iPhone App for Wildlife

With around 14,000 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, even the best rescue workers can’t be everywhere at once.  So a University of Massachusetts research team has created a new iPhone application that allows users to submit the location and photos of oiled birds and other wildlife to rescue workers.  This technology has the potential of saving endangered animals such as the Kemp’s Ridley Turtles as well as some of the millions of migrating birds passing through the area.

oil Canada GooseThe Mobile Gulf Observatory, or MoGo, is free and can be downloaded from its website.  When an oiled animal or slick is spotted, the users can take a photo which the program then uploads, with the GPS coordinates, to a database.  Users are then given the option of speaking with the wildlife hotline, which is the central office from which rescue workers are dispatched.

One exciting aspect of this technology is that it allows grassroot citizens to participate in wildlife conservation and the Gulf oil spill clean up.

The MoGo screenshots on the website suggest that users select the type of animal (birds, sea turtles, marine mammals, etc.) from a menu, then take a photo of the animal.  They select from the rather sad choices of Alive, Injured, or Dead, and can add a comment.  The app wisely has a warning telling people to never touch the wild animal.

beached sealThe technology has the potential for becoming widely used, and the Daily reports that the creators have already been contacted by the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network.  As well, the app may be modified and used to spot harmful invasive species such as the Asian Longhorned Beetle.  I think modifications could also be made to help report forest fires and trees infested with the gypsy moth here in BC.

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Alison Wheatley

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