App Naturblick, Foto: Torben Geek
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Naturblick is an app by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin that enables users to explore Berlin’s wildlife. Sponsored by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the Museum uses new media and digital media to focus attention on Berlin’s wildlife and promote environmental education in the digital age.

The new smartphone app enables all Berliners and in particular young adults to connect to wildlife digitally. Didn’t you always want to know what is warbling away in your garden or which peculiar plant is blossoming on your tramline, which tree is dropping those leaves and which butterfly is just fluttering by your balcony? This easy-to-use app has the answers and will identify trees, birds, herbs and wild flowers, amphibians, mammals and reptiles at the tip of your fingers on your smartphone.  Birdsong can be recorded and automatically identified. There is a map function that will point you to nature spots near you to explore and enjoy. Without much previous knowledge, you will be able to identify plants and animals and understand their role in an urban context. Taking in our immediate surroundings will help to develop a heightened awareness of Berlin’s wildlife. „Naturblick shows us nature in our day-to-day life and our neighbourhood. It reveals Berlin‘s diversity of species, says Johannes Vogel, Director General of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. „Today’s people experience nature in cities, by day and night, and more often than not, they are not aware of it. Berlin has a rich wildlife which we can now enjoy. The app sharpens our perception of nature and is geared to young, digitally streetwise users who will appreciate a playful approach to the wildlife topic.”

In a multidisciplinary team of specialists in biology, informatics, urban ecology and social sciences, the Museum für Naturkunde is doing research on digital environmental education for an adult target group, testing approaches to individual nature experiences in big cities and assessing how this affects the perception of nature in the city. This involves the development of acoustic and optical pattern recognition systems that can automatically identify species on the basis of sound recordings and photographs.

The app is part of the Stadtnatur entdecken (discovering nature in the city) project. Conceived as a generally participative project, the app relies very much on the input and feedback from users to continually develop its content and technical potential. The Offene Naturführer (open guide to nature) permits users to suggest topics and upload their own material. The contents of the app will thus become more varied over the course of the project.

There is an advisory board where new contents and applications are discussed with various Berlin organisations. Freely accessible content – e.g. from the Berlin Senate’s Geoportal – is harnessed and processed for use in the app.

Later in the project, the app will also be used in citizen science projects so that observations and recordings can be shared with other users. Other functions will be added, such as the use of optical pattern recognition for the identification of species.

The App is available free of charge for Android and iOS.   

Additional information on the project can be found on our homepage at www.naturblick.naturkundemuseum.berlin