New competition gathers fresh info about Alabama’s ecosystem

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Emily Benito

TUSCALOOSA – The University of Alabama and Auburn University are competing again, but this time it’s not about football. The two schools are in a competition for who can snap more pictures of their environments.

Both universities are trying to gather research in the competition called the Marble Bowl.

Team members earn points by taking pictures of plants, animals, and other natural resources around the state.

The competition started on September 3 and will be finished on the day of the Iron Bowl.

Alabama Museum of Natural History Director John Friel said he’s excited to see how this competition goes.

“We are using a platform called iNaturalist which allows you to take a picture and upload that to the online system. You record where a particular species was in space and time. The idea is that you can go out and photograph the bugs or the flowers that you see and birds that come to your feeder. It’s kind of a friendly competition we’re going to have and we’ll see who wins and hopefully it will become an annual event that we do every year,” said Dr. Friel.

The competition will help scientists in Alabama learn more about the biodiversity of the state.

The goal of this competition is to get people in the community involved with gathering data about the diverse natural footprint of Alabama.

The app will catalogue where you took the image and ask for identification of the plant or animal photographed. If the participant does not know what it is, that is OK. The app allows for the community to comment and identify what is in the image.

There are some basic rules to this competition. All the pictures must be taken in Alabama. The animals and plants must naturally occur in the wild and not in a domesticated environment. Pets and cultivated plants are not eligible for the competition.

“The idea is that it’s a fun way to do it. We all love football, but when we’re not watching the games it’s a great activity. Anyone can do it at any age. You can do it with your kids and you can do it anywhere…on campus, at your home, or wherever you go within the state,” Dr. Friel said.

Auburn University is currently leading the competition, with the highest number of registered participants and submitted material.

To participate in the competition, Alabama residents can download the i-Naturalist app and join their preferred team.

Categories: Local News