01 Jul 2013

iSpot celebrates quarter of a million wildlife observations

Malachite beetles, photo by @markandfran

Malachite beetles, photo by @markandfran

iSpot, the website for sharing and learning more about nature, has just captured its 250,000th observation. The honour is shared by simultaneous observations of a pair of malachite beetles seen near Farnborough in Surrey (UK) and a crab spider spotted waiting for insect prey to visit a wild gladiolus flower in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The site, launched in June 2009, is where people can upload pictures of creatures, plants, fungi or insects they have seen, but perhaps just can’t put a name to. The community of experts and nature lovers will then help to identify it – the correct name for a species is key to conservation, learning and science.

Previous significant identifications on iSpot include a six year-old girl who discovered the Euonymus leaf notcher moth, which was quickly identified by iSpot experts as the first of its kind ever seen in Europe. Another amateur naturalist discovered a species of bee-fly not seen in Britain before.

iSpot launched in South Africa, one of the richest places for wildlife in the world, in June last year. Dozens of new localities for rare plants, many not even formally described, have been discovered there, aiding local nature conservation projects. Seeds that had poisoned some children in KwaZuluNatal in June this year were identified on iSpot within 35 seconds of having been posted. The children all recovered fully and the doctor is now able to identify the poisonous seeds.

Jonathan Silvertown, Professor of Ecology at The Open University, who devised iSpot said: "iSpot has been a huge success since it launched four years ago. It astonishes me how iSpotters manage to identify 96% of the observations we get. And over half our observations are identified within an hour of posting! You can stroll to the pub, stop along the way to use the iSpot Android app to snap a picture of an odd fungus, and before you get to the bar you can have identification for it!"

iSpot not only helps people learn to identify wildlife, but also gathers valuable biodiversity data. More than 150 natural history organisations worldwide now work with iSpot.

Jim Munford, Chief Executive of the National Biodiversity Network in the UK said: "Biological recording remains one of the few areas of science where any member of the public with proper mentoring and support can aspire to become a national, or even international, expert for their chosen taxa ... iSpot is unique in providing an accessible resource that can be used by beginners and experts alike."

The milestone observations can be seen on iSpot (UK) and iSpot (SA) - links right.

Editor's Notes
iSpot is a project of the Open Science Laboratory at The Open University. It is supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation.

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