National Wildlife Refuge System

Free App is a Virtual Butterfly Net on 11 National Wildlife Refuges

With iPhones in hand, visitors to national wildlife refuges in the Chesapeake Bay region can now photograph and share their sightings with a worldwide community of wildlife watchers.  The free National Wildlife Refuges Chesapeake Bay app is a new tool for exploring the outdoors and is available for download from the App Store (

App users can post photos of the plants and animals they find on refuges and tap into a global network of experts for information about the species.   As the postings accumulate, scientists and refuge managers will be able to view the data to see where and when species inhabit specific locations.

The app was developed through a partnership among the Chesapeake Conservancy and National Geographic Society with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It incorporates the popular Project Noah wildlife photo-sharing service.

Project Noah allows users to create “missions” to pursue, and the app includes a mission for 11 national wildlife refuges in the Chesapeake Bay region, the largest estuary in the U.S. The app also includes location, maps, operating hours and guides for these refuges.  A user who visits the refuges and posts photos of the missions may earn virtual “patches.” There is one for each refuge.

Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, which developed the idea and gained financial support to build it through a partnership with National Geographic and Project Noah, said, “our goal was to produce a fun and innovative app that allows people to explore the Chesapeake region’s National Wildlife Refuges, so everyone can better understand and appreciate the extraordinary value of these protected areas and our wildlife in the Bay and along our great rivers.”

“The app provides a new interactive experience by encouraging refuge visitors to become modern explorers. By using their smartphones like digital butterfly nets to capture photos of the animals and plants they discover, they chronicle and share their experiences at the refuges, adding their photos to a growing global database used by citizen scientists across the globe,” said Charles Regan, senior vice president for National Geographic Maps.

“The Chesapeake refuge app is a free resource for everyone seeking to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its national wildlife refuges, but it's more than a great educational tool. It also enables wildlife enthusiasts to share photos and information with biologists and experts from the Fish and Wildlife Service and across the globe, enabling citizen scientists to help us learn more about the kinds and distribution of plants and animals that inhabit refuges in one of the nation's most imperiled watersheds," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "I can’t think of a better way to get a whole new generation fired up about wildlife than putting this app in a million hands."

James River Patch Mason Neck Patch Rio Morea Landscape Patch
Last updated: October 25, 2012