Trout Unlimited’s TroutBlitz citizen science effort catalogs fish across North America

By on July 14, 2014
A cutthroat trout in Stillwater Creek (Credit: Roger Tabor/USFWS)

As part of its many citizen-science efforts, Trout Unlimited has released a new tool to help its members and other anglers catalog wild and native trout across North America. The tool is called TroutBlitz, echoing the “bioblitz” term used in many similar efforts to catalog animals.

It runs off a web platform called iNaturalist. After registering for a free account, users can upload photos of the trout they catch, helping to document biodiversity of the much sought-after fish throughout North America.

“Anglers are used to photographing what they catch, so this is a natural extension of what they can do,” said Jack Williams, senior scientist at Trout Unlimited. And the tool is pretty simple to use. With a photo uploaded, anglers just need to note the location where the fish was caught and what kind of trout it is. There is also an app version of the tool so that photos can be uploaded via smartphone.

All photos and geo tags will be available publicly and can be used by researchers who would like to study trout biodiversity. And perhaps the TroutBlitz tool can aid in the discovery of new trout species. There is a lot of diversity waiting to be found and fish scientists commonly look at different trout to determine if they should go by new taxonomic names, Williams says.

“Every so often, we find things we haven’t heard of,” said Williams. “That’s part of fishing. That’s part of human nature.”

A screenshot of the TroutBlitz tool, showing recent geotagged submissions (Credit: iNaturalist/Trout Unlimited)

A screenshot of the TroutBlitz tool, showing recent geotagged submissions (Credit: iNaturalist/Trout Unlimited)

A lot of the angling science projects that Trout Unlimited is working on are meant to have long-term staying power, and TroutBlitz is no different. The value in that is the data set could eventually span years or decades, and then real concrete conclusions about trout biodiversity trends could emerge. The tool may also yield data on the spread of non-native trout species throughout the continent.

But there is also a human benefit. “Anglers can see different fish subspecies, the lesser known species, and they can see this diversity,” said Williams. “It builds a better appreciation of what’s out there so they can see: How can we save these things without using hatchery programs?”

To encourage participation, Trout Unlimited will also be offering prizes to those anglers who upload the most photos, like memberships, hats, decals and chances to win other prizes from Trout Unlimited sponsors.

“A lot of folks visit different parts of the country and upload lots of photos to the site,” said Williams. “We’re interested in identifying and rewarding people for submitting the most photos and in giving them recognition for that work.”

Image: A cutthroat trout in Stillwater Creek (Credit: Roger Tabor/USFWS)

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