The Open University’s plant and wildlife spotting social network iSpot has announced today that it has reached 20,000 users.
It marks a major milestone for award winning iSpot, which is part of the Imperial College’s Open Air Laboratories and funded by the National Lottery. The website first appeared in the national media after a six year-old girl identified a rare moth, the Euonymus Leaf Notcher, which had never been seen before in Britain after uploading an image of the creature to the website.
iSpot Director and Professor of Ecology at The Open University Jonathan Silvertown commented on the milestone, saying, "It is a proud day for us and for all the iSpot community from beginners to experts. A huge number and variety of observations have been made and thanks to this community, more than 90% of them have been identified, often within minutes of posting to iSpot. Anyone who ever wondered 'What is that?' should snap a photo on their phone or camera and post it on iSpot.org.uk. It’s fun and you'll learn something!"
iSpot helps anyone, from amateur spotter to renown zoologist, identify anything in nature. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly community, iSpot is the leading nature-spotting social network in the UK. It has a thriving community in its thousands driven by intrigue and a love of nature who all work together to learn more about the natural world around them.
Users can upload images from the natural world around them for identification, and work with others to identify plants and creatures uploaded by others. iSpot users come from a plethora of backgrounds, from complete beginners discovering their first Euonymus Leaf Notcher, to accredited experts from museums and recording schemes from around the globe.
The many eyes of the iSpot community have proved so keen that hundreds of rarities have been recorded and they have discovered two species new to Britain.
The next phase of the project will see several exciting new developments for users of iSpot, building on the foundations established so far which will make iSpot even more accessible to the public. The iSpot Android App is now in public beta, and will soon be ready for general release. iSpot.org.uk is being developed further through funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation; it is also part of the OU’s Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory, a global centre at the cutting edge of practical science learning – operated entirely online. iSpot will also be supporting British Ecological Society’s Festival of Ecology in 2013.
Notes to Editor
iSpot was launched in 2009 developed as part of the Open Air Laboratories project, with support from the Big Lottery Fund for England. Since then nearly 140,000 wildlife observations of over 6,000 different species have been added to the site, receiving half a million identification agreements from the iSpot community. The observation data is collated and supplied to the various recording schemes that help monitor wildlife in Britain and elsewhere.
www.iSpot.org.uk has been designed to help remedy the gap in the general public’s identification skills. It is pioneering in its approach to supporting learning across the boundary between the informal and formal, using a combination of social networking, informal access to expertise and accredited learning opportunities. Anyone can upload a photograph of animals, plants, fungi or any living organisms they have seen. The photo is then displayed on the iSpot home page where other users can agree with the identification, attach a comment, or add a revised identification.
iSpot won the Wildscreen New Media Panda Award, at the international wildlife film festival in October 2010. The judges said: “The winner takes maximum advantage of what the internet uniquely affords users - being both participatory and collaborative. The judges loved the user generated content, and the fact that users are able to take an active role in the curation and validation of the content. A virtual community of interest putting amateurs in contact with experts in an unintimidating environment.”