A smartphone app that enables city staff to instantly report when they find a fast-spreading invasive snail in Bellevue streams has earned the city a national technology award.
The Public Technology Institute, a Virginia-based organization that supports technology advancements in city and county government, announced this month that Bellevue won a technology solutions award for sustainability for the mapping app.
Bellevue's Information Technology Department developed the app for the Utilities Department, which discovered New Zealand mud snails in Kelsey and Vasa creeks in 2012. These non-native snails pose a serious health threat to Bellevue's aquatic ecosystem because of their ability to multiply rapidly and crowd out native invertebrates that fish and other aquatic life eat.
Mud snails are hard to detect and track, highly invasive and very transportable to other streams via people, pets and equipment. As a result, there was an urgent need for the city to track and contain the spread of the species.
With the new app, city workers in the field who find the mud snails can now use their smartphones to enter data and photos instantly, instead of waiting until they return to the office. The information becomes live immediately, and is visible to any user who pulls up the free app. By clicking on a dot on a map, a viewer can see photos and learn when snails were sighted and how dense the snails are at a location.
"It's important for people to know where these invasive snails have been found because people are the most likely way they get transported to new locations," said Kit Paulsen, Utilities watershed planning supervisor. "The snails get stuck anywhere that mud can cling -- in your shoes and clothes or between the toes of your dog. If that mud falls off in a damp area when you get out at home or park, then the snail can live and reproduce."
Bellevue is hoping the new app will be used as a regional tool, and has given editing rights to employees at other local agencies, including the City of Seattle, King County and the state departments of Ecology and Transportation. The city has also received calls from agencies as far away as Florida who are interested in the information and app.
Senior GIS Analyst Michael Bishopp developed the app on a tight deadline. The award will be presented at the PTI conference June 27-28 in Alexandria, Va.
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