A Shazam-like App for plant identification to raise awareness about urban biodiversity

1) New Yorkers lack of information and awareness about their city’s plant species and scientists need help with plant location & identification to measure biodiversity loss.

2) The article : http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/may/06/iphone-app-wildlife-species-recognition

  • LeafSnap is a mobile app, developed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, that identifies trees species from a photograph of its leaves and provides information about its fruits, flowers, seeds and growing conditions
  • The app works with a snapshot modeled on a face-identification system like a Shazam for plants and delivers a service similar to a Monument Tracker for plants
  • Not only does the app provide information to the photographer-resident about his local green assets but it also shares the picture and location of the plant with other users and scientists that can use this data to advance their research on biodiversity
  • Constrains: the system requires photo shooting the leaf on a white piece of paper and the database only provides information about Northeast US, New York City and Washington DC’s species of trees.

3) The stakeholders that will need to use the technology found are:

  • Columbia University that can partner with NYC to promote and further develop the app
  • The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to promote the app on their website and make it available to residents
  • All residents that will use the app to play or develop their knowledge
  • The NYC Department of Education can promote the app to middle schools and biology teachers

4) I work for one of the app developers, Columbia University

  • Build a partnership with the NYC City Parks and Garden for them to
    • promote “LeafSnap; the number one App that reconnects New Yorkers with their environment” on their website during the summer when nycgovparks.com reaches a high frequentation
    • make LeafSnap available to download
    • and integrate the LeafSnap database in the NYC Parks system
  • Measure app success through figures about the total number of downloaders during the first summer
  • Use initial success to source funding and develop a GIS for mapping tree species in NYC and making it available to the public
  • In the long-term, develop FlowerSnap, InsectsSnap and databases for other cities in the US

One thought on “A Shazam-like App for plant identification to raise awareness about urban biodiversity

  1. This app turns every phone into a field guide, and for a botany nerd like myself, I think this is awesome! We’ve reached a point in time when the average person is far removed from nature, and using technology like this can help bridge the gap between tech and nature. Not only does the app allow users to identify flowers, fruits, and leaves, but users can even identify bark and seeds! This is a great example of how technology can bring us closer to nature once again.


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