Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Technologically-aided Identification II: Pooter

Computers and the Internet are becoming more and more frequent in everyday use. Even, it appears, when out on fieldwork. Many people now own smartphones, each with the capacity for a miniature identification guide, or two. But what really caught the Bristol team’s eye was an app for the iPhone called Pooter ( The idea is to take plenty of photographs of bumblebees and then identify them yourself, with different species earning different points, depending on the rarity of the species in question. The Bristol team have found it to be an excellent way of sharpening up one’s identification skills in a friendly, competitive manner.

The great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus)  is found in the Outer Hebrides, and not in Cornwall or Kent. The large black, thoracic stripe is characteristic, as well as the heavily striped abdomen. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Lynne Osgathorpe. 
There are problems, however. As you can imagine the identification skills of members of the public are not quite up to scratch, even with relatively characteristic fauna like bumblebees. Pooter, like all games and competitions, is liable to cheaters. For instance, the rare great yellow bumblebee, Bombus distinguendus, (worth a massive 200 points!) is localised to the Outer Hebrides, yet –  according to Pooter – can be found as far from Scotland as Cornwall and Kent. The Bristol team think some people are a bit too optimistic for the improvement of the great yellow’s conservation status. 

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