nullSo I know I just wrote a story about someone who got attacked by a bear while she was checking something on her iPhone, but if you’re careful about when and where you use your smartphone on the trail, you can actually help out with an important project.

Invasive plants have long been a problem in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Researchers and volunteers do a great job of keeping the weeds in check, but now you can help out – and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty!

The National Park Service and the UCLA Center for Embedded Network Sensing got together to develop a program for iPhones and Android-powered phones to help identify and locate the six most problematic invasive plants in the region – and don’t worry if you’re not an amateur botanist – the app has pictures and descriptions of the plants built right in:

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When you’re on the the trail, just use the app to take photos of the plants you see. Your phone will automatically geotag and timestamp the photo, so when you send it into the NPS, they’ll have all the information they need to figure out when and where to send their army of volunteer weed-pullers.

The app is called What’s Invasive, and is available now as a free download. In the spring, the two organizations are planning on releasing a companion app called What’s Blooming, will allow hikers to track wildflower blooms in the area.

I really have to hand it to the Park Service on this one – not only is the app well-designed and easy to use, but it’s also a great way for the NPS to gather valuable data on what’s going on inside their parks.

For more info on the service, head to the What’s Invasive web site.

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