WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Kiwi Trailblazers

Kiwi Trailblazers is an environmental education App which encourages people to get out exploring the NZ coastal environment.

  • The App enables users to engage with their environment by taking up ‘challenges’ to find and visually identify species found in the coastal habitats e.g. Rocky shorelines  

  • The App is crowd sourced and challenges are devised and uploaded by users e.g. species treasure hunts for children and more complex challenges for adults.  Digital rewards are unlocked when challenges are completed or for special events such as finding new species or exploring new areas.

  • Users can identify species using a species directory stored on their phone. The core data that sits behind the app is based around a decision tree structure and can be applied NZ wide.  The data for this is fed into a decision tree making process which appears as an image carousel.

  • Users can swipe right to accept a visual species identification or swipe left to reject and keep looking though the image carousel.

  • App users can learn more about the conservation threats, habitats, similar species and Tangata Whenua values and resources, community projects and groups of local importance using inbuilt proximity and location support.

  • The app can pin relevant digital content to the places and spaces visited and deliver notifications to people who are nearby.  The app uses geo-referencing and push notifications to alert users when they are at or near habitats or species of interest or when users are close to completing challenges.

  • Users can share their findings on social media bringing digital experiences and stories to a new and broader audience.

  • The data generated will be used for future planning and development of similar apps in the Trailblazer family e.g. Marine mammals, Fish etc.  There is scope to roll out the Kiwi Trailblazers App to include other species and habitats of value in NZ.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

This project will attempt to address the collapse of children’s engagement with nature which is even faster than the collapse of the natural world – and is recorded in Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.

  • Since the 1970s the area in which children roam without supervision has decreased by almost 90%.
  • In one generation the proportion of children regularly playing in wild places in the UK has fallen from more than half to fewer than one in 10
  • In the US, in just six years (1997-2003) children with particular outdoor hobbies fell by half.

Adults who experience nature as children are likely to be motivated to protect the environment in the future.  The environment and economy are symbiotic and rebuilding the connections between children and nature is integral for sustainable development.

 “If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered species: the child in nature”  R. Louv, 2005




How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Kiwi Trailblazers is an tool to motivate people to get out into nature by making connections with the environment and sharing these experiences with others. The App provides information for the user to identify and learn about coastal species and crowd sourced challenges motivate users to explore new areas.

A trailblazer is defined as a person who makes new tracks through wild country – a person who is the first to do something.  Kiwi Trailblazers creates a premiere experience for users with the support of a digital community.  The App provides a sustainable platform for people to share their amazing coastal stories, experiences and learnings. 

It is my vision that Kiwi Trailblazers will grow and create a new generation of conservationists who will work to protect those species that they have come to know and care for through their amazing adventures.

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”   D. Attenborough, 2010


What makes your idea new and unique?

It’s fun!  The challenges, games and rewards really motivate users to get out and explore their coastline by taking up challenges set by other users, friends and family.

Geofilters "snap" people into participation.  By sharing adventures, stories, pictures and challenges directly to social media using the app templates the users become more engaged and invested.  

Technology led orienteering brings the NZ coast to life by delivering stories, games, activities and useful information to new and broader audiences.

The content is fresh and real-time because of the crowd sourcing.The way the app links to social media will spur individuals to participate becoming more active over the years to come with conservation and environmental education increasing engagement.

