In conceiving and developing Project Noah, Yasser Ansari found a way to "turn a mobile device into a butterfly net,” and in return, is inspiring a tech-driven generation to get excited about nature.
“What I’m interested in is the mass amateurization of science — a world in which everyone can be a scientist.”
Yasser Ansari doesn’t just want No Child Left Behind, he wants No Child Left Inside. Having previously studied molecular biology, Yasser launched Project Noah while pursuing a Master’s in Interactive Technology at NYU in 2010. He did it to tackle head-on what he calls “nature deficit disorder.” By making it easy for people to document and share their wildlife discoveries, he hopes “to get a new young generation hooked on outdoor exploration.”
The app works in three main modes: Spotting, where you can take a picture, add tags and descriptors, and upload it to the general community; the Mission mode gets users engaged in an ongoing assignment such as tracing invasive species; and in the Field Guide mode, users discover the wildlife in their current location that others have previously seen in the area. In this way, Yasser helps people “make observations, track invasive species, [and] understand and figure out complex relationships that might be taking place in habitats or ecosystems in their backyard.”
The experience is not only great for amateurs, but experts also gain from the data collected. In fact, with all the extra eyes, it has the tantalizing potential to spot some new discoveries along the way. Yasser is reminded that, in the midst of so many dire predictions about the earth, “every once in a while you hear a great story about how a species is surviving or how an organism that they thought was extinct is seen again for the first time… My dream is for an 8-year-old kid in Montana to discover a new species for science.”
Regardless of whether Project Noah facilitates any major scientific breakthroughs, it certainly holds great potential to change the way the smart-phone generation interacts with their natural environment.