Mushroom fans create ‘first-of-its-kind’ app to help mushroom pickers
The mushroom picking season may be a few months away yet, but two Lublin students have earned widespread praise after launching an app for Poland’s legion of mushroom pickers.
Aleksandra Król and Sandra Chrustowska from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University created the first-of-its-kind app to provide knowledge about various species of fungi, their location and relevant information related to them.
Using Web-GIS technology, the app presents information and data on specific species, family characteristics, Latin names and their forest locations.
“Regardless of your interests and level of knowledge, our website is a place where you can expand your awareness about mushrooms, discover the fascinating world of organisms and explore various regions of forests in Poland,” they say.
With Poland boasting between 1,100 and 1,500 species of edible mushrooms, mushroom picking has long been rooted in national tradition.
However, about 250 poisonous strains exist, with almost all fatal or severe poisonings attributed to the toadstool.
Partially, it was the sheer vastness of this variety that motivated the friends to undertake their project.
“We came to the conclusion that such an application would be helpful because many people, not just the young, are not aware as to which mushrooms can and can’t be picked,” says Aleksandra.
“But it wasn’t just about showing which ones are poisonous, but also highlighting which ones are protected by the law,” she says.
Having first presented a prototype version featuring just 16 mushrooms at a scientific conference last year, the project was greeted with such enthusiasm that the pair expanded it with the help of around 35 other students.
Using scientific websites and publications to aid their research, within three months they had gleaned enough information to supply descriptions of 284 species.
Debuting recently, the app attracted 9,000 users in its first week alone.
Designed to be fully interactive, the database is set to grow even further as it gains increased popularity.
“If someone happens across a species that is not in our collection, all they have to do is open the app on their phone, mark their exact location and then send in a photo of the mushroom in question,” says Sandra.
“Following that, the page's administrator will verify the message and complete the rest of the necessary information – thanks to that, we can constantly expand our database.”
With Poland touting a total of 429 defined forest areas, the growth of the app already looks assured, not least due to its user-friendly nature.
“For a month we were wondering how to present all the gathered information – everyone had a different idea,” says Sandra. “Finally, we decided to use pinpoints on a map.”
Hailed for its innovation and relevance, pipeline improvements have been discussed already such as harnessing AI to identify species that are sent in by users. “It’ll require a huge amount of work,” says Sandra, “but we’re totally ready for it and have already prepared the methodologies.”
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