It will be the first app to allow users to visually identify coastal species on their mobile phones.  Other naturalist websites sites are not as accessible in the field.  Feedback and interactivity is real time and instantaneous.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Anyone will be able to use this app as it will be simple and intuitive.  No prior conservation knowledge is required however the information available through the app will be valuable to experienced naturalists, educators and conservationists. Groups to benefit include:

  • People who want to learn more about Kaitiakitanga - Maori guardianship and conservation
  • Families and children – will develop a sense of environmental stewardship through their engagement and become invested conservationists developing a breadth and depth of outlook
  • Tourists to NZ – the app encourages visitors  to engage more deeply with the NZ community
  • NCEA students will benefit - Science, Biology and Geography students
  • Primary schools – teachers can design virtual field trips and set engaging challenges for students 
  • Community educational groups e.g. Karioi Kids & Rangers - filedwork engagement
  • Environment Centres – data can be used for research and planning for community and environmental projects

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

Project co-ordinator: $5K

  • Project management
  • Content development
  • Launch - marketing and communications

App development: $20K

  • wire-frames and storyboards
  • programming and coding
  • graphic design
  • prototypes
  • testing
  •  APIs 
  • data diagrams
  • servers
  • maintenance

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

  • I really love the compost bin rat trap because it solves two problems in one and has a positive outcome which is locally produced and rich compost.  Brilliant!
  • Blue Whale Art events as a means to engage communities with their conservation - yes I like this idea very much.  A picture conveys a thousand words and the power of art can reach out to new and broader audiences.  Also this project will be accessible to audiences who may face literacy challenges in their lives but still want to participate and engage.  Cool project.

How could you improve your idea?

1. The coastal focus of my project is narrow because  at the time of writing, the size of the app was limited so as not take up too much storage space on phones.  A web based application would get around this.  I am now considering producing a web based app as opposed to a native app.

edited on Oct 7, 2017 by Jennifer Mcguire

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 1, 2017

Additional information


Jenny Bond Oct 1, 2017

I find this idea so helpful! I am often out and about with my grandchildren and when they ask the name of some creature and I don't know, this will be the solution! Great idea - support the natural environment by engaging children - it's the only way forward!


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 7, 2017

Thanks Jenny. I have designed this app to help teachers and parents and non experts support children in their learning. It is simply designed with children in mind - words they can relate to and language they can understand. I very much want the app to engage young people and not deter them with technical language, classifications and descriptions which only adults can understand. Less is more!

Lets spark their interest and inquisitive minds first before directing them to more technical websites and apps sites to develop their learnings. This app is very much about engagement and taking those first important steps in supporting our environmental leaders of the future.


Christine Thomson Oct 1, 2017

Fun, safe and informative! What's not to love!


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

Thanks for your support Christine. I think children and adults will get a lot from this app and hopefully it will ignite passions for the outdoors and empathy for our environment.


Nigel Binks Oct 3, 2017

I like the idea of providing the public with a way to search, compare and identify species which are present or associated with specific ecosystem types and locations. I would be particularly interested if this could also be applied in a terrestrial context, both to invertebrates, vertebrates and plant species associated with specific habitats. For instance if your cellphones GPS locator recognises your vicinity and the app provides a list of organism categories known to be found in that zone. This could be used to narrow the search criteria and enable contributing individuals to build up the record of present species. Have you given consideration to inland habitats?


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 7, 2017

Hi Nigel! Thanks for the support and the constructive comments. In answer to your question yes it is totally possible to set this up for terrestrial ecosystems. It would require careful and detailed planning in the decision tree structure which would inform the guide for the back-end structure of the app.

I originally decided to focus just on the inter-tidal coastal habitat because it was a simple starting point. My intention is to use the data from the app to inform future planning to support other species and habitats across NZ. I envisage that the app will pick up on where the user is located and identify places of interest and habitats which are within a certain distance and key species of interest found there by sending out push notification and alerts.

With a good decision tree structure in place there is potential to roll this out to cover all manner of species, ecosystems and habitats. I'm really happy with where this project is going and to be part of it.


