University of Guelph students launch new app for squirrel watchers

Plenty of people are bird watchers, but have you ever heard of squirrel watchers?

A new app, created by students at the University of Guelph, is encouraging people to get outside and take in all that these curious rodents have to offer.

'The Squirrel Life Community Project' aims to capture the behaviour of squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs.

A team of students and faculty members at the University of Guelph worked together to develop the app.

Product Manager Elizabeth Porter told CTV News that they also consulted more than 2,000 students who provided feedback for the developers.

Squirrel Life users record their observations of the animals on their phone, including feeding, catching food, or chasing one another in trees.

The app also allows users to include the GPS location of squirrel sightings.

Porter said the goal is to offer people a 'gateway to nature.'

"My biggest hope with this is that it will connect people to their local environments and to encourage them to think about the nature that's in their backyard. Now, more than ever, we've seen people trying to explore their local provincial parks or their local nature spaces. By encouraging them to think about what's there, and be mindful of their surroundings, I really hope that we can encourage people to care a bit more about nature and the state of our environment."

Porter said she got the idea for the Squirrel Life app as she was beginning her Master's program at the University of Guelph. It also coincided with the start of the pandemic.

She said with students spread out all over the world and learning remotely, they weren't getting hands-on experiences.

Porter said she wanted to create something that would get students out into the field.