Imagine: you’re walking to the Dining Hall when a small, furry mammal crosses your path. “Could that be a chipmunk?” you wonder. Now, with the Animal Diversity Web’s (ADW) Pocket Guide app, you can find out for sure. Then you can learn how it communicates, what it eats and its role in the ecosystem.

UMBS is one of the pilot locations working with ADW to have a customized guide.  We provided ADW with a list of resident species; ADW linked its vast database of information on those species to our location.  Now users can view images, maps and species information for our kingdom Animalia representatives (Sayornis phoebe to Lepomis macrochirus) on their Apple mobile devices.

“We wanted to explore the mobile app field because our unique database structure and rich data mean we can create truly high quality and locally customized selections,” says Tanya Dewey, ADW Curriculum Consultant and long-time staff member.

UMBS instructor and University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Phil Myers founded Animal Diversity Web in 1995.  As described on its website, ADW is “an on-line database of animal natural history, distribution, classification and conservation biology.” Initially, University of Michigan students wrote all the entries. This was both a pedagogical exercise for them and a way to quickly populate the site.  While this is still the primary method of data entry, instructors at other institutions may request to contribute submissions from their students. And with millions of animals on earth, there is a lot of data entry remaining.

Not only is the Pocket Guide app moving ADW into the mobile age, it represents a change in the site’s funding. ADW began as a grant-funded university project. The Pocket Guide app is, in part, an effort to make ADW “a self-sustaining and educational enterprise.” Says Dewey, “We feel we can help parks, zoos, and museums of any size expand into the mobile space to engage and educate their visitors.”

The app is free and available at the iTunes app store. The customized UMBS Pocket Guide is also free, as is the one for the UM Museum of Natural History. Other Great Lakes park and zoo pocket guides are available for a nominal fee.

Full text of the ADW Pocket Guides news release is available here.