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Scientists and company collaborate in app creation

It is called FungiNote, and it is an app to identify fungi species. This app is a result of the cooperation between scientists at the  Real Jardín Botánico of the CSIC and the company Wake App!.

App FungiNote.Maria Paz Martín Esteban is a scientist at the CSIC’s Real Jardín Botánico, in Madrid. She is at the front of the Department of Mycology and works on fungi phylogenesis and the relationship between fungi and parasites.

A year an a half ago she had an unusual proposition. “Wake App!, a company which produces and edits applications for mobile devices, contacted us. They were interested in our collaboration for doing a Mycological application. At the beginning they wanted an app focused just on mushrooms or toadstools (fungi with a stem and a domed cap) but we talked and at the end we agreed to do it for fungi in general”.

After the agreement and signing a contract between the company and the CSIC, the team started to work. The scientist at the Real Jardín Botánico provided the scientific advice and guidance for the content. The company  Wake App!, which had previous experience with other medical apps, focused on the design and usability of the app. An independent developer, Ricardo Sánchez Sotres, was in charge of the programming.

FungiNote, the name of the app, was released last November. At the moment it contains information about 150 species, but periodic  updates will increase the number of species. “Every record has, at least, a reference photography and, in some species, coloured drawings made by pioneers of Mycology between the XVIII and the XX centuries. Also, in some cases drawings in black and white have been incorporated, which show microscopic characters of the fungi”, explains Maria Paz Martín.

August Rocabruna y Manuel Tabarés, who are members of the Societat Catalana de Micologia, have collaborated with the project making reference photographies. Other experts have collaborated on  the content: Francisco D. Calonge, Maria P. Martín, Dolores Sierra, Laura M.Suz, Raquel Pino-Bodas and Manuel Tabarés.

FungiNote is only available for devices with the IOS operating system although it could be adapted for the Android system if, as points out  Maria Paz Martin, they count on financial support.

The scientist highlights the didactic approach of the app. “It is made for users which find fungi to learn to identify them”.  The app helps the user to compare morphological aspects of the fungi with clear drawings, and progressively filters the characters until arriving to the most probable species. “The drawings are so clear that even children can use the app under the supervision of an adult. Any teacher can use the app for didactic uses”. In order to identify fungi, the app can also filter by habitats and by season of the year when fungi can be found.

FungiNote allows us to know all the information related to the item: name, etymology of taxonomy, conservation status, geographical distribution, curiosities and if it is edible or not, among other facts. But, warns the scientist, “the app is not a guide of fungi consumption. If there is any doubt about the potential toxicity of a fungi, we recommend neither collecting nor eating it”.

FungiNote also allows one also to create a personalized field notebook where the user can annotate the findings and share them on-line afterwards.

Scientists explain this has been a very rich experience. “We have had the chance to explore a totally new sector in which we can transmit our scientific research and encourage curiosity for the fungi. The company was interested in combining the technological innovation of a small and medium sized company with the scientific capacities of an institution like the Jardín Botánico and the CSIC. There is no doubt that this combination makes knowledge transfer to society possible. And passes on the knowledge to society to the point of putting it in the hands of thousands of fans, teachers and citizens, in an innovative scientific outreach activity”.

Video of FungiNote http://www.rjb.csic.es/jardinbotanico/jardin/contenido.php?Pag=293&tipo=noticia&cod=2994

Link to FungiNote app: http://www.rjb.csic.es/jardinbotanico/jardin/index.php?Cab=112&SubCab=634&len=es