New Paltz Give Back: iNaturalist

The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is home to countless species of plants and animals. Help scientists discover all the creatures that call the trail their home. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Taking a hike or bike ride along the Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail is a must-do activity when you live in New Paltz, but did you know you can contribute to science while you’re there? 

How? With iNaturalist!

iNaturalist is a platform developed by California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. The app allows individuals to contribute to biodiversity science by snapping a photo of plants or animals they find in nature and uploading them to the platform. 

This creates a community created biodiversity database that can be accessed by scientists and land managers. The platform is already a primary tool for biodiversity data in Mexico, southern Africa and Australia. Though the platform is a collaborative effort available to individuals around the world, you can use it to help scientists right here in Ulster County. 

The individuals behind the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (an organization dedicated to conservation in Ulster County) are using iNaturalist for the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Biodiversity Project. Established in March 2021, the project was created to aid the discovery and tracking of plants and animals along the rail trail. By uploading photos of interesting plants or animals you see on the trail, you can help the organization learn more about the species that live there and help scientists better understand the biodiversity in our community.

Though iNaturalist can allow community members to give back to science right here in New Paltz, the primary goal of the app is to get people connected with nature. Which can easily be achieved when you stop and take a photo of the interesting plants or organisms around you. Using iNaturalist could help you learn about biodiversity you never even knew existed.
Visit the project’s page at inaturalist.org/projects/wallkill-valley-rail-trail-biodiversity-project to click through the variety of species already discovered along the rail trail and to join the project. Download the iNaturalist app to get started.

About Morgan Hughes 63 Articles
Morgan Hughes (she/her) is a fourth-year double major in digital media management and English with a concentration in creative writing. This is her fifth and final semester on the Oracle and her second as Features editor. Morgan’s favorite Features articles to write center small businesses in our community as well as articles centering sustainability. Sometimes she crochets. You can reach her by emailing hughesm9@newpaltz.edu.