June 13, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Leafsnap, the new electronic field guide available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, aims to build an ever-greater awareness of and appreciation for biodiversity, by engaging users as citizen scientists, allowing them to automatically share images, species identifications, and geo-coded stamps of species locations with a community of scientists who will use the stream of data to map and monitor the ebb and flow of flora nationwide. Equipped with stunning high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark, LeafSnap identifies any leaf you photograph, as long as it’s in their library, which currently includes the trees of the Northeast but will soon grow to include those of the entire continental United States.
Utilizing a software similar to the kind used for facial recognition, researchers at Columbia University and the University of Maryland, in collaboration with The Smithsonian Institution, designed and implemented LeafSnap for automatic species identification. The not-for-profit nature photography group Finding Species, collected and photographed the images for the LeafSnap apps and website.