With a few taps on a smartphone, visitors stepping into nature at the Raisin Region Conservation Authority’s (RRCA) Conservation Areas can now easily identify the plants and animals they encounter.
Using the free Seek app by iNaturalist, visitors can also effortlessly log their observations in an online database, providing RRCA staff and other scientist with useful data to help monitor the biodiversity at Cooper Marsh, Charlottenburgh Park, and Gray’s Creek Conservation Areas.
“It’s an incredibly useful tool,” says RRCA Stewardship Specialist, Brendan Jacobs, who leads the Cooper Marsh Biodiversity Project. “Many of us have had encounters with unfamiliar plants, bugs or other wildlife that activate our curiosity. This app can make us realize how many different plants and animals live in our region. Over 335 species have already been observed and recorded at Cooper Marsh.”
With a single tap, observations are automatically added to an iNaturalist project page for each Conservation Area, resulting in an ongoing bio-survey freely accessible to all at rrca.on.ca/CitizenScience.
“More people are now engaging in citizen science with the help of these apps,” says Jacobs. “It’s a fun way for visitors to upgrade their nature hikes and contribute to the RRCA’s conservation efforts.”
The RRCA currently conserves and maintains 1,853 acres of environmentally significant land – including its three publicly accessible Conservation Areas – to preserve ecologically sensitive habitat, increase tree cover, maintain green infrastructure for flooding resilience, and to provide recreation and eco-tourism opportunities.
The Cooper Marsh Biodiversity Project is a multi-year biodiversity-enhancement effort by the RRCA aimed at protecting and enhancing the Marsh’s rich biodiversity through habitat planting and enhancement, invasive species control, biodiversity monitoring, and outreach. This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, a Government of Canada’s Department of Environment and Climate Change program in partnership with Conservation Ontario. The federal grant supplements funding awarded by Ontario Power Generation in 2021.