Flora Incognita: Plant identification app goes on tour with MS Wissenschaft

The exhibition ship MS Wissenschaft started its tour of Germany on 03.05.2022, also with Flora Incognita on board. The app for plant identification was developed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena, headed by Dr. Jana Wäldchen, and the TU Ilmenau. It is one of 25 selected exhibits that invite people of all ages to discover, try out and participate in the floating science center. It is not only young people from around twelve years of age who can look behind the research scenes and are thus made curious about science and research. On its four-and-a-half-month voyage until September 16, the MS Wissenschaft, an initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, will dock in 31 cities, including the Spree, Rhine, Neckar, Moselle and Saar.

Flora Incognita, the app for automatic plant identification, is extremely successful, with more than five million installations. But what is the technology behind it? What methods did the scientists use to develop the app? What motivated them to develop the app? And what contribution can private individuals make to monitoring biodiversity and thus protecting nature? Visitors can find answers to these questions on board the MS Wissenschaft - and touching is expressly permitted. In the belly of the converted cargo ship, the Flora Incognita is simulated on a touchscreen. Nature enthusiasts can select different plant species on a virtual meadow. They learn the names of the plants and their importance for nature conservation and science. Maps and videos show how Flora Incognita makes an important contribution to documenting plant diversity.

Since the app was first released four years ago, it has been installed more than five million times on Android, iOS and Harmony OS devices - far beyond Germany: 45 percent of installations are from outside Germany and the app is currently available free of charge in 19 languages. The dataset includes all of Germany's wild flora, with around 3,000 species, and another 2,000 prominent plant species of Central Europe. In the summer months, up to 370,000 plant determinations take place on a single day.

On the MS Wissenschaft, Flora Incognita can usually be experienced daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and school classes are welcome as early as 9 a.m. In addition to the exhibition, there is a supporting program in many cities along the route with discussion events, scientific film evenings and workshops for school classes. Admission to the exhibition is free.

[News adopted from TU Ilmenau]

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