By Sonoe Nakasone, Field Book Project
Museum Victoria’s Field Guide is an easy to download, easy to use, application for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad that allows users to explore over 700 animal species of Victoria, Australia. Developed as an open source application, Museum Victoria plans to release the code in June to encourage others to develop the application for use on other devices like the Android.
As someone who knows very little about Australian wildlife, I didn’t even try to use the Field Guide search box when I tested it out this weekend. Instead, I allowed myself to be guided by the colorful images in the browse “Animal by Group” section, or by funny and unfamiliar animal names. Each animal has at least one image, a page that provides details about that animal, a map highlighting their areas of distribution, a page on their scarcity, and audio if available.
The Field Guide app and the field books I catalog are on many levels at different ends of the spectrum. For example, their use of technology is very different. Furthermore, field books are primary source documents whereas the Field Guide is a carefully compiled database. Yet, there is an obvious relationship between something like the Field Guide app and field books. Without field books, this application wouldn’t exist. Field books are one of the building blocks for these amazing tools that allow scientists, museums, and educators to aggregate data about nature into an easy to use database.
Similar to the Leafsnap app being developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, the Field Guide app allows everyday people and nature enthusiasts to become more engaged with the natural world. I challenge our readers (or the children of our readers) to go one step further: create a field guide of your own with about 5 animals in your area. Since the Field Guide app focuses of animals in Victoria, you could use the app as a guide to find similar animals living in your community. Alternatively, check out these tips from the National Wildlife Federation for creating a field guide. Please share your findings with me by adding a comment to this article below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you on what you find in your area!