To conserve species, we must first identify them. Field researchers, land managers, educators, and citizen scientists need up-to-date and accessible tools to identify organisms, organize data, and share observations. Emerging technologies complement traditional, book-form field guides by providing users with a wealth of multimedia data. We review technical innovations of next-generation field guides, including Web-based and stand-alone applications, interactive multiple-access keys, visual-recognition software adapted to identify organisms, species checklists that can be customized to particular sites, online communities in which people share species observations, and the use of crowdsourced data to refine machine-based identification algorithms. Next-generation field guides are user friendly; permit quality control and the revision of data; are scalable to accommodate burgeoning data; protect content and privacy while allowing broad public access; and are adaptable to ever-changing platforms and browsers. These tools have great potential to engage new audiences while fostering rigorous science and an appreciation for nature.
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Vol. 63 • No. 11