Our walks through nature are exciting open books. We propose you to decrypt it thanks to this mobile application and its identification keys. Become an expert of nature and be able to identify a tree by the shape of its leaves
Runs offline: partially
Last update: Android 11/07/2016 (v. 1.64.0) – iOS 11/07/2016 (v. 1.64.0)
Website of the developer: Natural Solutions
This French application allows its users to discover the nature through pedestrian routes across different areas of the country. Currently 42 routes are included (the website includes some more), most of them concentrated in the triangle Toulon-Grenoble-Montpellier, since the creative company of the app has its offices in Marseille.
The different routes are accessible from the initial listing or from the map (top left icon). The mobile version of the app does not have search filters (the web version includes this option), but in the list you can see the length, estimated time and difficulty level: facile (easy), moyen (medium) and confirmé (high. The website also includes an “intense” level).
Once you have selected the route of interest, clicking on it displays a description of the itinerary and a button to download the information (it indicates the volume that the data occupy in MB). Through the S’y rendre option, you can see the area in which the route is located on Google Maps.
Each downloaded sheet consists of the following content:
- A map in which the route can be visualized (the cartographic base is not loaded if there is no connection).
- An option to send photos or comments about the route in question.
- The list of species that you can find along the route, distinguishing between shrubs and plants, trees, birds, mammals and insects.
This latter option incorporates identification keys for trees, shrubs and flowers, allowing the user to filter the different species according to their characteristics (leaf shape, color of flowers, etc.). Each species has a data sheet that includes several images, a description, flowering / presence time (depending on species of vegetation or animals) and distinguishing signs (in the case of vegetation). Some bird data sheets also incorporate audio files of their calls or songs.
It should also be noted that through the Je l’ai vu (e) ici option, you can indicate which species you have visualized, creating a personal list accessible from Mom profil.
Images: Screenshots 28/11/2016. ©Natural Solutions
The percentage of citizens who do not know the wealth of the environment closest to their place of residence is overwhelming. And, as is well known, it is difficult to preserve what is not known.
The design of experiences related to nature that allow the interaction of the user is therefore of great importance and this is precisely one of the strengths of ecoBalade, where it is especially interesting the integration of identification keys that enable the visitor to discover the different species of a specific itinerary and help with their observations to better understand the environment. As the study “ecoBalade: Towards a workflow for Citizen Science Nature Trails” (linked in the “More information” section) explains, the procedure begins with the generation of a list of potential taxa of an area by an expert naturalist, verified through a first identification process that is endorsed by the observations of the visitors. It is true that there are certain aspects of the app that should be improved, especially those related to the time that it takes to start (during the tests performed, this start has extended to approximately 40 seconds), the time that takes to download the information (about 3 minutes for 25 MB) and the fact that without connection is not loaded the topographic bases, but in general it is an interesting tool. It is also worthwhile to take a look at the business model of the app, since it allows tourist offices, territorial agencies or individuals to “sponsor” the different routes through various formulas (support in communication in social networks, press, radio and TV, definition of routes, creation of illustrations and graphic material, etc.), helping to publicize the values of the territory.