GulfSeeLife is an exciting, interactive app for environmental and marine life enthusiasts such as yourself! GSL provides a platform for like-minded people to share and collaborate about all the wonderful life that can be found in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Every observation made by the GulfSeeLife community is valuable to understanding and managing our Gulf resources. Also, GSL is a one-stop-shop for learning essential information about the most common species, ranging from marine life to coastal birds and plants, found in the Gulf of Mexico. If you are especially interested in a certain species or management issue, you can decide to join 'citizen science' projects related to those interests. Plus, GSL gives you 'one touch' access to fishing regulations and agency contact information to report your environmental concerns.
For web users: On the Dashboard page, click on the blue “Add Observation” button towards the top of the page. Add up to 5 images or videos of what you saw. When you’re done choosing images, select the ‘Type’ of observation (fish, plant, mammal, etc) before selecting the species. If you don’t know what ‘Type’ or ‘Species’ you’ve observed, just choose the “I’m not sure” option. Next enter when you saw the species. GSL will autofill the location (longitude and latitude) if your phone or camera has captured that information. If this information isn’t available from the image, you can manipulate the map or grab your device’s current location.
For mobile users: There are two ways to open the observation form, you can click on the blue “Add Observation” button towards the top of the dashboard page to open the form. If you need to quickly open the camera to capture an image, you can click the camera icon from any page in the middle of the bottom menu. Add up to 5 images or videos of what you saw. When you’re done choosing images, select the ‘Type’ of observation (fish, plant, mammal, etc) before selecting the species. If you don’t know what ‘Type’ or ‘Species’ you’ve observed, just choose the “I’m not sure” option (or see What if I don’t know what the species is? for additional options). Next enter when you saw the species. GSL will autofill the location (longitude and latitude) if your phone or camera has captured that information. If this information isn’t available from the image, you can manipulate the map or grab your device’s current location.
If you are unsure which species you have observed, GSL gives you several options. First, the ‘GSL Wizard’ is the fastest way to self-identify a species by walking you through a short questionnaire that leads you to the name of a matching species. Second, when making a new observation, you can select “I’m not sure” in the Species Information Type drop-down menu and then the GSL community will step in and provide their best suggestions to help you figure it out! Lastly, you can go over to the Species tab and simply browse the list of species as a whole or begin applying filters to narrow down the possibilities.
Yes! Some species move too fast or are too far away to photograph, but you can still report them by changing the default “Yes, I have a photo/video” to the other choice on the drop-down list: “No, I don’t have a photo or video”. Be sure to describe the observation in the Comment box. Observations without images are not voted on by the GSL community, but are open to comment by other users.
Your observation will undergo two levels of review. Before the GSL community can see your observation it must be reviewed by our staff (we call this 'admin review'). This could take as long as two days. We review your uploaded photos in order to keep the GSL environment a safe one for all users (see GSL Community Standards for more info). After admin review your observation will be 'published' and other GSL users will have the opportunity to weigh in. Other users can 'vote' by either agreeing with your species identification or by suggesting that it is a different species than you thought it was. You can see which of your observations are in admin review and community review (=voting) on your Dashboard page. Voting helps verify an observation and ends when the community has agreed on your observation.
Easy! Look on your Dashboard for new observations by other users and click on the "Suggestions" tab. You can click on the user's species identification as a vote to confirm (agree with) it, or you can use the drop down list to suggest that the photo shows an alternative species. Also, you will notice that GulfSeeLife provides a list of observations where the user said "I don't know what it is". Please suggest (vote) identifications for those 'unknown' species. Your feedback encourages communal engagement so that we 'crowd-source' species information to help manage our Gulf natural resources. Don't forget...voting earns you points, and higher level badges, and beach cred.
Points are earned in three ways: 1. by adding your own observations, 2. having your species identifications confirmed by other users, and 3. by your correct suggestions (votes) on the species in the observations of other GSL community members. As you accumulate points, we’ll reward you with a new badge-level that recognizes your helpful participation. The higher your badge level, the more heavily that GSL weights your opinion when you vote on the species identifications of other users. All users start as Newbies with zero points, but can achieve the Minnow badge status with as little as 10 points worth of posting their own observations and suggesting species correctly. A Minnow can be become a Croaker (that's a type of fish!) after another ten points are earned (for a total of 20 points). The top badge on GSL is the Mako, for which a user must have 50 points. At this level you may get a special reward! You will probably notice two other badge types: Expert and Admin. The Expert is usually a scientist or other specialist who has volunteered to help us identify species that our others users have not been able to agree on. The Admin badge represents the folks who help keep GSL running.
