On Earth Day today, join an all-India crowd-sourced project to map biodiversity. Share pictures of trees, butterflies in your neighbourhood

If you have a story to tell about a tree, plant, or shrub you encounter in your neighbourhood, or has been part of your life since your childhood days, here’s a chance to contribute to a national pool of such observations. All you need is to click pictures from your camera, make a note of its characteristics, its flowers, pods or fruits and experts will even help you identify it.

India Biodiversity Portal and its TreesIndia group kickstart a “Neighbourhood Trees Campaign” today. The aim of the campaign is to create awareness on the importance of trees in neighbourhoods, their distribution in each city and across the country, and to crowd source and aggregate information on tree diversity in India. All data will be openly accessible and in the public domain, says R. Prabhakar, director of Strand Life Sciences and senior fellow at ATREE, who is co-leading the campaign, along with 30 organisations worldwide. “There is a sense of pride and learning, that the information I have provided may help a scientist in India, and that I am a part of a larger development of an information system.” All observations, lists and maps are freely available for download under Creative Commons licenses and can be useful for research studies. You could start with your garden, road, neighbourhood park, farms, forests, lake shores, river banks, etc. Join an existing local event or organise one.

The campaign will be conducted online throughout India. While there is a focused effort between April 22 to 27, the campaign continues online. “Apart from individually taking photographs and making notes and records, you could also volunteer to organise a local event or lead a group of people recording trees. We have about eight volunteers in Bangalore already and all over India such events are happening in over 40 locations,” says Thomas Vattakaven, a microbiologist with an interest in natural history, who’s co-leading the campaign for TreesIndia. “We’ve been getting about 15 new participant registrations each day,” he adds. Apart from taking pictures and providing basic data, you could point out if a tree has any historical importance, or is considered sacred, or has some folklore surrounding it.

With growing urbanisation in India, many parks and gardens are being developed. But, on the other hand, road widening projects, building and infrastructure projects are taking a toll on the trees in neighbourhoods. “Each person’s observation gets a life of its own. You may have seen a tree but don’t know what its use is, or don’t know when it flowers. This effort is a medium for amateurs, common citizens to interact with scientists…it’s about breaking boundaries. Understanding nature is not the exclusive purview of scientists. It’s a much more cultural and democratic process,” points out Prabhakar. All the little droplets of information each one of us provide will form the ocean. “And it’s not just limited to trees…it could be butterflies, birds, moths, dragonflies you observe around you.”

KNOW THY NEIGHBOUR

*Observe and photograph trees in your neighbourhood.

*Create an account on http://treesindia.indiabiodiversity.org

*Upload your identified or unidentified tree/butterfly/ant/moth with date, location and notes

*Experts will help you identify unidentified species and confirm identified ones

*Browse, comment, agree on species IDs or help identify incoming observations.

*Help is available on the site on how to photograph trees and what to photograph

*There are tutorials on how to upload an observation or checklist

*You could also volunteer to organise a local campaign in your own area or neighbourhood