National parks provide all sorts of benefits for the planet’s health. They are our biggest treasure and most valuable the source of natural resources, vital for Earth’s survival.

To prevent the planet from getting sick, it is essential to learn about biodiversity and how fragile it is. Scientist and park rangers are constantly performing huge efforts to keep track of the hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife areas, which provide food and shelter for innumerable amounts of species of plants and animals.

Wildlife on our Mile Hi ToursResource inventories have traditionally been accomplished through partnerships with universities, non-profits, or private consultants. Inventory data feed directly into comprehensive resource plans for each state park that provides tools for managers to use in park management decision processes. However, this doesn’t come cheap and it is not an easy task at all.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife created the Resource Stewardship Program to support state parks on all natural resource and cultural resource issues including surveys for individual species, habitat assessments, resource management, and park development planning.

Previously the program had experimented with a variety of ways to track wildlife sightings using everything from handwritten reports and Microsoft Office documents to visitor center whiteboards and online databases.

Nonetheless, technology is here to stay and some have developed interesting and friendly digital tools for experts to keep track of wildlife and share it in faster and easier ways.

Nature Finder App

Inaturalist has been hosting a NatureFinder, a free smartphone application which allows Colorado Parks and Wildlife visitors, volunteers and staff to keep track of the biodiversity.

Garden of the Gods by Mariusz Zielezny
Photo Credit: National Parks Service by Mariusz Zielezny

The State Parks NatureFinder project allows CPW to track species presence, numbers, animal activity, and most importantly, the ability to see which species use the different habitats within each park.

This project is an important tool for scientists and managers to gain valuable information about State Parks and assists with the monitoring of our ecosystems. It is also a great way to get visitors and citizens more involved in environmental education and protection.

Now, users can post photos and sounds or view the observations of other park visitors. iNaturalist uses a crowdsourced identification system to help observers identify the exact species they have seen.

With this great digital tool, scientist will not only be able to increase and update their database in real-time, but citizens can learn about biodiversity, how to respectfully view wildlife and which species use different parts of the park.

They will also be able to search for new wildlife and plants in the park and track everything from the first spring flowers to animal tracks in the winter. Also, share photos, videos, sound records, of sightings with friends, visitors and park staff, helping to improve the biodiversity information of the park.

So, next time you are out there hiking in a national park trail, pay attention, keep track of the wildlife and support the environment knowledge and protection.

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