Friends of the Mystic:
I want to invite you to participate in a very cool, crowd-sourced biodiversity survey project over the next four days.
It's called the Boston City Nature Challenge. It uses an amazingly fun and powerful app and social network called iNaturalist. It's as easy as downloading an app to your phone, and then going outside to a naturalized space and photographing some living thing. (Not your dog or child, however cute: think oak tree, butterfly, rabbit.)
You upload the picture, attach an ID--or not (see below)--and add your observation to a huge, growing library of observations. Other observers will look at what you've uploaded and attach their own identifications. If three observers agree on a species, it gets raised to to a "research level" observation.
Two features of iNaturalist continually amaze me:
The network of people generously devoting their time to this project is astounding. I have often had the experience of taking picture of a leaf or a butterfly, uploading it, and finding that someone confirms my sighting while I'm still there in the field. Within 10 minutes of my posting what turned out to be unusual and unexpected turtle on the banks of the Malden River, a scientist from Zoo New England corrected my original inaccurate guess (and told me that it might be establishing itself as an invasive species).
The phone apps (for Android and iPhone) uses an pattern recognition algorithm to compare your picture to the huge database of previous observations. It will try to guess the species! It has, in my experience, an amazing track record, and I find it to be an exciting educational tool. You're essentially tapping the accumulated wisdom of all the other observers in the project. You can read more on how this aspect of the phone app works here and here.
Go anywhere in the watershed and add observations and they will be included in the greater Boston project.
We would especially love to document what's in the biggest green space on the Mystic River, namely Macdonald Park in Medford. But you can go anywhere, including your backyard, and your observations will get counted in the Boston project.
If you can't do it this weekend, no worries. You can always add observation any time (observations in this particular four day period will just be part of this neat, awareness-building project.)
Hoping to see you out there in iNaturalist and in Nature, itself.