Explore Nature with the Seek App

It can be an uphill battle in our house to get my two daughters to put down their iPads and head outside. As a Texas Master Naturalist, I’m always looking for creative ways to get them out enjoying nature. I hope one day they’ll be as excited as I am to watch a hummingbird visit our feeder or spot a new wildflower blooming. I admittedly have a long way to go in convincing them that these things are more exciting than their favorite Roblox game, but I won’t give up! 

Rather than fighting the screens, why not try bringing them outside? There is a place for technology in nature too! In particular, I am a big fan of a free app called Seek. It helps kids explore nature in a fun and fresh way. The app uses image recognition technology to identify plants, insects, and other animals!

seek app
Use the Seek app to explore nature in your yard!

Seek is great for kids but helpful for adults too. You can head outside to your backyard or a local park and start exploring.

  • Curious about a plant growing in your yard? Seek can help you identify it.
  • Want to know the name of a butterfly you’ve spotted on your flowers? Upload a photo to Seek to find out.
  • Did your kids find a mystery bug? Take a photo and learn about it.

How to Use the Seek App

  1. Take a photo of the plant or animal with the Seek app.
  2. Click “Identify Photo.”
Seek app
The butterfly visiting our flowers is a Queen butterfly!

The Seek app won’t always be able to identify your photo—it is still learning! For any photos the app can’t identify, I recommend uploading them to the more robust iNaturalist app instead. Get my tips for identifying plants with iNaturalist.

How to Use the Seek App to Learn About Nature

Once you have identified something, you can use the app to learn more about it. For instance, here is what we learned about the Queen butterfly:

  • It is part of the Tiger Milkweed Butterflies family (Genus Danaus) and is related to the Monarch. That is why they look very similar to a Monarch!
  • It is a native Texas insect.
  • There have been over 2,000 observations of Queen butterflies on the Seek app in the San Antonio area, most of them occurring between September and November.

Because there are lots of people around San Antonio (and the world) using Seek and its companion app iNaturalist, you can also use the app to learn about plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife commonly spotted in your area.

Use the Seek app to learn about species frequently spotted in San Antonio and to participate in fun challenges to earn badges!

Seek also incorporates a gaming aspect where you can win badges for competing in fun challenges, such as:

  • Bee Challenge (find three species of bees)
  • Exoskeleton Challenge (find five species of arthropods)
  • Seed Dispersal Challenge (find seed dispersing plants and animals)

Jane Goodall once said, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” The Seek app allows us to connect with nature in a new way. Once a child knows the name of an insect, it is no longer just an insect. It is something they want to learn more about. Once they learn more about it, they’ll appreciate it more. An app like Seek is the first step toward turning our children into mini citizen scientists and future protectors of our planet!

Haeley Giambalvo has been a professional blogger and online content creator for the past decade. She started DesignImprovised.com in 2011 to share simple crafts that make a big impact. Her craft projects have been featured by major magazines including Country Living, Martha Stewart Living, and Better Homes and Gardens. In 2020, Haeley launched her second website, NativeBackyards.com, to encourage people to help the Earth from their own yards by growing native plants that support insects and wildlife. Over the last two years, Haeley has transformed her backyard with Texas native plants and turned it into a haven for butterflies, bees, and birds. She wants to help you do the same! She is excited to write for ACM to share ideas for spending more time as a family outdoors, starting a garden, attracting butterflies to your yard, and more! Haeley is a mom to Stella (13) and Hazel (11). You can follow along with her gardening adventures and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook @nativebackyards.