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Tech Savvy Hikers are Helping the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains

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Geotagged map of invasive plant locations, play with an interactive version of this map here
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When a bald eagles disappear from the Channel Islands allowing room for Golden Eagles, who eat really cute little foxes, to take over, everyone freaks out (got 20 mins? Watch this amazing short documentary). When a pretty flowering Spanish Broom begins to grow, not many take notice despite it being one of the top invasive and harmful-to-the-ecosystem plants found in the Santa Monica Mountains. Now, that might start to change.

For the past month or so, UCLA has teamed up with the National Park Service to see if hikers and other trail users would be willing to become citizen scientists, collecting GPS data while they hike by notating where they see invasive plant species on their phone and snapping a photo. So far, volunteers have given scientists over 1,100 data points.

"This was a very easy and convenient way to get data," explained John Tizler, a plant ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which covers the range from the 101 Freeway in the Cahuenga Pass to the coastline. "Invasive plants unfortunately, no pun in tended, are a growing problem... This is a wonderful way to record new occurrences."

If you have GPS-enabled mobile phone that can geotag photos and you happen to spend time in the Santa Monica Mountains (Runyon Canyon counts, too), then you're more than half way there. Check out more at the project's website.