One third of the plant species in Germany is listed as endangered, tendency increasing. At the same time, the number of people with species knowledge is continuously decreasing. But how can we protect species that we don’t recognize? The Flora Incognita research project combines smartphones, artificial intelligence and citizen participation in an app that interactively and automatically identifies plants based on image recordings. With every successful application, the app learns and improves its recognition accuracy. At the same time, the records of the identified species and locations create valuable data sets to answer questions of species protection and biodiversity. More than 1 million people, from enthusiastic laypersons to biology professors, are already using the free app. The interdisciplinary project team from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the Technical University of Ilmenau was honored for its development with the Thuringian Research Prize in the category of applied research.Read more
The Thuringian Environmental Prize, awarded by the Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Nature Conservation, recognizes the commitment for a habitable environment and healthy nature. In Thuringia, the prize is awarded for outstanding achievements and dedication to environmental protection that contribute to ecological improvements in the context of sustainable development.
The high-ranking, 12-member jury selected 2 special prizes from among the applications received in addition to the prize winners from outside academic research. The Flora Incognita research group of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) was honored with this prize for its app for plant identification.
Dr. Jana Wäldchen, head of the research group at MPI-BGC, together with Prof. (JP) Dr. Patrick Mäder, TU Ilmenau, accepted the award from Minister Anja Siegesmund in the Jena Climate Pavillon. „After almost 5 years of intensive development work, we have created a widely used and popularly accepted app for automatic plant identification,“ says Patrick Mäder, „but we want to continue to make continuous improvements for the users.“
„In the long run, we as researchers can use the data from the Flora Incognita App to make many other decipherings: When do which species bloom? How strongly do the traits of the individual plants vary? What is the relationship to climate change and land use patterns?“ emphasized Jana Wäldchen.