U.S. State Dept. Alumni Innovation Engagement Fund

Overview ( 2014-15)

In July 2014, Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi, founder & CEO of Ladybird Environmental Consulting and her four alumni team members won the global funding competition from India- Alumni Innovation Engagement Fund announced by U. S. State Department. They were the sole winners of this prestigious fund which provides funding to the International Exchange Alumni to live their dream project. The funding of 25000 USD was made available to the team and their dream project was- Mobile Apps for Climate Change. The team developed three mobile apps; iBirds, iButterflies, iTrees as easy reference to 50 common species found in cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkatta. The mobile apps were made available free of cost on Android platform after being launched in  December 2014 in all four cities  

Urban iNaturewatch was a citizen science initiative which encourages urban citizens to appreciate and document their local biodiversity with the help of three mobile apps - iNaturewatch Birds, iButterflies and iTrees.In 2015, Urban iNaturewatch Challenge was launched for city schools of Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkatta and Hyderabad. 

The challenge was a citizen science initiative which encouraged schools to use iNaturewatch mobile apps to document their urban biodiversity. The highest records sent by a particular school from a particular city will be declared as winner by end of the challenge. For this task, the team partnered with NGOs such as WWF-India and Greenline.

The challenge concluded in March 2015. It showed that 33 schools from all four cities had taken up the Urban iNaturewatch Challenge. Students from standard 5-9 participated in the challenge. The schools gave special permission for students to use mobile phones for the project work. Some schools which couldn't allow mobile phones as a policy, provided students with species posters for ready identifications. In some cases the teachers gave their personal phones for students to use.

Altogether 1599 students and 48 teachers citizen scientists worked hard to document local birds, butterflies and trees from their locality. In a shortest span of 3 months, they collected 2963 records of sightings which were uploaded on iNaturewatch project website. The highest records were clocked by Hyderabad schools who collected 1257 records followed by Kolkatta 1196, New Delhi 348 and Mumbai 162. The winning schools which fed maximum records from were Hyderabad Public School with a total of 350 records from Hyderabad, Sarangabad Jajneshwari Pathshala Girls' High School with 466 records from Kolkatta, Springdale School, Dhaula Kuan with 106 records from New Delhi with and M.K.E.S High School, Malad with 97 entries from Mumbai.

This happens to be the first project wherein schools have used mobile apps to document local biodiversity and it has been revolutionary in times where gadgets are not allowed in schools and parents do not like their children spending time with their gadgets. 

The feedback from students and teachers has proved that this project has been successful in reversing the trend that gadgets might be keeping our children indoors. On the contrary, this project proved that with this type of apps, students could be drawn outdoors too. More than the team and partners, the students seem to be the happiest as they had finally found an app for their project work!

Be a Citizen Scientist

The Challenge has ended nevertheless we encourage all nature enthusiasts in metros to take continue this challenge and send their sighting data to Indian Biodiversity Portal. Your data might be useful to many citizen scientists working in different parts of the country. You could download the mobile apps here. Best of luck!