iSpot going mobile

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With mobileĀ devicesĀ (smart phones, tablets, pads and pods) becoming increasingly widespread, more and more people are accessing digital resources via apps and mobile-optimised websites. To explore this trend in the natural history context, the Communicate conference ran a session entitled “Apps for Engagement” (Wednesday 24 October 2012), at which I gave a brief presentation on iSpot’s approach to engaging with its mobile audience. Here are some links relating to that presentation.

To find out more and get updates on iSpot developments follow iSpot on Twitter or contact iSpot direct.

Credits: the development of the iSpot app has been led by Will Woods and Richard Greenwood, of the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, with input from other members of the iSpot team, and valuable feedback from people who have tested the app in its early stages. The iSpot keys project has been led by Jon Rosewell, of The Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology at The Open University.

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OpenLearn – free courses from the Open University

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[… mutters usual apology about lack of blogging for ages …]

I’ve been delving in to the huge range of OpenLearn courses that the Open University makes available for anyone to try for free – that is, for no money whatsoever! There’s quite a range of topics available, at various levels. They’re done on-line, and you don’t get any points or qualifications from doing them, but they provide an excellent way of getting an idea of what OU study is like, as well as being a fantastic source of information.

You can browse from the main subject areas, or see the full list of courses. Here are a few that caught my eye from the perspective of wildlife, conservation and computing:

Science and nature

Computers

If you enjoy any of these, and would like to go on to do an assessed course, have a look at Neighbourhood Nature – okay, I’m a bit biased as this is the course that links to the iSpot project, but it really is a good course if you’re looking for an introduction to studying wildlife.

iSpot features moth new to Britain

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The OPAL iSpot project (see previous post) has had an exciting few days – a moth, found by six-year-old Katie Dobbins in Berkshire, was posted on iSpot, and has turned out to be a species not recorded in Britain before: Pryeria sinica, the Euonymus Leaf-notcher. This is native to Asia but has been found in a couple of places in the States since 2001.

Further details and more photos are on the Berkshire Moth Group website.

Thanks to Katie Dobbins for getting her dad to report the moth, and to Martin Honey of the Natural History Museum for his help in confirming its identity. Full details will be published as soon as possible, and the specimen is being passed on to the NHM.

This may well be just a one-off importation with plants or packaging, but it’s emerged via the Back Garden Moths forum that the Euonymus Leaf-notcher was also seen in Spain last June, the only other record for Europe that we’ve heard of (so far!).

The Open University press office have made good use of the story and so far it’s been picked up by the Express, Mail and Mirror. As usual the papers have their own perspective on this, and according to taste the moth is either the “UK’s rarest moth” or the next major pest outbreak.

All good fun, and hopefully Katie has enjoyed her encounters with biodiversity and the media!

iSpot – helping people learn about wildlife

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iSpot was launched last summer: “iSpot is the place to learn more about wildlife and to share your interest with a friendly community. Take a look at the latest spots, start your own album of observations, join a group and get help identifying what you have seen.”

iSpot has been developed by the Open University as part of the Open Air Laboratories project (OPAL), with funding from the Big Lottery Fund. I’ve been part of the team working on it for the last year or so.

Here’s an introduction to what iSpot is all about:

So far we have over 1,000 registered users on the site, including a healthy mix of beginners and more experienced naturalists, all busy helping each other identify what they’ve seen. One thing we’re trying to encourage on the site is for people to explain why a species is that particular species, not just give its name. Of course, not all species can be identified from photos or descriptions, and the site allows this to be shown clearly where necessary.

Several national and local recording schemes have representatives active on the site, and they are being ‘badged’ with a logo next to their user name so that every time they are active on the site a link is given back to their society’s website. If you’re involved with a recording scheme or society and would like to find out more about this please do contact iSpot.