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Gamifying science: Discover new species through a bug-based social network

inaturalist bugs
Unidentified objects

Yesterday, I blogged about the ability to scan any color in the world using Cronzy’s app and use that exact color to draw in the real world. You can take a similar approach to help identify any of the world’s bugs. is a social network for bug lovers, connecting both the amateur photography discovering new species with the teacher who helps identify it.

In 2013, for example, a man in Colombia uploaded a photo of a bright red and black frog. A poison frog expert in Washington, D.C., spotted it and eventually determined it was a brand-new species. The pair co-authored the results in the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa.

The perspective in most classrooms is that people use the Internet to waste time. However, when used as a tool to notice the world, the internet connects people and helps people learn.

“Because if you think about it, natural history really is a game. It’s going out there and trying to learn as much as you can about the things that you’re finding in nature.”

One of the iNaturalist’s users, Greg Lasely, has nearly 20k observations, has identified nearly 4k species, and identified almost 134k bugs.

As Seth Godin says, “produce for a micro market and market to a micro market.” iNaturalist is yet another example of the internet’s long tail — there’s a niche community for all interests in the social media age.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.