nztrees app puts natives on the map

07 Jun, 2018
Len Gillman in a tree
Professor Len Gillman, Head of the School of Science

Do you know your mānuka from your kānuka, your pōhutukawa from your rātā or ever wonder which trees are native?

Anyone with a mobile smart can now educate themselves, friends and family with nztrees, a free app released by AUT’s Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand (AENZ).

An identification wizard allows users to tick plant characteristics like leaf appearance, fruit colour and bark texture that match the tree to be identified. This includes an ‘uncertainty’ option in case the plant is not in season or there is only a branch or even a single leaf to help identify the species.

There is further information about the tree species, including Māori, common and Latin names, and its traditional medicinal use or poisonous properties.

AUT ecology researcher and app developer Johanna Spaak says, “We want people to use our app as a pocket guide as well as a pocket species collection tool. Once you have identified a tree, you can take a photo, add notes and using the mobile device’s GPS, locate its position to save to a gallery of all your sightings. Users can also share their sightings via email or social media.”

AUT Associate Professor Sebastian Leuzinger says the aim is to make it easy for people to become familiar and knowledgeable about our natural environment, and to raise awareness about the need to protect it.

“People only make an effort for something they know. We hope they will see our beautiful native forests with different eyes. The ability to identify native trees makes you more aware of the vulnerability of our ecosystems, like the recent outbreak of kauri dieback. You can only protect what you know.”

nztrees is available on Apple and Android platforms and the AUT ecologists hope it will be the first in a series of free nature identification apps to help people identify aspects of New Zealand nature either in the field or in the classroom.

“We hope to gain sponsorship to keep the doors open and lights on so we can keep providing these apps,” says Associate Professor Leuzinger.

Video of Associate Professor Sebastian Leuzinger

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