More than 1,700 rare kinds of animals, insects, plants and other life forms have been detected at 24 Rutgers campuses and properties. And a free website is allowing everyday nature observers to allow experts around the world identify even more species.

Lena Struwe, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources and Department of Plant Biology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said there are rare and unexpected species of birds and ferns that she did not think existed on these campuses.

Nature is everywhere, said Struwe. Some of these species came here through spores or  seeds that were inadvertently planted and spread.

Anyone who visits any of the places owned by Rutgers can take part in the Flora and Fauna of Rutgers University biodiversity project. Struwe said it's a citizen science-driven effort that is generating data for the global research community and encouraging people to reconnect with nature.

All a person has to do is upload what they see with a photo to

Anything can be reported, said Struwe. A person can record the sounds of an owl sitting in a tree or take a picture of a dead bird that fell down after hitting a glass window or a picture of something found on the beach on one of the Rutgers field stations.

You don't want to eat this bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatus) which was spotted on Rutgers-Cook campus on October 2011/Lena Struwe--Rutgers, New Brunswick

A person does not need to know anything about what they're uploading. Struwe said it could be an unknown species to a person. As long as the picture is clear enough and it's uploaded, people around the world will help identify it.

"It can be a bird, it can be a plant, it can be a fungus — anything. So there is a big community of people that are helping identifying everybody's pictures online," said Struwe.

For the Rutgers project, she said 550 people have seen things on campuses but nearly 900 people around the world have helped identify.

The project is much broader than just Rutgers and New Jersey. It's part of a global community of naturalists helping each other.

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