Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Virtual Tour Guide Enhances Visits to Humboldt Bay NWR Complex
California-Nevada Offices , August 10, 2015
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View of Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
View of Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: Cindy Sandoval/USFWS
Discover Nature creators Sam Serebin and Evan Hirsche stand with Service employees Eric Nelson and Denise Seeger during the app launch at Humboldt Bay NWR.
Discover Nature creators Sam Serebin and Evan Hirsche stand with Service employees Eric Nelson and Denise Seeger during the app launch at Humboldt Bay NWR. - Photo Credit: Cindy Sandoval/USFWS

By Cindy Sandoval

Mobile technology capabilities allow users across the world to connect instantly with news, entertainment and each other but can a mobile app connect users with nature? The new Discover Nature mobile app launched at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex last month aims to do just that. Once downloaded to a refuge visitor’s mobile device the Discover Nature app provides a virtual tour of the history, habitats and species found on the refuge all while allowing visitors to share their unique experience with others.

Discover Nature creators Evan Hirsche and Sam Serebin designed the app to connect families to the outdoors in new and innovated ways by engaging visitors with games and fun facts as they traverse across the refuge landscape. Both Hirsche and Serebin were raised in families that loved playing games and their families regularly spent time outdoors prompt them to build an app that connected the fun of games to the adventure of being outdoors. Serebin explained his experience of watching people miss out on the world around them as they guised down at their phones prompting the apps design, “instead of fighting technology we embraced it, this app is intended to engage people through their mobile device but also to move their glance from the screen to their surroundings.”

As a mobile phone user explores the refuge’s trails the Discover Nature uses GPS technology to highlight points of interest. The app uses the visitor’s location on the refuge to conduct scavenger hunt like quizzes asking the visitor to look around and answer questions about species biology and conservation. The ability to take a quiz while on the refuge challenges visitors to observe animal interactions and how different species adaptation play a role in animal feeding and movement. These scavenger hunt quiz scores can then be shared on different social media platforms allowing refuge visitors to share their new knowledge with their friends and followers.

The app also builds a community of nature and conservation enthusiasts by allowing visitors to engage with each other via photo and tip sharing sections. When exploring the refuge complex, visitors can document everything from animal tracks, rare plants and breath taking sunsets with photos leaving a virtual guestbook containing their experience. The tips section allows visitors to tell each other about the location of bird nests or even a shady spot to take a break all via posts from mobile devices.

According to Business Insider there are 165 million active smartphones in the United States and over 70 percent of the adult population age 15 to 64 own a smartphone. These mobile devices mean that visitors are not limited to signage, brochures and guidebooks for information when visiting public lands. By using mobile technology to reach visitors the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) can help the public find important information in remote areas without signage while also communicating important safety information and promoting community discussion about conservation.

The app’s ultimate goal is to provide each refuge visitor with a lasting impression and greater appreciation of the American landscape and public lands. Discover Nature can be downloaded on both Android and Apple devices and once downloaded the app will work in remote areas with limited cellular receptions. The Service is working to develop more Discover Nature modules for other refuges to help visitors use mobile technology to explore the great outdoors.



Cindy Sandoval is a public affairs specialist at the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento.

Region 8 Round-Up Highlights Discover Nature App
Contact Info: Cynthia Sandoval, 916-978-6159, cynthia_d_sandoval@fws.gov
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