Montana Wildlife Watchers Turn to the Web to Track Their Outdoor Experiences
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sara Groves
October 10, 2008
(HELENA) -- Here's some good news for students of nature as they head back to school or out to the field this fall: Studying Montana's animals and plants just got a lot easier (and more fun), thanks to the Montana Natural Heritage Program's new Tracker Web site, and its companion, the Montana Field Guides.
The Natural Heritage Tracker invites students of all ages to explore the distribution of Montana's wildlife through interactive maps showing where species have been reported by biologists or wildlife watchers. These maps draw on the Natural Heritage Program (NHP) databases, which contain nearly one million records of species observations dating as far back as the late 1800s.
"For the first time, Tracker puts an atlas of Montana's wildlife right on your desktop," says NHP Director Sue Crispin. "Montanans can see where an animal or rare plant has been found in the state, and then turn to the Field Guide to learn everything that is known about the species, see color photos, and even hear animal calls!"
Statewide maps for over 900 animal and plant species display their broad distribution in the state. In addition, Tracker enables users to view incredibly detailed information about where wildlife species have been observed.
For example, if a user in Great Falls is wondering when to go "frogging" and what to listen for, Tracker can identify three locations around town for the Boreal Chorus Frog. By clicking over to the Field Guide, they will find a detailed description of the animal complete with color photos, breeding dates, and a recording of its call.
If, while out frogging, they see a good-sized spotted frog, they can use the Field Guide to easily identify it as the Northern Leopard Frog. A quick link to Tracker reveals that it was last reported in the area in 2002, and before that, in 1876 when Lewis and Clark first documented Montana's wildlife!
In addition to being an interactive atlas about Montana's animals and plants, Tracker invites people to record their own observations for addition to the NHP databases. Users can view sightings they have previously submitted by signing in and clicking "My Observations", essentially creating a wildlife diary of their outdoor experiences.
"It's a great way to keep track of what you see while you're out exploring in Montana," said NHP Zoologist Bryce Maxell. "And you're also contributing to our knowledge of Montana's wildlife."
For viewing animal or plant data or planning treks anywhere in Montana, Tracker also provides easy access to maps and aerial photos for the entire state, as well as the most up-to-date mapping of Montana's public and conservation lands.
"Tracker is the best place in Montana to begin and end your outdoor adventures," said Crispin. "Thanks to Tracker, students of nature now have incredible new access to information about everything that is out their front door."
Start using the Natural Heritage Tracker and Field Guides at http://mtnhp.org.
The Natural Heritage Program is a partnership of the Montana State Library and the University of Montana.