Nature Locator: Geospatial smartphone apps and the use of crowd sourcing for the accurate recording of invasive species

Dave J Kilbey, Julian C Partridge, Christopher P Bailey, Jasper Tredgold, Michael J O Pocock

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Poster


Obtaining accurate data about the distribution of invasive species is of paramount importance when it comes to assessing impact and formulating an appropriate response. But data provision is often patchy and records are usually unverifiable and lacking accurate geographic reference.

The University of Bristol’s Nature Locator team has addressed these problems by combining the development of case specific smartphone applications with the power of crowd-sourcing data collection. The smartphone apps enable real data to be collected by non-scientists in the field. Critically, each record collected is verifiable since it is comprised of a photograph, along with other relevant metadata. Records are also accurately geolocated since the apps utilise the phone’s GPS capabilities.

The Nature Locator team’s inaugural project “Conker Tree Science: Leaf Watch” ( took forward a project which had used web forms for data collection in 2 previous years. The development of an app was a large factor in successfully engaging the public and generating records. The app was principally used to provide more information on the UK distribution of the invasive horse-chestnut leaf miner moth (Cameraria ohridella). 5500 records were collected from all over the UK in the four month recording period. The project also explored the validation of submitted records using crowd sourced effort in order to further increase public engagement and reduce the burden on project scientists.

Such an approach to data collection and validation led to the following outcomes:
- Greatly enhanced accuracy of records over previous years’ owing to photographic evidence and GPS based geolocation
- A tenfold increase in records collected compared with previous years
- Geographic coverage which spanned the entire UK enabling scientists to get a clear picture of the distribution of Cameraria ohridella (see figure 1).
- Large-scale public engagement
- Widespread media interest
- Increased public awareness of the environmental issues in hand

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2012
EventNeobiota - Pontevedra, Spain
Duration: 12 Sept 201214 Sept 2012




  • invasive species
  • non-native
  • smartphone
  • app
  • geo-spatial
  • GPS
  • nature locator


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