By Dac Collins
Many smartphone applications tend to isolate users, since staring at a screen automatically distracts them from their natural surroundings. However, there are some apps that may actually help to bring users closer to nature.
Visitors to state parks in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia may find Pocket Ranger a handy reference tool. The smartphone app features interpretive information for each park, as well as advanced GPS capabilities that allow users without mobile reception to access stored maps of trails, campgrounds and park facilities.
Invasive Plants in Southern Forests is a field guide for invasive plant species. Hikers can use this application to identify and learn about the 56 non-native plant species currently found in forests throughout 13 southern states.
Pollution is an app that sources from public databases to reveal information on air, water, ground and electromagnetic pollution in a given area, including the amount, source and type of pollutants.
There are also a number of online tools that promote conservation and outdoor recreation. Birders in Tennessee will appreciate the user-friendly website Tennessee Birding Trails (tnbirdingtrail.org), developed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Four different search options — region, species, group and season — allow birders to find a good area to spot bald eagles in East Tennessee, or to pinpoint the best places to see migrating sandhill cranes.
How’s My Waterway (watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway) is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web tool that helps users learn about the condition of their local streams. The “Use My Location” feature lists nearby streams and shows if and when the water quality was assessed. Users can also access the technical reports that detail why a certain waterway is listed as impaired or polluted.
For a comprehensive list of environmental smartphone and internet applications, visit: epa.gov/mygreenapps.