10 Apps That Put Science In Your Pocket

bats flying

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Your iPhone is not living up to its full potential.Sure, everyone loves posting pictures of their cats to Instagram, and the new RadioLab app is awesome. But we’re living in the future!

Why not use those tiny computers we’re all carrying around for something bigger, like helping advance knowledge in a way that would have been impossible just a few years ago?

Click here to see 10 science apps for your phone >
Scientists have started to use the abilities and prevalence of smartphones to their advantage, creating apps specifically for their studies and crowdsourcing observation and data collection. When almost everyone has an Internet connection, a camera, and a GPS unit right in their phone, almost anyone can gather, organise, and submit data to help move a study along.

Here are 10 projects and apps that will turn you into a citizen scientist.

Click here to see 10 science apps for your phone >
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Observe Birds

Count And Track Meteors

Monitor Bat Populations

Identify Road Kill

Help Track New Plant And Animal Species

Tree Field Guide

Monitor Global Temperatures

Communicating Climate Change (C3) is a program run by 12 science centres around the country that introduces citizen scientists to the methods used to study climate change. The Maryland Science centre's C3 project invites people to help study Baltimore's Urban Heat Island (a UHI is the phenomenon of a metropolitan area being significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas).

Citizen scientists in Baltimore use the Temperature Blast app to collect live and archival Weatherbug data from select points around the city and log it for scientists at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, who will then use it to create models of temperature patterns so they can mitigate the heat island effect in future urban planning. Temperature Blast is available for free for iOS and Android devices. If you're not in the Baltimore area, there are other app-based C3 projects going on in other cities.

Help Manage Water Resources

Citizen scientists using the Creek Watch app, developed by IBM's Smarter Planet Project, collect four pieces of data--estimated amount of water, rate of flow, amount of trash and a picture -- about waterways they pass and send it to IBM. The technology giant's researchers aggregate the data and share it with water control boards across the U.S. to help them track pollution and better manage their water resources. Creek Watch is available for free for iOS devices (no word from IBM on an Android version yet).

Find New Homes For Redwood Trees

Redwood Watch, a partnership between the Save the Redwoods League, iNaturalist.org, Google Earth Outreach, and the California Academy of Sciences, is recruiting citizen scientists to track the location of redwood trees and help find a home for them in the future.

Just take a picture of a redwood wherever you see one--in a national park, a botanical garden or even your own yard--with the Redwood Watch app. The app sends the photo and your location to researchers who can use the data to assess which environments are healthiest for the trees, helping them understand where redwoods thrive in a changing climate so they can better focus their conservation efforts. Redwood watch is available for free for iOS devices.

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Report Invasive Species

Invasive plants and animals can crowd out natives, compete with them for food sources and alter the fire ecology of an ecosystem, disrupting its natural balance. Researchers and programmers from UCLA, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the University of Georgia have teamed up to create the What's Invasive citizen science program and smartphone app.

Volunteers can use the app to look up lists of the top invasive species in their area, created by National Park Service rangers and biologists. If they spot a plant or animal from the list, they submit a geo-tagged observation, with optional picture and text notes, so that scientists can locate, identify, study try to remove the species. The What's Invasive app is available for free for iOS and Android devices.

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