July 15, 2017

A new field for sorting observations observed in human-influenced landscapes

Lately I've been tracking observations by natural community type, as defined in Vermont with the book Wetland, Woodland, Wildland. (other states and countries have different classification systems). For instance, see Northern Hardwood Forest, Vermont's most widely distributed natural community: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?field:Natural%20Community=Northern%20Hardwood%20Forest

Note that it ranks the species by number observed. It's not systematic, as i don't record every species every time, but it gives you an idea of what species you will see in each natural community.

After the idea independently coming up in several different places the last few weeks, I've decided we need a field to track different human-influenced habitats as well. Urban nature is a whole other world than natural ecosystems... but every bit as interesting and often not as well studied. Both are worthy of attention, but the nature where people live is the easiest for most people to see from day to day.

To make sure things are standardized, since there's no book to anchor to, i've proposed a bunch of categories. Others are free to propose others. Once we start using them it becomes a bit of a pain to change them with a bulk edit, so I wanted to run them by a few other users first. Here's my current list:

road/railroad/trail right of way
utility right of way
mowed lawn (includes home lawns, sports fields, playgrounds, etc)
Human-created open field (cut every year or two, but not a mowed lawn. Like many fields around homes in VT)
Disturbed wetland (cut over every year or two like open field but is wetland
agricultural area (farms)
Dense Urban Center (parking lots, cracks in sidewalk, etc)
Abandoned Urban Center (vacant buildings etc)
landscaping or garden (where plants are planted, pollinators may appear, weeds, etc)
managed forest or plantation (this one can intergrade with wildland since most areas are managed in some way but thinking of high intensity managed areas)
Invasive Species Infestation
Storm Drain/Channelized Waterway
Artificial Pond
Stormwater pond/sump/catch basin
Indoors (spiders, etc that find their way indoors, birds in airport terminals, etc)

I don't want to create too many but nor do I want to leave too much out. I'm not sure if these would work globally, but they seem good in the northeastern US. Once i get this field set up we can start seeing what species are in each one. Any thoughts? Thanks to @erikamitchell @srall @jogarton for being part of this discussion so far. Not sure who else might be interested. @bouteloua @kueda @kpmcfarland @cullen @sambiology @silversea_starsong perhaps? Feel free to tag others. Also feel free to use the natural community field, but if you're in Vermont let's use Wetland Woodland Wildland.

Posted on July 15, 2017 12:46 AM by charlie charlie | 8 comments | Leave a comment

November 09, 2016

sending love

just want to send love to you all. please join me in gathering as much data as we can so that once we get through the hard times ahead we have the knowledge to rebuild. And when you are out there talk to people. Build community. It's so important right now.

We'll survive. I didn't feel that way in the depths of the night but today i see that we will.


Posted on November 09, 2016 04:47 PM by charlie charlie | 7 comments | Leave a comment

August 11, 2016

Thoughts on attracting and retaining "power users"?

iNaturalist is growing in leaps and bounds, which is really exciting! The summer of bioblitzes (largely thanks to @carrieseltzer ), the xKCD mention ( http://xkcd.com/1692 ) , #pokeblitz, and then NPR article have all brought us more new users. For those who have been here for a while, it's both exciting and disconcerting.. though mostly the former at least to me.

The iNat admins have done a wonderful job adding features and updating the look of the site. It's come so far since I started using it in 2011 and even more so, i'm sure, since it started. While most of the changes are positive, there is also the hope that iNat remains anchored by our "power users': research ecologists like @polemoniaceae and @erwin_pteridophilos , field-naturalists and land managers such as @cathybell and @ctracey and @botanygirl and @cullen as well as dedicated "pro-amateurs" (people like @erikamitchell and @finatic and @silversea_starsong who aren't trained in or working in the science field but who contribute hugely to our community) and last but not least our very active and wonderful site admins such as @loarie and @kueda who are vital parts of the community not just in the admin work they do but in their observations and IDs as well. (apologies if i mixed up anyone's training or experience above, the point is to illustrate the many different places people start from).

The sense of wonder and diverse views brought by the true amateurs are a crucial part of this community but we can't forget the backbone of the community - those who are adding countless IDs, sharing data from field days and research projects, participating in Google groups, creating species lists, and curating projects. As we grow, in my opinion we need to make specific efforts to attract 'power users' as well as the general public.

I wanted to share some ideas about this, but I'd found that my feedback and participation mostly came in the form of reactionary dislike of change and sometimes poorly thought out and frustrated comments. So I want to start a more meaningful and positive conversation full of ideas. I will share some of my ideas in the comments so my thoughts are not prioritized above other people who wish to post here. If you have thoughts please do share, and also feel free to tag some of the many users I am forgetting.

Thanks for any thoughts!

Posted on August 11, 2016 10:40 PM by charlie charlie | 50 comments | Leave a comment

May 17, 2016

Apologies for duplicate posts, 5-16-2016

apologies that there are a bunch of duplicate posts today... i am using a test version of the app, and it's uploaded a bunch of observations with false location. I'm re adding them manually from the photos but I don't want to delete the old ones yet because they are evidence of the bug. So I marked them as captive so they won't all come up as research grade. But anyway feel free to ignore the older of the duplicates.

Posted on May 17, 2016 01:39 AM by charlie charlie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 18, 2016

"First Flowers" mini-project

I'm starting a mini-project to document the first time each plant species flowers in my area. This includes both naturalized plants and landscape/garden plants, so long as the latter overwintered (and thus were affected by winter) or else were planted from seed. I am not including anything that was germinated inside (seed starts or plants purchased at a store) since they don't have as much of a story to tell about the winter. I am definitely including invasive species and other introduced species though.