The projects on GulfSeeLife are collaborations between scientists and other community members. Scientists and resource managers that are associated with a university, college, government agency or an environmental group can propose projects that they would like to administer in the GSL app. A community member with an idea for a new project should consult with a local scientist, if possible, to work out the project objectives and methods. The scientist-community member team can then propose the project idea to the GSL admin. We use social media and app notifications to recruit and connect scientists and community members that want to work together on common interests.
Any project that will help expand our understanding of the biology and management of the species and habitats that occur anywhere from the shore habitats (coastal dunes, estuary marshes) to the open ocean. This includes projects that study threats to species and habitats in these areas. Projects should build on GSL’s strengths: photo documentation of localized observations, the species identification wizard, and our passionate and eager GSL community.
Please see our website’s “For Educators” section for suggestions on how to teach with GSL.
Absolutely! GulfSeeLife is a great learning platform for any and all ages. However, if an individual is under the age of 13, we ask that a parent or legal guardian acts as sponsor for the user by providing his or her contact information. With safety at the forefront of this application, children under the age of 13 will not have full capabilities within the app but will still have plenty to do like making observations, utilizing the species wizard, joining projects, and much more! Also, school teachers can set up classes of students under the age of 13 in a project environment that they manage and control (see For Educators on the GSL web portal). Parents and teachers can find more details about the limited functionality of GSL for under 13 year olds in the user agreement statement.
A community science project can be an excellent way to connect with those who share similar interests and questions about the natural world of our Gulf coast. Collaboration is encouraged within the GulfSeeLife community and even the smallest contribution can be valuable to scientists and natural resource managers. Plus community science projects are fun!
Your observations and those of the GSL community contribute to a natural resource data base that qualified scientists and resource managers can use for monitoring rare species, tracking of invasive species, identifying important habitats, understanding participation in citizen science projects, and other purposes. We also use our social media to call attention to unique and especially interesting species observations that will excite the GSL community to continue engaging with the app.
No way! GulfSeeLife is great for all types of coastal nature enthusiasts, including anglers. The animals and plants (what scientists call 'biodiversity') in and around the Gulf is much more than fish alone and we understand that. In addition to fish lovers, this app will also appeal to people who want to learn more about beach mammals, birds, invertebrates (like crabs and clams), plants, and those folks that simply want to contribute to maintaining a healthy and clean Gulf environment. Although at first GSL contains only the most common Gulf coast species, users can suggest new species types to help the app grow over time. For example, other than marine turtles, we did not include other reptiles such as lizards and snakes in GSL. If you see these, be sure to report the observations anyway.
To get started using GulfSeeLife, all you need is access to the GSL website (we call it the web portal) or the mobile phone version of GLS, and a camera or existing photo-library. See How do I submit a species observation with a photo and/or video? We appreciate observations from those of all levels of experience and photo equipment. As you share your observations in GSL, be sure to check out the species observations of others and comment and vote on (suggest) species identifications. You can also ask for help in identifying the species in your observation. If you are curious, feel free to explore the information GSL provides for about each species by following the Species tab. You can also check out the Projects tab to see what the latest projects are and to sign up to participate.
To use the filter option, first you must be in the Species tab and select your desired species Type. At the top of the screen select the “Add Filter” option. Once selected you will be prompted to select what feature you would like to use to filter the species of that Type. For example, you can filter by "Main Color", then choose “Apply Filter” and the species will be sorted in order by the color. Current filters can also be adjusted; “Add Filter” allows you to applying more filters to narrow the species listed to specific characteristics, or the “Remove Last Filter or “Remove All Filters” tabs can expand your species options again.
One of the many capabilities of GulfSeeLife is the ability to assist you to identify species that can be found here in the Gulf. This can be done with either the step-by-step, guident GSL Wizard tool or you the species filters to narrow the choices to pick from. The difference between the two is the GSL Wizard guides you through a short, predetermined questionnaire to identify the exact species that you have seen. In contrast, the ‘filter’ option makes you start with a broad species list and manually apply descriptive filters for a precise list that continues to narrow down as each new filter is applied. As a result, a list of species with those unique filter traits will be shown to you.