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An App for That

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GPS Coordinates: 44.674890, -124.077133

“Like it or not, smart devices are here to stay,” laughed Dawn Harris of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Dawn is the Visitor Services Manager for the Oregon Coast Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Part of her duties include promoting a new smart device app which allows visitors to better explore and appreciate these natural wonders.

“We understand that a lot of people would like to see technology separated from outdoor experiences,” Dawn continued, “but the Fish and Wildlife Service knows that for many people, those devices are how they gather and share experiences and memories with others.”

“Discover Yaquina” is a new game-based app which teaches guests about the diverse seabirds, marine mammals, and rocky shore habitats of the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Developed by Discover Nature Apps, the free software includes a GPS-guided nature-based scavenger hunt; the ability for users to post and view field tips and photographs; and the opportunity to share their experiences on social media.

The app was developed using money from a legal settlement over an old shipwreck. On February 4th, 1999, a freighter called the New Carissa crashed onto the beach near Coos Bay and subsequently disgorged 70,000 gallons of fuel and oil into the surf. Thousands of animals, mostly seabirds, perished as a result of the spill. Eventually, the State of Oregon was awarded $20 million in damages.

“The funds provided by that lawsuit have been used to teach people about seabirds and things that might be a threat to them, like oil spills,” Dawn explained. “The ‘Discover Yaquina’ app is part of that effort, but it also deals with hazards like natural predators, marine debris, and even people if they climb around on the islands and disturb nesting areas.”

To learn more about the app, Oceanscape Network Youth Correspondents Macy Dexter and Arii Gaempa met with Fox Avery and Isabel Solano, two teen volunteers with the Bureau of Land Management. The group spent about two hours wandering the headlands and beaches and experimenting with the app’s various features.

“It’s very easy to use,” Arii said of her experience. “I had the basics down in about 15 minutes and it was fun playing the game and reading all the trivia.”

Both Fox and Isabel are educational interpreters and see the app as another tool to help build awareness about Oregon’s unique coastal ecosystems.

“People who come here already have their phones out to take pictures or videos,” said Isabel. “When Fox and I tell them about the app, they’re pretty excited because it makes what they’re already doing more fun. Now they can learn about the animals they’re looking at, not just take their photo.”

The app is appropriate for all ages and also covers to other national wildlife refuge complex locations along the Oregon coast.

Related Features: Explore Ecosystems: Headlands | Pristine Laboratory: The Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

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