Megan Somerville Oct 3, 2017

Thanks for putting this up. I like the idea about specifically focusing on the coastal ecosystem. There are however a number of apps that could do similar things in terms of identification of flora/fauna/birds etc from the coast. For example:
- http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/collections-res...marine-life-app
- http://naturewatch.org.nz/pages/mobile_apps_nz

In terms of growing an educational pathway for young people, Have you considered the possibility of growing the focus from not just 'about' and 'in' the environment, but also putting in challenges that would encourage people to do activities 'for' the environment? (for a fuller explanation please check out http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservat...e-big-picture/)

nga mihi


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 7, 2017

Thanks for your feedback. We’re so very lucky in NZ to have such a strong tradition of ‘citizen science’, adding our knowledge and understanding of our natural heritage, and enabling us to safeguard it for the future.

I have no doubt that the apps which you mention are all very excellent at what they are designed to do.

My vision when I decided to create this app 6 months ago was very clear to me. This app is not about data and information, this app is about people. I want to create resource to help teachers teach and to help students learn about their world. It is my hope that through sharing information, stories and experiences via Kiwi Trailblazers we will build trust and co-operation. I want children, teachers, families and anyone who is interested to be at their natural best by practising empathy for the environment.

The app I have designed is friendly, fun, energetic and wonderful and it creates the right environment where children and grown ups feel safe to take risks and not to be judged on it. Things like posting their stories and explorations to social media and deepening their connectedness with the environment.

The questions I ask myself every day are:
• Do the users of this resource feel valued?
• Are they empowered to take risks and to explore their ideas and thinking?
• Are they motivated to try new things and explore other areas outside of their comfort zone?

Everyday look to make my project better than it was yesterday by finding new ways to do things and better solutions to the problems which arise. My vision is about creating the right environment for children to reconnect with the outdoors and all the wonderful things which live there and not so much about the product itself.

Just like David Attenborough said in 2010, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

Kiwi Trailblazers is a way of getting children out in nature with their parents, friends, teachers and having lots of fun in the process. Because it’s not just children who need nature; nature needs children too.


Hannah Smith Oct 3, 2017

This is a great idea. I used to get the kids exploring with geocaching but this is so much better.


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

Thanks Hannah - geocaching is great fun and this project builds on that geo-explorer experience and directs it in a more focused and informed way. This is why teachers and IT developers should collaborate more. The Kiwi Trailblazer project is such a simple and fun way to stimulate and engage people in conservation. It's all about finding that balance between technology and the outdoors. I love this project....it's all about creating the right environment to build trust and co-operation to support a more sustainable future. Thanks for your support!


Daniel Cutmore Oct 5, 2017

Awesome idea, making interacting with nature fun and an adventure is so important! If you end up winning and need some help with the programming, let me know and I'd be happy to help!


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

Thanks for your feedback. I feel so passionately about this project that I am going to do everything I can to make it happen even if I am not successful with the WWF Conservation and Innovation Awards. Winning the award would be amazing but the most important part is not the end point or result, more so the journey and learnings that I have made along the way. Already over the last 6 months I've refined and changed my project after sharing my ideas with people. The feedback from users on this crowdcity platform has been really invaluable to me. WWF have created exactly what I needed - a platform for sharing ideas and information whereby people submitting projects feel safe to take risks, showcase their ideas and dreams to make the world a better place for us all. How fantastic is that? Thanks Daniel!


Daniel Cutmore Oct 9, 2017

Love the attitude towards it! Good luck!!!


Benjos Oct 10, 2017

What a cool idea! One of my favourite school science field trips was to look at the rocky shore. Using an app to facilitate an educational treasure hunt would be fabulous at engaging young people in the environment around them. Best of luck in progressing this idea.


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 10, 2017

Thanks for the feedback Benjos! The app will be appealing to all ages and abilities so you wont need to be a conservation expert to use it. It also offers ways to grow an interest in conservation by providing pathways to more informed learning if people want to further their knowledge beyond the scope of the app. Sometimes the more expertly written websites can be a little off putting for youngsters especially if they want to look cool and hipster!!


View all replies (4)

Bridget Bull Oct 6, 2017

This is great! I love rockpooling. How do I vote for this app?


