A review of invasive species reporting apps for citizen science and opportunities for innovation

Leif Howard, Charles B. van Rees, Zoe Dahlquist, Gordon Luikart, Brian K. Hand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Smartphone apps have enhanced the potential for monitoring of invasive alien species (IAS) through citizen science. They now have the capacity to massively increase the volume and spatiotemporal coverage of IAS occurrence data accrued in centralised databases. While more reporting apps are developed each year, innovation across diverse functionalities and data management in this field are occurring separately and simultaneously amongst numerous research groups with little attention to trends, priorities and opportunities for improvement. This creates the risk of duplication of effort and missed opportunities for implementing new and existing functionalities that would directly benefit IAS research and management. Using a literature search of Early Detection and Rapid Response implementation, smartphone app development and invasive species reporting apps, we developed a rubric for quantitatively assessing the functionality of IAS reporting apps and applied this rubric to 41 free, English-language IAS reporting apps, available via major mobile app stores in North America. The five highest performing apps achieved scores of 61.90% to 66.35% relative to a hypothetical maximum score, indicating that many app features and functionalities, acknowledged to be useful for IAS reporting in literature, are not present in sampled apps. This suggests that current IAS reporting apps do not make use of all available and known functionalities that could maximise their efficacy. Major implementation gaps, highlighted by this rubric analysis, included limited implementation in user engagement (particularly gamification elements and social media compatibility), ancillary information on search effort, detection method, the ability to report absences and local habitat characteristics. The greatest advancement in IAS early detection would likely result from app gamification. This would make IAS reporting more engaging for a growing community of non-professional contributors and encourage frequent and prolonged participation. We discuss these implementation gaps in relation to the increasingly urgent need for Early Detection and Rapid Response frameworks. We also recommend future innovations in IAS reporting app development to help slow the spread of IAS and curb the global economic and biodiversity extinction crises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-188
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2022


  • Biosurveillance
  • Citizen science
  • Early detection and rapid response
  • Invasive species
  • Mobile device
  • Species occurrence
  • Wildlife technology


Dive into the research topics of 'A review of invasive species reporting apps for citizen science and opportunities for innovation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this