Must have SmartPhone Apps for the Field Ecologist and our contribution to to the smart phone app tools

The Bruno Lab has a nice series of recommendation for SmartPhone Apps for the Field Ecologist. Increasingly we find ourselves relying on our phone apps for not only data entry but also natural history, note taking, recording, remembering key must have/to do items etc. I was about to write a post about this but this lab link covers most of what the lab uses.lindsey_jpg

The potential power of smart phone apps came home to me after one of  my graduate students Lindsey Sloat (seen dashing to the lab vehicle from one of her field sites in our above Lab Blog picture as well as conducting % cover plots in our RMBL research plots to the right) brought to our attention that the tedious measures of percent cover for grasses, shrub, soil, herbs etc. that we had been tallying by hand in a field book for several years could easily be entered and summed by a nice little app that enabled you to design a survey form and simply click on the box for each category to be counted. Since then there has been a proliferation of observation counting and recording apps out there.

Our contribution to the growing list of SmartPhone Apps

We (the BIEN working group)  just released version 1.0 of Plant-O-plantomaticMatic, a new smart phone app that will generate plant species lists for the plants that likely surround your present geographic location. It is free! What we are excited about is that this should work anywhere in North and South America (in the middle of the Amazon, on the top of a isolated mountain range, in the middle of the Yukon etc.) . This app helps answers the questions – What plants can I expect to see today? The BIEN Plant-O-Matic generates a list of plant species at 100 sq. km resolution for any location in the Americas. Pictures and information from the Missouri Botanical Garden help you identify and learn about each species.  What is exciting is that this app will work for all plants (Embryophytes – bryophytes, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms . . ).

Some details about our app: The BIEN Plant-O-Matic application generates a list of species in the user’s location at 100 sq. km reUntitled3solution for any location in North and South America based on 3,585,449 standardized plant observations and geographic range models. With the app you can encounter ~100,000 EmbryopUntitled4hyte species in the New World. The BIEN data represents a comprehensive effort to merge data from the world’s herbaria and ecological studies. Some geographic areas are better represented than others. While efforts were made to remove them, known issues include presence of cultivated species and over-prediction of some species geographic ranges. The application is intended as a general reference to discover the botanical diversity that likely exists around you; all data is provided “as is,” BIEN, Ocotea Technologies and their affiliates take no responsibility for the accuracy of the output. Additional details regarding the data, analysis, and other botanical tools can be found at

As we have been developing the app it was clear that we had a long laundry list of new features and options to include in the app. In fact there were so many that it was clear we had to start bare bones and slowly add new features. So, this is the baseline version 1.0 of Plant-O-Matic. Look for updates soon with more information, a better interface, and more options to learn and discover all the plants that are found around you. We would be keen for any advice and suggestions for how to improve the app which you can submit directly to us via info[at] .

Updates to this post – Since posting several have contacted us with questions (see for example below)

Note for iPad users – Plant O Matic will work on the iPad but it is customized for the iPhone. This means that the images that are brought up on the image carousel will look low resolution – however please know you can touch or click the image and the high resolution image will then down load for you. You can two finger enlarge the image even more. 

Note for Android users – We do hope to release an Android version of Plant O Matic but this will likely not be for several months. Keep checking back and thank you for your input and interest.

2 Comments on “Must have SmartPhone Apps for the Field Ecologist and our contribution to to the smart phone app tools”

  1. Macrobe says:

    We downloaded and tried your app on our iPads, which we use in the field. Resolution for these devices is too poor to be of any use. Will reload if and when it is more useful for iPad use. Thanks for developing the app and hope you will consider updates to include iPads.

    • Macrobe, Thanks for the interest but I think that you are not viewing the full image size – sounds like you are just viewing the image carousel which are low resolution to enable quick browsing between images. Make sure to then ‘Touch’ or click an image. You should then have access to a high resolution image via the ABI that serves the Missouri Botanical Garden images. Currently, Plant O Matic is only optimized for iPhone (not iPad but it will work on the iPad). We have heard from other iPad users that because of your screen size it looks as if the images are low resolution. This is only because the version you are using is optimized for iPhone. Make sure to click on the image in order to then see the full resolution image.

      the BIEN Plant O Matic will continue to be updated and improved. We are looking to add more sources for images, common names, more traits including flower color soon. Also an Android version is hopefully in the works soon. There should be another update to improve sorting and visualizing options in the next several days if not by today so please looks for version 1.1 soon!

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