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

Hi Bridget. You will no longer be able to vote for me as I have passed my milestones to be eligible for judging which I am so happy about. There's still a week left so feel free to leave me your thoughts and feedback on any aspects of my project you would like to change or improve or if you have any ideas to add to the mix - I'd love to hear them. The more feedback we have the better this app will be for everybody. Big thanks for your support!


Michele Frank Oct 7, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone


Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

This is a great idea, my kids would love it as one of there favorite past times is exploring the rock around the North shore beaches.


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 10, 2017

Thanks so much Andrew that's great to hear.

You have some pretty amazing sea life in the North shore. Check out this website written by Dr Matt Jones on sea anemones you can find around Auckland. It's a stunning site and his photos are amazing.....makes for some cool rock pooling adventures!



Gemma McGrath Oct 13, 2017

What a great initiative!


Michael Fielding Oct 14, 2017

Just a thought - a neat feature would be for teachers to be able to track where all their pupils are. It would make them less worried about the prospect of losing one or two on a field trip!


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 14, 2017

Excellent suggestion! I think my old teachers could have done something like this when we were doing geology field mapping in the Scottish Highlands...only mobile phones had not been invented back then ha ha! But yes...these days with GPS tracking it makes so much sense. I love this idea! I think you're on to something here! Thanks Michael - I will incorporate this into my design for sure.


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 15, 2017

I have made some refinements to the challenges section of the app. Now users will also be able to undertake and geo-tag beach clean ups whilst on their coastal eco-explorations.

There has been some really good feedback on my app asking if it would be possible to add environmental challenges. Litter is everywhere the waste challenge of the Kiwi Trailblazers app will help children and their families actively engage and positively address this problem.. Waste can be tagged, photographed and beach cleans shared to social media thus reaching wider audience and celebrating successes. Points are given for items and collections are entered into a national leader board giving real time information on individual impacts but also collective community impacts of beach cleans. I have attached some wire-frames for how this might look in the app.

The geo-tags will help identify problem areas which can also be mapped nationally creating a broader over view of the problem in NZ.


Steven MacLeod Oct 15, 2017

Hi Jennifer, I like your thinking, and there is a lot of reference data out there that would be useful to you. We could help you with the data end of it and think through a solution that would allow for different blazing for different eco systems.

My sport is adventure racing and I love the idea of species based check points for orienteering.

Also, we already have a litter management app which could be integrated into your education app.


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 15, 2017

Hi Steven, there's a lot to think about huh? I've been working on a review of literature for the past 4 months on species from the different intertidal zones and it's vast to say the least. Thank you so much for your offer of help - I agree that collaboration is definitely key here.

There are so many ways of reaching out to different groups and engaging people depending upon their interests. It's very exciting to be part of and I'm looking forward to the next leg of the journey! Thanks so much for your support - I really appreciate it.


Gemma McGrath Oct 15, 2017

Hi Jenny, I'm really keen to see more about the species identification and how that would look on the app. It sounds like fun!
Would be great to connect this app up with the Fluke & Flipper app somehow, in order to harness marine mammal sightings data as it arises. We really need to have something on our app that helps new users, inexperienced public be able to correctly identify species too. Perhaps there's room for collaboration there!
I think it's really important to encourage children and families to get more connected with nature, and this app will be great for this!


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 15, 2017

Yes lets collaborate! Marine mammals is part of the next phase of the app as it's rolled out. I had to start small and decided rocky shores was a sensible place to start. I had included marine mammals and other sections on my original app but it got way too big. It's easy to get carried away with the details which is why it's good to collaborate and to have an environment where people can critique work in a supportive and constructive way - all for the greater good. In my case I had some sensible friends who gave me some great advice and helped me focus on what it was that I really wanted to achieve. It's great to have your support and thanks for your comments. I'll keep in touch with you after this is over and message you my email.


Gemma McGrath Oct 15, 2017

Yay! Looking forward to collaborating with you in the future!
My email is aotearoa.dolphin@gmail.com <3


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