The Smokies Want Visitors To Use Their Phones To Save Species In The National Park — Here’s How – TravelAwaits

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The National Park Service is hoping visitors will become honorary scientists and researchers while visiting the nation’s most popular national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has launched a program called Smokies Most Wanted. It encourages visitors to take pictures or audio of organisms they encounter around the park and submit them for review.
Working with Discover Life in America (DLiA), a nonprofit science research facility, park officials will collect the data to track and record new species, detect invasive species, and learn more about the living things that inhabit the Smokies.
“There are lots of fairly common plants and animals around the Smokies that we just don’t have many data points for,” park entomologist Becky Nichols said in a release. “Smokies Most Wanted is a great way for the public to contribute to science in the park, and to help us learn about and protect life in the Smokies.” 
While open to all data, DLiA is specifically looking for 112 sought-after species, including 42 plants, 17 butterflies and moths, 11 birds, 6 lichens, and other fungi.
“We see Smokies Most Wanted as an opportunity to engage park visitors in a fun, easy, and meaningful way,” said Will Kuhn, DLiA director of science and research.
People interested in helping with the program must first download the iNaturalist app (which can be found on Google Play and the App Store). Then while visiting the Smokies, locate an interesting organism, take a picture or record a sound, and post it to the app.
Researchers will take it from there.
“iNaturalist makes it easy to photograph flora and fauna and to document where and when you found them,” said Kuhn. “And there’s this amazing community of iNaturalist users — from scientists to knowledgeable amateurs — that help you identify what you’ve found. It’s like social media for nature lovers, but also useful.”
There’s plenty of science behind the app, since it is a joint project of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. 
DLiA says the most helpful information occurs when visitors follow these guidelines:
You might think researchers have found everything in the park by now, but iNaturalist has been beyond valuable, DLiA says.
To date, iNaturalist users have recorded more than 4,100 different species in the park by nearly 6,000 users. They have submitted more than 71,000 observations so far.
Those efforts have allowed DLiA staff to discover 77 species that had not been previously identified, including 69 insect species, 7 arachnids, and 1 fungus that infects ladybird beetles.
“There are millions of visitors to the park each year, but few likely know about or use iNaturalist,” said Kuhn. “If we’re able to get the word out to that crowd, that could mean thousands of new users making tens of thousands of observations — some of which may lead to new discoveries. 
“It’s a fantastic learning tool, and it allows you to help protect life in the Smokies. It’s a win-win.”
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Greg Robertson has worked as an editor and writer for some of the top newspapers and websites in the country, leading him to live all across the country. He now calls Las Vegas home, but has journeyed from the sunshine of California and the rain in Seattle, to the humidity of Arkansas and the snow of Minnesota. His travels have taken him to Puerto Vallarta, Costa Rica, Spain, and the Dominican Republic, but he’s happiest at home with his wife, two daughters, and dog.