The land of the Great Masurian Lakes delights not only tourists from Poland. It is one of the most popular regions in our country and is rich in numerous ecosystems. We can learn about them from the latest application created by Izabela Żbikowska. She revealed how she went from the idea to creating a home program with the voice of Krystyna Czubówna.
Masuria is a beautiful region of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, located in north-eastern Poland. It is there that you can admire the Land of Great Lakes, which has been appreciated by, among others, Izabela Żbikowska, creator of the new Eco-application. The software is to help tourists get to know the local areas, present images, paths and routes worth visiting. Its authors used the element of gamification, the possibilities of augmented reality, the voice of the iconic lecturer Krystyna Czubówna and much more.
The Land of the Great Masurian Lakes has received an application. A virtual guide awaits tourists
The Land of Great Masurian Lakes is located in northern Poland and combines the following lakes: Nidzkie, Guzianka, Bełdany, Śniardwy, Teksty, Roś, Mikołajskie, Tałty, Ryńskie, Tałtowisko, Kotek Wielki, Szymon, Szymoneckie, Jagodni, Boczne, Niegocin, Tajty, Kisajno, Dargin, Kirsajty and Mamry.
The biggest attraction of this place are not only lakes, but also trails, beautiful vegetation and animals. Recently, the area has opened new bicycle paths, thanks to which you can make a loop around the area, covering a total of about 300 km. When leaving for the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes, you can visit e.g. Żywkowo – a village of storks or a seed extraction plant and the settlement of Galindia. Now, a virtual guide is to help us explore the local areas, from which I managed to ask the creator about some important issues.
Paulina Kopeć, Wprost.pl: Why did you decide to create an eco-application for the Land of Great Masurian Lakes? Why this particular region?
Together with the foundation I work for, we took this area into account, because it is one of the most recognizable and touristic places in Poland. On the one hand, we wanted to appreciate these regions, on the other hand, it is known that the pressure of tourism on the environment is enormous, which results, among others, from from data that shows how much tourists are destroying nature. Masuria is one of the areas most affected by such activities. It is this one that needs human support very much.
When creating the application, we had to somehow specify the area. It is our first project of this kind, and although it is a pilot project, we have been working on it – and we are constantly improving it – with professionals – the Masurian Landscape Park and the University of Warmia and Mazury. We also used cooperation with Krystyna Czubówna, which is a brand in itself and inspires the trust of recipients.
What do you want to achieve with the application?
Thanks to the application, we want to popularize Masuria and show how the local nature is doing and how it simply is. We have identified 150 species of fauna and flora, and that’s not all. People’s attention has some limitations, so we didn’t share everything in the show. We want to show not only the most beautiful large mammals, such as lynxes, elk or wolves, but also mushrooms and insects that are less known, and their role is huge. It is by showing the diversity of fauna and flora of Masuria that we want to make tourists and residents aware of how much our presence can interfere with nature and sensitize to several topics.
Everything follows from the main assumptions of the foundation. We deeply believe that the first element for a positive change is knowledge and education, and if people have well-presented knowledge in an attractive way, they will benefit from it. This is the first step to change our habits or behavior.
What is the advantage of the application, what is unique about it?
According to the foundation, its main advantage – apart from a lot of knowledge, cool photos and attractive functions – is the voice of Krystyna Czubówna. It is associated with nature and positive behavior, and for me it has therapeutic properties – it is soothing, calming and appropriate for talking about nature. And he is an additional strength of the Eco-application conquers all the elements we have created.
This knowledge we pass on would not sound so good if it was only recorded. The fact that it is read by such a lector is of great importance to us. It is also important that the voice of Krystyna Czubówna increases the accessibility of this application to people with disabilities – e.g. blind people who, for example, will not see the photos, but will be able to listen to the content.
It is worth noting that the app is completely free and does not require registration – although it is possible and thanks to it we have a bit more possibilities.
What can be learned about the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes thanks to what you have created?
Users have a chance to get to know a lot of species of local fauna and flora. Learn something about the life of animals – moose, bison and others, as well as many dragonflies, birds, amphibians and Masurian vegetation. In addition, there is an opportunity to learn about trails and interesting places – we have collected several dozen items. For all this, we have knowledge quizzes cataloged in specific areas and natural curiosities set as push messages for registered people.
Observations, divided into seasons, are an important section in the application. In a specific section, we can find out what is happening with Masurian nature in summer, winter, etc.
The next part is also a guide, which is a collection of information on various topics for people interested in ecology, e.g. what to do in the event of a fire, or when we find a small deer or want to go for a walk with the dog to the reserve, etc. Some are quite obvious – e.g. littering, but others less so.
You keep developing your software
Yes, we are currently working on more “dusk” and “dawn” filters. In a special section, we will divide the animals into those that can be found at night and during the day, and reveal how they behave. Augmented reality elements are also an important element in the application. So far, thanks to it, you can see a cormorant on the trails – regardless of whether you use the application in Masuria or in another city, but soon we will add more animals.
New opportunities appear all the time and we are looking for new and improving solutions. Now the product is tested by various groups of recipients who introduce their changes and advise what can be improved. The application will be constantly developing. We would like to do the same for other regions in Poland in the future.
In your project, you mentioned cooperation with Norwegians. You worked with professionals, it must have been demanding
Yes, Norwegians have a completely different outlook and are very conscious about tourism. They fight water and city pollution every day. They also have a social contract that every year they change the list of recommended trails so that some of those popular at a given time can rest and regenerate. We exchanged information with them and drew ideas from e.g. thanks to a meeting with a local cultural anthropologist. We also met with the head of the local tourist chamber and learned, among others, from how they unite to build their own apps and support local tourism instead of global players.
There is a competition associated with your application. Finally, do you want to say something about him?
Currently, there is a competition for all nature enthusiasts who want to share their photos showing the uniqueness of the picturesque area of the Great Masurian Lake District. Photographs should be a real source of inspiration for others, they can increase knowledge about biodiversity or stimulate reflection on our impact on the natural environment. Applications can be sent on the ekoaplikacja.pl website.Izabela Żbikowska is the head of the Education and Social Innovation program at the HumanDoc foundation and PR project manager related to the Eco-application for the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes. The company to which it belongs was established for the purpose of education and action to solve global problems. Activities are carried out both in Poland and abroad, and many of them support the development of democracy, support the education system and provide assistance. EkoApp is part of the project “Rooted in nature – building an eco-application dedicated to the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes” uses funding worth EUR 172,572.11 received from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA funds for 2014-2021 under the program: related to the protection of the environment and ecosystems are carried out by the NGO – Small Grants Fund. The aim of the project is to increase the protection of biodiversity of the Great Masurian Lake District by raising public awareness about ecosystems and the services they provide.