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College of Science and Mathematics

Enhancing lives through learning, discovery and innovation

Website Update

Biology Professor Develops Tree Identification App

November 14, 2013
Contact: Matt Ritter
805-756-2775; mritter@calpoly.edu

Professor Ritter climbing a tree.If you've ever wondered, "What tree is that?" the answer is now, "There's an app for that." Matt Ritter, a biology professor, has developed City Tree, an iPhone app for identifying urban trees.

Trees that thrive in urban environments are somewhat uniform around the world. According to Ritter, the same 450 or so trees are used in cities across the globe. "If you're in Singapore or L.A. or San Francisco, you can identify the trees using this app," Ritter said.

Professional arborists in California snapped up City Tree as soon as it appeared, but more casual plant lovers will also find the app easy to use. Ritter designed it to appeal to a wide audience because he wanted to share his love of identifying trees.

"I can remember where I was the first time I used a book to key out an unknown organism. It was a powerful experience. I wanted to give people that experience in a new, approachable technology," Ritter said. "Can we do it in a way that some 18-year-old is willing to have an awesome experience?"

As an educator, Ritter wanted people to learn something from the app. "I wanted to make an app where you use your own very good observation. Now you know something about the organism you identified. You're actually getting smarter and better while you're using it," he said.

The app's highest sales so far have been in the U.S. and U.K., but Ritter has seen sales come through from Germany and South Africa as well. An Android version, designed by a Cal Poly computer science student, is also available.

"There are all kinds of apps for people in the forest, but there's nothing like this," Ritter said.

Visit the City Tree website

Watch the City Tree video

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