“What was that noise?”

“That’s a funny looking bug.”

“I haven’t seen that tree before.”

We have all come across things that can be unfamiliar to us when going about our daily lives. For those that have minds that are constantly searching for answers to the unknown it can be a daunting prospect, or an exciting adventure to find them.

The words technology and outdoor activities are not often used together, but the technology in your pocket can generate a wealth of interest in outdoor activities. When there is something we do not know, we naturally reach for our phones to hurriedly type a few words into a search engine only to get an overwhelming flood of information thrown at us. While you can sift through the options, there are more efficient methods of learning about the components of our natural environment.

Mobile device apps are becoming more and more diverse as we move further into this century. While many outdoor enthusiasts tend to shy away from the technological advancement of our world, it is important to recognize that there are useful tools for the average outdoor enthusiast that are available at our fingertips.

The cost of knowledge

There are free apps that provide large collections of data about plants, animals and insects that can greatly improve the identification efforts of any person that uses them. While sometimes the accuracy of these apps can vary by who makes them, they still allow for people to become more aware of what details are important when approaching the task of trying to identify something in nature.

How apps are useful. For those people out there that enjoy having bird feeders in their backyards and are curious about what birds are visiting their particular dining establishment, there are apps developed by scientific institutions that will provide you with identification options by having you enter physical characteristics into a step-by-step interactive field guide.

Through the results of your input it will generate possible species options with pictures and range maps of where these species have been historically recorded. Some bird identification apps will even have the sounds that birds make to help narrow down the choices.

Some apps can help you identify what plants and trees you have in your area by taking a picture of the leaves on your phone. The app will then give you species identity recommendations based on the shape of the leaf in the photo. The options given will usually show other characteristics of the possible species to help you narrow down the selection to an individual type.

For fans of group interaction, there are apps that identify plants, animals and insects in the app by posting photos of something you saw and then as a collective group, landowners and professionals can provide possibilities and reach an agreement on what the species is likely to be.

Identification apps are not only for recreational use. When addressing a potential crop damage situation, it is helpful to have a digital field guide to reference and narrow down the choices of species is causing the damage. This provides the details that are needed to allow a natural resource professional, like soil and water conservation district employees, to advise you in your management decisions.

Benefits of applying the right tools for conservation. The increased understanding between landowners and natural resource professionals will create a more effective delivery of natural resource management techniques to our communities. In turn, this will provide more interest in a healthier and more productive environment for everyone involved.

So next time you are outdoors consider checking your technological options that can add some learning to your recreational experience and answer those questions that have been sitting in the back of your mind.

That noise was a whip-poor-will calling. That funny looking bug is a wheel bug. That tree is a sassafras tree.

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Logan Moon is the Yellow/Cross Creek Watershed coordinator for the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. He is an Ohio native who graduated with a degree in wildlife and fisheries resources from West Virginia University. He can be reached by phone at 740-264-9790 or email at lmoon@jeffersoncountyoh.com.

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