Skyward App Company Develops Mobile App to Detect New PA Aquatic Invasive Species

A picture of zebra mussels, an aquative invasive species

Written by Marjorie Valin

April 4, 2023

App to help PA Sea Grant protect and promote coastal and watershed resources

Pennsylvania Sea Grant and Skyward App Company have released an Android app to detect aquatic invasive species (AIS) in real time. The “PA AIS Field Guide” app joins an earlier version that Skyward and PA Sea Grant developed for iPhone users.

The mobile app is designed to help users identify new AIS to prevent their spread before they become established. Users can notify state conservation officials of the suspected species, location, and severity of the infestation right from the app. This immediate time notification gives officials the details needed to investigate the sighting and begin remediation planning.

AIS are found in nearly every watershed in Pennsylvania. They include fish, plants, reptiles, and even algae or pathogens. AIS often unknowingly spread from one water body to another through outdoor activities like boating or fishing or by the release of aquarium pets. Once established, eradicating them can be burdensome and extraordinarily expensive.

“The “PA AIS” app has been downloaded 585 times since it was first launched on the App Store. It makes it easy for anyone to identify AIS in real-time,” said Sara Stahlman, extension leader for Pennsylvania Sea Grant. “The new version will give Android users the opportunity to participate and help stop aquatic invaders.”

Both the iPhone and Android versions can be found by searching for “PA AIS Field Guide” on the App Store and Google Play Store. The mobile guide also includes photos, descriptions, and the environmental impact of AIS already found in PA waterways.

“This is the type of application development project we love,” said Kat Crawford, Skyward App Company CEO. “Containing the spread of aquatic invasive species is critical both to our ecosystem and to our economy. It also uses technology for the purpose it’s intended: to simplify tasks, engage users, create efficiencies, accelerate results, and make things possible that were not before. We are grateful to Pennsylvania Sea Grant for the opportunity to work with them on this fantastic project.”

Skyward App Company develops data-driven web and mobile applications for companies and nonprofits in agriculture, natural resources, and sectors where real-time tracking and communication, site-specific mapping applications, and interoperable software to unify massive data are business critical.

Pennsylvania Sea Grant works throughout the Commonwealth on AIS issues, serves on the Governor’s Invasive Species Council, trains natural resource managers, and develops and distributes tools like the app, to educate and prevent the spread of AIS.

The mobile app is a companion to the “Pennsylvania Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species,” a printed field guide first launched in 2013. In addition to the identification and reporting tools, the guide and the app also feature prevention tips to help anglers and boaters to properly clean their gear and ensure that AIS are not transported elsewhere.

“The print version of the AIS field guide has been very successful, with three revisions and several mass printings in ten years,” said Stahlman. “The app includes all of the information in the 150-page guide, accessible on your phone at any time.”

The “PA AIS” app was made possible through a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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