When it comes to household activities and chores, springtime is a busy time filled with garden-tending, closet-rearranging, kitchen-reorganizing, clutter-cutting, bedding-changing, and a whole lot of window-opening to let in all of that glorious fresh air. Thanks to Discovery’s Science Channel (recently re-branded as just “Science”), iPhone users now have a good excuse to step away from the mops, buckets, baking soda cleaning solutions, and storage bins without straying too far from home.

So what does this new, iPhone-centric task involve? Let’s just say it involves getting down and dirty by crawling around on all fours in your backyard, iPhone in-hand, and snapping photos of the flora and fauna that also call it home sweet home.

The free app is called SciSpy and is essentially a chance for amateur wildlife watchers to play “citizen scientists” at home while helping to “contribute to research initiatives that need amateur input.” Personally, I won’t be using the sci-spy app since I don’t have an iPhone and, well, judging by the two types of wildlife I’ve recently spotted in my neck of the woods — a giant cockroach and a rat — I don’t think my contribution would amount to much, unless it’s for a study on urban nastiness.

But for those with iPhones and proper backyards, the app is a fun one that helps folks “get to know the neighbors,” if you will. And you certainly don’t have to exclusively use SciSpy in your backyard. Wildlife-spotting excursions around your neighborhood, in local parks and wilderness areas, and further afield are welcome too. Specific "missions" include "urban wildlife," "natural invasion," "bugs in your own backyard," "at the birdfeeder" and "leaf peepers."


Here’s a bit more about the nitty-gritty of SciSpy via iTunes:

Everyday we have the opportunity to make scientific observations, but without the time, tools or training ... well, it's just never going happen.

But now, using the Science Channel's SciSpy mobile app, anyone who wants to can help advance scientific research: specifically, the study of the natural world.

As long as you have the SciSpy app on your iPhone, all you have to do is capture and submit photos of living things: a unique bug on your kitchen floor (a new species perhaps?), or an unusual-looking mushroom you find sprouting in your backyard.

When your photo is submitted, it's automatically date stamped, geo-mapped, classified, and entered into an online database, available on ScienceChannel.com, where scientists around the world can analyze it and use it for their own research. 

Nifty. To date it looks like there’s already 123 pages of amateur wildlife photos uploaded to the SciSpy website. The picture quality could be a bit better, but perhaps that’s something that will be tweaked for future versions of the app. Have you used the SciSpy app yet or similar wildlife spotting/identifying iPhone apps like NOAH

SciSpy screenshots: iTunes

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

I SciSpy with my little iPhone eye ...
Need a break from spring cleaning? Head to the backyard, iPhone in hand, to snap photos of the living creatures that you, for better or worse, share your space