Map of Life

Science & Technology


Map of Life: A phone app that helps track wildlife

Smart phone application developed by scientists and computer programmers aims to help preserve biodiversity.

Jessica BaldwinJournalist at Al Jazeera English.

Walter Jetz has been working on the Map of Life app for four years. He’s an expert in biodiversity, teaching at both Yale University in the US and Imperial College in the UK.

I caught up with him on a slightly overcast day on a picnic table in the leafy grounds of Silwood Park, Imperial College’s campus about 40km west of London, where he explained how the app Works.

Touching the light blue icon with a three-branched tree opens the Map of Life, clicking on “What’s Around Me”, brings up a list including amphibians, butterflies, bees and 180 birds.

“We can move on to the songbirds, there are all sorts of tits and warblers around me that we can hear and then connect up with the app,” Jetz told Al Jazeera.

More than 20,000 people from Brazil to Indonesia to South Africa have downloaded the app since it launched two months ago. Jetz said five to 10,000 people log on daily.

“The exciting thing about the app is it’s not just a field guide; it’s a flipped field guide. So instead of you having to sift through pages and pages of a field guide to identify that species you’ve just seen,” Jetz said.

“It’s already a tailored list of species where you are right now.”

The app is an international collaboration with scientists and computer programmers funded in part by NASA and the National Science Foundation in the US. Read more.