Take A Closer Look At The Outdoors With Nature Apps

Every day on Art&Seek, we’re talking to people who have tips for staying creative and calm. Share yours with us on Facebook, Instagram or @artandseek on Twitter. Click above to listen to Stephanie Jennings from the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary share her tip with KERA’s Nilufer Arsala. 

Photo: Stephanie Jennings

As the Marketing & Communications Director of the Heard Museum in McKinney, Stephanie Jennings spends a fair amount of time outside. But for the past few weeks, she’s been making sure to spend extra time in nature. “Being outside is good for your mental and physical health,” says Stephanie, “and it’s a great opportunity to discover other species waking up after the winter.”

A tool Stephanie uses when she’s outside getting fresh air is the iNaturalist app. It helps document and identify the plants and animals you see on your walks. And, the app allows you to share your finds with scientists who may use them in their own studies.

Here’s more from Stephanie about the benefits of being outdoors:

“You may have already felt the innate sense of calm that spending time in nature can provide you. If you haven’t, I encourage you to consciously look for it. And, if you

need a little more proof, a number of scientists have been studying and quantifying nature’s ability to positively impact our physical and psychological well-being.

“While we’re currently encouraged to temporarily let go of many of our personal connections, it’s a great time to look for and reestablish, our lost connections with the natural world. In North Texas, we’re transitioning from winter into spring and a variety of other species are waking up from their dormancy.

“Take this opportunity to discover them—either again or for the first time. And, you don’t have to know what each species is to learn to appreciate it. There are a lot of misconceptions about a variety of creatures, and learning about those as well can aid in your further appreciation.

Photo: Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary

“There are a number of apps available that can help you identify a variety of species. My current favorite is called iNaturalist. Not only is this app an aid in identifying living things around you, but it is also a tool to connect you with ‘a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.’ In other words, it’s another new way to connect with other people during social distancing. The species you observe and document could even become part of a data set of future studies, making your time spent all the more useful and worthwhile.

Photo: Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary

“Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary’s mission is to bring nature and people together. We have a 289-acre nature preserve with over six miles of trails waiting for you to explore. Guests are invited to enjoy the outdoors responsibly while practicing all recommended health guidelines.

“When the pandemic conditions improve, the Heard also offers a variety of educational programs and special events. If you would like to support the Heard, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, during this time, please consider becoming a member. Our memberships are largely tax-deductible and aren’t “activated” until your first visit (so even if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your house now, your membership will be waiting for you). Plus, members receive a variety of other benefits as well. Additional information is available at heardmuseum.org/membership.”

Stay on top of North Texas COVID-19 updates with KERA News.

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