I am only doing this in places I go nearly every day (home and the forest near where I work) so I don't miss things for very long.

If you would like to join in, please do! Just give the relevant observations the tag 'FirstFlowers'

Posted on April 18, 2016 05:13 PM by charlie charlie | 5 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

January 09, 2016

Blood Trail in a Winter Woods

Today was a bit above freezing, the beginning of a thaw that will culminate in a downpour tomorrow, if the forecasts are correct. The soft thick snow cover was coated in animal tracks today - snowshoe hare, red squirrel, deer. And then...

Blood on snow is an incredible exclamation point. It can't be missed or mistaken for anything else. and here was quite a bit of it, each time a deer put its foot down a crimson burst in the snow. The tracks were sloppy, too. This deer was not doing well.

Soon after we found canid tracks also, more than one. There weren't signs of a struggle, but it seemed like far from a coincidence that they were here. At one point one split off from the others, perhaps a scout trying to cut the deer off at a turn somewhere.

The blood trail crossed the trail several times, at one point following it for a few hundred feet. i'm not certain what was happening here. I am hoping it was coyotes trailing an injured deer rather than a pack of dogs running down a deer for sport. My tracking skills are not sufficient to say for sure... but their persistence as well as a piece of scat I saw made me think coyote.

The snow was not deep, and unless deer are encumbered by deep snow coyotes don't generally try to hunt a healthy deer. Perhaps the injury here was inflicted pre-coyote... if so it probably involved a car.

The blood trail veered off towards a wetland and beaver pond. I didn't try to find the deer. If it evaded the coyotes, it was going to have to rest to survive all that blood lost. If not, well, coyotes need to eat too, and the deer may not have been able to survive the injury anyway. but I have to admit... I'm really curious.

I hope someone can help decipher the story from my photos. One thing is clear though... not long ago a life and death drama of some sort unfolded in these woods, and most likely there are coyotes sleeping somewhere with full bellies. I'll never know... the rain is coming and will wash most of the snow away, and along with it the blood.

Posted on January 09, 2016 10:07 PM by charlie charlie | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 25, 2015

Freakishly Warm Christmas Eve

It was a freakishly warm Chrismas Eve. The warmest temperature we saw was 69 in our car when driving through Richmond. Indeed it was above 60 most of the day, at least in the Champlain Valley. Our house in Montpelier was only 60 for a short time. In any event it was eerie to be out in the warm and there were even convective clouds floating about that looked like they could produce a thunderstorm (though I did not hear thunder).

The odd weather must be affecting the local ecosystems, but the only plants I saw that seemed to be leafing out were a few invasives, so if they get toasted by the cold later in the winter I won't be crying. I did find a moth caterpillar. We walked through a park in South Burlington on mostly clay soils. Most was field or old-field redcedar and white pine, but there was a nice hardwood forest with a few ledges (Transition Hardwood Limestone Forest by the ledges, probably, with clayplain forest elsewhere). There were some big sugar maples and a big red oak and shagbark hickory. There are probably some nice spring ephemerals and calciphyle plants during the growing season, but despite the warmth those were hidden under the leaves...

Anyone else seen odd effects of the warmth?

Posted on December 25, 2015 03:52 AM by charlie charlie | 37 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 04, 2015

An iNaturalist in Vermont (or San Diego)? On Facebook? Join the iNaturalist Vermont Facebook Page!

I have created an iNaturalist Vermont facebook page as a place to informally 'geek out' about iNaturalist. You don't have to live in Vermont to join, but it will have lots of Vermont related content. See

This was inspired by the iNaturalist San Diego page:

Posted on December 04, 2015 04:49 PM by charlie charlie | 1 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2015

"Mining" old What's Invasive observations for iNaturalist observations

Back in 2009, about when iNaturalist was being created, I had the opportunity to help test another similar app called What's Invasive. The tech was much less advanced - we were using old 'blackberry' phones - and as will be seen, the camera was not good. Nevertheless, my short obsession with testing this app was a precursor of future iNaturalist observations.

I'm not sure What's Invasive gets much use anymore, and I thought it would be a fun November project to get these observations into iNaturalist. I downloaded a CSV from What's Invasive that included links to the photos and bulk loaded the observations to iNaturalist. I had to transfer the photos manually but it didn't take too long.

The repeated observations of invasives are not all that exciting, but I quickly realized there were lots of other plants in the photos too. In one case between the handful of species of invasives and other species I saw I was able to find 24 species in one day's worth of observations.

I often remark that I really wished I had iNaturalist when I was out mapping vegetation in the Santa Monica Mountains. This way at least I captured a little snapshot of that time there.

To see these observations, see May and June 2009 on my Calendar. Turns out I can't easily tag them to this journal post because the journal attachment feature is sorted by date observed, and i am not going to scroll past 15000 observations to find them.

There may be a few more to 'mine' in Vermont as well.. but as of right now the What's Invasive website is down. Maybe I got these California photos just in time.

Posted on November 25, 2015 11:16 PM by charlie charlie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 24, 2015

Poll: Required Fields in Projects - Problem or No?

Hi all! A quick question. Since I use iNaturalist differently than everyone else, I realize my perception is different than that of others. However, I find required fields in projects REALLY annoying to the point that if a project has required fields i will rarely or never contribute to it. I was wondering if it's just a pet peeve I have that no one else shares, or if indeed they annoy other people. And if you don't use them, is it because you don't like required fields, or just because the feature isn't working right.


Posted on November 24, 2015 01:03 PM by charlie charlie | 14 comments | Leave a comment
Member of the iNaturalist Network   |   Powered by iNaturalist open source software