In a week when the game Pokémon Go topped 15 million downloads, I had a salutary reminder that urban humans risk losing touch with nature — with possible negative implications for the future of fieldwork in conservation and ecology (see also Nature 535, 323–324; 2016).
As I set out to go birdwatching in Queensland's rainforest, my 14-year-old daughter grabbed her smartphone to search for rare Pokémon in every nearby park, beach and town. The Pokémon are an extremely speciose group that undergo continuous evolution and have particular ecological needs. Embedded in nature by an augmented reality, they hold the same naturalistic delight for my daughter as a cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) does for me.
At the end of my day, I had counted three 'lifers' (my first sightings of Platalea regia, Entomyzon cyanotis and Nectarinia jugularis) and my daughter had spotted 30 Pokémon. I was delighted when she asked me about a bird that appeared beside a Pidgey on her screen. It was a real laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).