What is sharing our immediate environment? This simple question has led Coastal Ecology students working with Seabird McKeon, visiting professor of biology, to document more than 750 species of animals, plants, and fungus on campus and in the surrounding area in the fall semester.
According to McKeon, “Our ability to understand the ecology of an area starts with understanding what species are here. And the only way to do that is to go outside and look- but I didn’t expect my students to find more than 700 species!”
McKeon found an unexpected tool in the ubiquity of cell phones, and an app called “iNaturalist” which makes the recorded observations available for Citizen Science projects worldwide. Several of the students found the assignment compelling.
Sarah Schaefer ’20 noted, "The app was more interesting then Pokemon Go, and competing with classmates to find the most species was fun." When asked what her favorite sighting was she replied, “The coolest sighting I had was of a rhinoceros beetle which was right outside my front door.”
The “Biodiversity of St. Mary’s College of Maryland” project on iNaturalist can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/biodiversity-of-st-mary-s-college-of-maryland and will be continued by the St. Mary’s Natural History Society’s expedition team in the spring.