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Learn the difference between a poppy and a windflower. 

Elizabeth Preske
April 09, 2018

New app Seek is giving curious outdoorsy types an easy way to identify the plants and animals they encounter, whether they're in the park, on a hike, or in their own neighborhood.

All users have to do is upload a photo of an insect, bird, plant, reptile, amphibian, or mammal to the app, and Seek will use image recognition to try to match it to one of 30,000 species in its database. If there’s a match, Seek will add the photo to your collection. As your collection grows, you will earn badges and work your way up from beginner “Tadpole” to expert “Explorer.”

Courtesy of iNaturalist/California Academy of Sciences

iNaturalist, a website where nature lovers can share and discuss their ecological findings with each other, created the image recognition app as part of an initiative to get amateur naturalists involved in “citizen science projects,” according to My Modern Met. To that end, if Seek matches your photo with a particular species, you can learn more about the wildlife through a Wikipedia-provided summary.

Seek will also tell you which species you are most likely to see in your area, based on wildlife observations recorded and uploaded to iNaturalist. You will be given maps and charts to help you track down nearby flora and fauna — but if you prefer to explore on your own, Seek is happy to tell you about any random plant or insect that catches your eye.

iNaturalist encourages all users to take photos of everything they see – even if it’s not on the list – to develop the AI's ability to recognize wildlife. As co-founder Scott Loarie told My Modern Met, “The only way we can improve our modeling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures.”

Seek is currently available on the App Store and is in beta testing for Android.

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