Technology in the Wild

Erin Kernohan-Berning

5/29/20244 min read

sunlight through trees
sunlight through trees

we tend to do as a society is place technology in opposition to nature. Sentiments like being on our phones less and outside more can be levelled with a certain smug satisfaction. Rosy notions of forest bathing that yield Instagrammable human silhouettes against towering trees are often juxtaposed against the blue glow of a computer screen and sitting ourselves to death. In our modern times, when putting food on the table often entails long hours interacting with computers and smartphones, we look to nature as a romantic ideal to be yearned for. Yes, getting outside in the natural world can have a great deal of benefit to our wellbeing, but the mindful use of technology can help us engage with nature rather than separate us from it.

In the Haliburton Highlands, we are lucky to have easy access to the outdoors. Even the more urbanized areas of our landscape yield plant and animal life that can be readily explored from public greenspaces. More rugged areas can still be accessed via public nature preserves such as Dahl Forest, one of the many hiking or walking trails in the area, or via the plethora of rivers and lakes in the region. However, being outdoors takes a fair amount of planning, especially for the weather. What the weather may be in a particular area informs everything from what to wear, how often we might need to reapply sunscreen, how bad the mosquitos or blackflies might be, and what time of day we want to be active outside.

Weather apps can show us forecasts down to the hour and provide us with radar imagery so that we can see oncoming storms. Advances in radar and satellite technology have made forecasts more accurate so that it’s easier for us to plan our time outside, as well as respond quickly if severe weather approaches. Some parks, including Algonquin Provincial Park, have live webcams so you can get a sense of current conditions at the site you want to go to. There are a number of weather apps available for our various devices, but my preference is WeatherCAN which is from Environment and Climate Change Canada. I like that it has been created by a public entity, is free, and doesn’t have ads – and most other privately owned meteorological services are using Environment Canada’s data anyway.

When I’m exploring outside, I like to learn more about and keep track of the plants and animals that I see. Identification apps such as Seek by iNaturalist help you identify flora and fauna using your phone’s camera and a database of thousands of citizen scientist observations. You can use Seek just on its own without sharing any personal data, or you can use it to share your observations with the iNaturalist community by setting up an account with them. When using an identification app there are some important safety rules to follow: never use the app for food foraging purposes (an app is no substitute for proper foraging education from an expert), and never use the app in a way that might endanger or harass wildlife.

Birding is another fun activity to do outside. While the dog-eared bird book is still a trusty tool, bird apps can also be useful in looking up and identifying various birds. Merlin, an app by Cornell University, is fantastic for recording and identifying bird sounds when you can’t see them. Again, mindful use is key – playing bird sounds loudly from these apps can disturb the very birds you are trying to share the space with, so save that part of your observations for when you are wearing your headphones. Whether an app or a printed field guide, be sure what you’re using has been created by a reputable source.

When in the great outdoors it’s always best to keep a respectful distance from animals for your safety and for their wellbeing. Online webcams can be a great way to view wildlife much closer than we could normally. The Audubon Society and Cornell University both have a variety of webcams trained on bird nests and feeders, and the Northeast Florida Eagle Cam is trained on a bald eagle nest where, if things go right, you can watch the circle of life from egg to fledgling. Social media accounts run by various parks and wildlife services share pictures and video to educate the public about wildlife and how to do our part to protect it.

So, grab your phone, check the weather, and head outside to do some exploring. Just don’t forget to put your phone in your pocket every once and awhile to soak up the world uninterrupted… until the mosquitos find you.

Learn more

Nurtured by Nature. 2020. Kirsten Weir. (American Psychological Association) Last accessed 2024/05/25.

The Science and Art of Meteorology. (National Geographic) Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Oh, how far we've come: Forecasting weather over the years. 2019. Chris Scott. (The Weather Network) Last accessed 2024/05/25.


WeatherCAN by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Seek by iNaturalist. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Merlin by CornellLab. Last accessed 2024/05/25.


Audubon Bird Cams. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Cornell Bird Cams. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Northeast Florida Eagle Cam. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Algonquin Park Live Webcam. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

Dorset Fire Tower Webcam. Last accessed 2024/05/25.

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