With a few taps on a smartphone, visitors stepping into nature at the Raisin Region Conservation Authority’s (RRCA) three Conservation Areas can now easily identify the plant and animal species they encounter. The free Seek app by iNaturalist also lets users effortlessly log their observations into a wide-ranging database, providing RRCA staff and other scientist with useful data to help monitor the biodiversity found at Cooper Marsh, Charlottenburgh Park, and Gray’s Creek Conservation Areas.
“It’s a fascinating and incredibly useful tool,” says RRCA’s Jamie Would, who coordinates the Cooper Marsh Biodiversity Project. “Many of us have had a ‘What is that?’ encounter with an unfamiliar plant, bug or other wildlife which piqued our curiosity. Using the Seek app to identify species at Conservation Areas really helps to see our natural environment with a fresh set of eyes as we realize how many different plants and animals live in our region.”
Observations logged by users are automatically added to an iNaturalist project page for each Conservation Area, resulting in an ongoing bio-survey freely accessible to anyone. The RRCA’s iNaturalist pages, as well as a link to download the free Seek app, can be found on the RRCA’s website atrrca.on.ca/CitizenScience.
“More and more people are now engaging in citizen science with the help of these apps,” says Would, noting that the City of Cornwall has also recently created an iNaturalist project and is holding a backyard bio-blitz event from July 28 to August 1, where residents are encouraged to observe as many species as possible.
For those looking to deepen their knowledge of the biodiversity found at Cooper Marsh Conservation Area, the RRCA is partnering with the River Institute to host a free workshop on aquatic macroinvertebrates at the Marsh on August 19, 2022, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Those interested can register on the RRCA website at rrca.on.ca.
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 initiatives such as 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.