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Pl@ntNet

This App Can Identify the Types of Plants You Photograph

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Pl@ntNet

Ever wonder what species you’re looking at as you admire wildflowers (or a stranger’s garden)? Pl@ntNet—an app developed by several French research institutions and a network for botanists called Tela Botanica—uses technology similar to facial recognition software to identify species of plants from user-uploaded photographs. It’s Shazam for plants, as Modern Farmer dubs it.

Because the app was designed for French users, it was originally geared toward the native flora of Western Europe. It can currently identify more than 6000 European plants, but plant-savvy users can also contribute to the app and help identify different species that aren’t already in the database. Since its release, users have established databases for almost 900 South American plants as well as more than 1000 plants native to the areas around the Indian Ocean. 

Here’s how it works: You upload a picture of that mysterious wildflower. Then, you indicate that it’s a flower, rather than a leaf or stem. Much like Google’s reverse image search, it combs through similar images in its archives to help you identify the species. Visual image technology isn’t very sophisticated right now, and it may not give you the exact plant you’re looking for—especially with North American plants. But over time, as more people add identified images, the network promises to become more and more capable. 

Get it for iOS or Android.

[h/t Modern Farmer]

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Animals
Can You Identify the Different Bird Calls in This Video?
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Listen closely to birds, and you'll notice that their lilting melodies don't always resemble chirps. Beginner birders who want to learn to identify—and mimic—avian songs can get a crash course by watching the video below, spotted by Slate and filmed by Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology.

Produced as part of the Lab of Ornithology's new online course for birding enthusiasts, the video shows students demonstrating 10 different kinds of song. See how many you can identify for yourself—and if you get stumped, visit the Lab's original YouTube post for a full rundown identifying the species behind each song.

[h/t Slate]

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technology
These Drones Can Plant 100,000 Trees in One Day
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Billions of trees are felled each year, according to the Rainforest Action Network, and planting a tree requires more time and effort than cutting one down. That makes keeping up with deforestation rates challenging for conservationists. The minds behind one tech startup think they can speed up global tree-planting efforts by taking the burden off humans and placing it on drones.

BioCarbon Engineering has assembled a fleet of drones that can plant thousands of trees a day, as Fast Company reports. The company will soon focus its efforts on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River delta, an area that’s seen rapid loss of its mangrove trees due to aquaculture, agriculture, and logging. Estimates place the amount of regional mangroves destroyed in the past 30 years between 75 and 83 percent. Starting in September, BioCarbon will partner with Worldview International Foundation to aid restoration efforts started by human hands.

Spreading seeds from aircraft (like helicopters) is not a new strategy. These methods are valued for their speed, but chances of tree survival are hurt in the process. To come up with an efficient way of planting that doesn’t damage seeds, BioCarbon had to get innovative.

After the company maps a plot of land from above and analyzes the best spots for planting, their drones fly low to the ground and fire nutrient-packed seed pods into the soil. This way, more seeds end up in places where they’ll thrive rather than on rocks or in streams where they’ll go to waste.

With one human pilot for every six drones, the company is able to get 100,000 pods in the ground a day. Even in places with regulations restricting pilots to one drone at a time, the vehicles are 10 times faster and half as expensive as human labor. Worldview International Foundation, which has worked with the Irrawaddy delta community to plant 750 hectares of trees so far, hopes to expand that area by 250 hectares with help from BioCarbon Engineering. The team also plans to continue employing locals to assemble seed pods and cultivate saplings.

To get a closer look at their planting process, check out the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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