On May 19, 2010, at Joint Base Balad, north of Baghdad in Iraq, someone brought U.S. service member Jonathan Trouern-Trend a frog in a plastic bottle. The brightly colored amphibian had been hiding out in an unlikely place: the latrine.
Many on base knew Trouern-Trend as “the guy to identify critters,” he said. A lifetime nature lover, he was on his second tour of duty in Iraq as a sergeant.
Before releasing the frog into a nearby pond, Trouern-Trend uploaded a picture of it to the mobile app iNaturalist, which connects a worldwide community of people who report sightings of animals and plants online.
App users informed him that he’d found a lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi)â€”and noted that scientists had never recorded one outside of Kurdistan. The species’ known range had suddenly expanded.
This kind of citizen science has exploded in recent years because of smartphones. Now, according to a new review of research about Earth’s biodiversity, it’s giving conservationists hope that new technology can slow extinctions.