07/13/2016 03:51 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 03:59 EDT

Let Your Love Of Pokémon GO Lead You Closer To Nature

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Happy teenage girl using phone while hiking in forest

It's safe to say Pokémon GO has made a Gyarados-sized splash for mobile users around the world. The app (which is not yet available in Canada) is turning smart phones into a window to a virtual reality where you can see a Bulbasaur in your office or a Pikachu on the street. While the need to "Catch 'em All" has spread faster than Pigdeys in a grassy area, these virtual Pokémon share their surrounding with real-life species. It's important to keep habitats untouched and clean: throw only virtual Poké Balls, take only Pokémon.

What is Pokémon GO?

I come from a generation where long family car rides to your grandparents most likely involved a trusty Gameboy Advance loaded with the latest Pokémon console. Now you're telling me I can venture outside to my favourite nature spots on the hunt for virtual Pokémon? The 12-year-old in me is ecstatic.

Technology has impacted the environment significantly since I was a young Pokémon trainer. Pokémon GO blurs the lines between nature vs. machina, forcing players to get outside in order to play the game. Using your phone's GPS and clock, the apps detects where you are and whether it is night/day to make Pokémon appear around you. This encourages users to visit diverse environments in order to capture different types of Pokémon.

gaff point lunenburg

Inukshuks stand on a rocky coastline at Gaff Point near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

For example, if you want to catch a water-type Pokémon, you need to visit an area with water such as Gaff Point in Nova Scotia, or if you're looking for a grass-type visit a place such as Ontario's Happy Valley Forest.

Stop to smell the roses

The great thing about Pokémon GO is it encourages user to explore new places. While you're out capturing Pokémon, take a moment to enjoy your surroundings. Perhaps while on a quest for a rare Mewtwo you may come across your new favourite nature spot!

white admiral butterfly

A real-life Butterfree? A white admiral like this was spotted in Ontario's Happy Valley Forest.

Being out in nature can improve your mental health and is proven to reduce stress. It is scientifically proven that spending time outside can ease anxiety and depression, improve focus and strengthen immune systems.

Pokémon GO is a great activity for the family too. Not only does it increase creativity, it allows Pokémon trainers of all ages to get outside and work together to search for hidden Pokémon! It is also a great way to exercise, especially for those who dread the treadmill.

Tips and tricks to get up close and personal with nature

While Pokémon GO is a great way to experience nature, there is still a lot of value in screen-free enjoyment.

Here are tips to help you enjoy the very real aspects of nature while out chasing Pokémon:

  1. Add a 30-minute (or longer) screen-free break. Maybe try one of NCC's nature prescription activities!
  2. In case you come across any unknown real-life species, the hashtag #PokeBlitz has been made to help Pokémon Trainers identify their discoveries.
  3. Keep a journal of the real species you encounter during the hunt for new Pokémon.
  4. Pay attention! Staying alert is not only critical for finding new Pokémon, it is important for your safety! Be mindful of traffic, potential tripping hazards like logs or fallen trees and cliff or steep hills.
  5. It's also important to be mindful of the critters you encounter and enjoy them from a respectful and non-intrusive distance.

So whether you're out catching virtual Pokémon or looking to spot a real-life species, remember to enjoy nature safely and responsibly!

Written by Raechel Bonomo, communications assistant for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This post originally appeared onLand Lines.

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