When it comes to spotting and identifying endangered fish species, what better citizen scientists to turn to for help than anglers? Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the country, and those who fish spend hours upon hours near lakes, ponds and rivers. It wouldn't take much to turn them into the eyes on the ground for researchers — all they would need is a simple tool to help them report what they're seeing when they're already out enjoying the wilderness. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has capitalized on this fact, reeling in fishermen to be partners, reporting sightings of endangered species with a simple smartphone app.

The USFWS has partnered with FishBrain, the largest free app and social network for fishermen. The app team has added a new feature that allows users to report sightings of threatened or endangered species, or species under consideration for protection. Users are able to log sightings of up to 50 different at-risk species, which ultimately provides the USFWS with much needed data about where the animals are found, the health of the habitat, and other important information.

"Our users marvel at the beauty of animals and fish as a matter of course; the fact they can now channel this interest into something as constructive and helpful as data collection is a very special opportunity indeed," says Johan Attby, CEO of FishBrain, in a news release. "We are proud to be reaching our dedicated angling audience to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carry on the amazing work they do.”

The app isn't limited to fish species. The list of animals includes many species fishermen may encounter while fishing in various locations, including the whooping crane, the California red-legged frog, or the Kemp's ridley sea turtle. This gives a larger view of the health of ecosystems both in the water and along the shores.

If you spend a lot of time around water fishing or otherwise enjoying riparian or coastal habitat, consider downloading the app so you can log your sightings and help with data collection.

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Can smart phones help fishermen protect endangered wildlife?
The app turns anglers into citizen scientists protecting endangered fish and other riparian species.