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Introducing Natural North Carolina

March 31, 2014

At the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, we like to provide a variety of citizen science opportunities to our visitors, both on-site and online. We want you to have a chance to make a difference in science, to be able to contribute something to a research project regardless of your level of scientific experience, so we offer a variety of citizen science projects at the Museum. It is with great excitement that we bring you a brand new project: Natural North Carolina!

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Natural North Carolina is a project aimed at documenting every plant, animal, and fungus species in our great state. The Museum staff alone can’t find every species, however, so we need your help! By simply heading outside, snapping a photo of anything interesting you see, and uploading your images to the Natural North Carolina project online, you will make a valuable contribution to our distribution maps and species database.

The Natural North Carolina project was built within the iNaturalist platform, which means that we have instant access to several great tools. You’ll need to make a free iNaturalist account, but then there are a couple of ways to participate. If you have a camera you love, snap some photos of nature and upload them to our project website at inaturalist.org/projects/natural-north-carolina. When you upload a sighting, you can have the system take the date, time, and location right from your images if you have those features enabled on your camera. Otherwise it’s a matter of a few seconds to type in the data manually and submit the sighting. You can submit any photo of any species taken any time, so long as the photo was taken in North Carolina. Photos from your back catalog are welcome!

If your cell phone camera is your primary (or only) camera, you might try the iNaturalist smartphone app for Apple and Android phones. Simply open the app, snap a photo, and the app will fill in the date, time, and location automatically. Just be sure to add your sightings to the Natural North Carolina project by tapping the Choose Projects button and choosing our project before you submit. You’ll be able to access all of the submissions you’ve made with your phone every time you open the app.

The best part of building our project within iNaturalist is this: whether you submit your sightings online or via the smartphone app, you never need to know which species you’ve sighted before you submit. Click Need ID Help when you submit your photo and other iNaturalist users can help you identify the things you see. Likewise, if you know a lot about a group of organisms, you can suggest identifications to other iNaturalist users who need a little help. This communication between users is one of the best parts of getting involved in Natural North Carolina and helps make the project fun and easy to use.

By submitting your sightings of North Carolina’s wildlife to Natural North Carolina, you will help us do two things. Your sightings will become part of an ever growing database of species from all over the state, information that is freely available to Museum scientists, other researchers, and the general public for use in answering scientific questions. Simultaneously, we will build an amazing searchable field guide to North Carolina life that you can view anywhere you have access to the Internet. You can even use the project as a repository for your own wildlife life list or keep a list of species found in your backyard, your school yard, or other favorite spot in the state. And the more you participate, the greater this resource will become! With your help, we will be able to build an incredible resource useful to a wide range of users, both within North Carolina and beyond.

Give Natural North Carolina a try today! It’s easy to get involved. Upload a few photos to the project online. Download the iNaturalist app and submit a few photos while you’re out on your daily walk with your dog. Browse the field guide and marvel at the amazing diversity of our state. Or attend one of our free iNaturalist training workshops! We’ll walk you through the whole process, from creating an account to recording your sightings to submitting your findings online. Visit the Museum’s events calendar to search for upcoming dates.

We hope you’ll join us on our new citizen science adventure! With your help, we can all learn more about the species that call North Carolina home — together.

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