UF nature trail project enables smartphone users to hear insect sounds

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors to University of Florida nature trails can now hear an ancient form of communication — insect songs — using one of the latest communication technologies.

Seven educational stations in UF’s Natural Area Teaching Laboratory now feature signs marked with QR codes, the square, black-and-white patterns that are starting to appear in print advertising. By scanning the signs with a mobile device, visitors can access digital recordings of katydids and crickets native to the area.

It may be one of the first uses of QR codes on nature trails anywhere in the U.S., says Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, incoming chair of the laboratory and an assistant extension scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“It’s a really cost-effective, easy way to add interactive content to natural areas,” Gillett-Kaufman said. She estimated the cost of the first seven signs at about $26 total — the cost of a software application to produce QR codes and printing the signs.

Additional QR code signs that link to videos, bird calls and other animal sounds will be posted this fall. And Gillett-Kaufman hopes to establish a program to allow visitors without mobile devices to borrow them for use on the trails. The signs include a URL visitors can use to access sounds online: http://natl.ifas.ufl.edu/SGNTpage.htm#QRtrail

The nature trails are located in the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory at the southwest corner of UF’s main campus. The trail entrance is in a park west of the entomology building.

Contacts

Writer:  Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, 352-273-3950, gillett@ufl.edu

Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an assistant extension scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, holds a smartphone displaying a new type of sign that will appear on some UF nature trails — Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. The sign contains QR code, a geometric pattern that mobile devices can “read” to call up websites and other online material. Gillett-Kaufman leads a team that posted QR coded signs on UF nature trails that enable visitors to hear insect sounds. Photo by Tyler L. Jones, University of Florida