There's an App for that! Free Biology Mobile Applications

Dec 10 2010 Published by under Biology & Environment

I was surfing around for sciency holiday e-cards, when I came across this cute albino alligator looking for a kiss from the California Academy of Sciences.  You can choose one of several e-gifts, including polar bear wallpaper, a catchy tune,  or a Golden Gate Park field guide mobile application .

If you download the Golden Gate Park Field Guide iPhone app this month, you can just show it at the ticket window for $5 off admission through December 24th. That's a great deal if you happen to be in the San Francisco area.

That inspired me to see what other biology-related free iPhone/iPod Touch applications I could find.  I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but the ones below looked the most interesting. I've noted which ones are available for Android devices as well.

Wildlife and Nature

While the Audubon and Petersons field guides will cost you, there are several apps that allow you to find, record and share wildlife sightings for free.

Golden Gate Park Field Guide (iPhone App store): Field guide, park map, self-guided activities, share your wildlife sightings.

Project Noah (iPhone App store):  Field guide, share wildlife sightings. They have a special project to document the impact of the Gulf oil spill on wildlife.  You can your Google account to sign in and share your sightings and photos.

WildObs Observer (iPhone App store; Android Market): Record  and share wildlife encounters. Has companion apps: WildObs Lookup (iPhone App store) field guide;  WildObs Lookout (iPhone App st0re) to find out what others have observed around your location;  and WildObs Naturalist (iPhone App store) to "keep your encounters and re-use them". WildObs is a partner of the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Watch. A free WildObs account is required.

NatureFind (iPhone App store):  This app allows you to search for nature spots and events near your ZIP code.

Science News

Get science-related news.

Scientific American Advances (iPhone App Store): Scientific American news and in-depth reporting. Requires registration at to view content. (iPhone App Store): Science news stories and the latest published research in Nature and the other journals from the Nature Publishing Group. News articles, abstracts and some research articles are free.

Science Mobile (iPhone App Store, Android): news from ScienceNOW, abstracts from the journal Science. This doesn't look as useful as Nature's app.

Molecules and Anatomy

For exploring the bits that organisms are made of.

Molecules (iPhone App store): 3-dimensional rendering of molecules that you can manipulate.  You can download molecules from the RCSB Protein Data Bank or elsewhere online.

BioCourseWare: Apps developed by the University of Nottingham, aimed at students in the biological sciences. Their free offerings include a Biology Dictionary, History of Genetics, and  Genetic Decoder.

Nature Human Genome Special Edition (iPad App): Nature's Human Genome at 10, repackaged into an interactive app for the iPad.  It looks pretty neat, but it's not available for the iPhone.

BrainTutor 3D (iPhone App store) : Explore a three-dimensional model of the  human brain.

Paleontology Apps

For learning about animals that no longer walk the Earth.

Dinosaurs (iPhone App Store): This app from the American Museum of Natural History allows you to explore their amazing dinosaur fossil collection.

MEanderthal Mobile App (iPhone App Store, Android):  This app from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History allows you to morph yourself into a Neanderthal.  I suspect the novelty of this wears off pretty quickly.


If any of you use one of the wildlife spotting apps,  how well does it work for you? Is there a better free option?

6 responses so far

  • Pascale says:

    If you have $14.99 to spare, The Elements for iPad is a thing of beauty. Now, I need to know the molecular weight of something twice a year, but I had to have this app. Images of each element spin around while more info shows in the screen than i can fathom.

    Of course, it also includes the Tom Leher song of the elements which plays as the table fills in. Like I said, a true work of art.

  • Christina Pikas says:

    Is the Nature one still free? I had it for a while, but I think then it went to a pay model.

    These look pretty cool. Thanks!

  • [...] have been some excellent summaries of science Apps such as Chris Swain’s big list,  The University of Auckland, Wired,  and articles written [...]

  • Elizbeth says:

    Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested
    to see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely
    off topic but I had to share it with someone!