Philippines - iNaturalist World Tour

The Philippines is the 46th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour. The top observer @maractwin, needs no introduction on iNaturalist. As a self described "avid scuba diver, fish geek and underwater photographer" its clear why he's made so many observations in the Philippines which is one of the greatest scuba diving destinations in the world. @maractwin's observations are clustered in the southern part of Luzon near the capital of Manila and the island of Mindoro alongside other scuba-focused top observers such as @tonydiver and @tgosliner. @liselle and @michaela are other top observers in this region.

On the northern part of Luzon Island @rhabdornis's observations are centered along with @paulengler and @tonyg. @rhabdornis' observations highlight the incredible Lepidoptera diversity in the Philippines. You can read more about @tonyg's connection to Luzon Island in this Observation of the Week post. Further south, @curiousann is based in the Central Visayas region. Check out her blog here. @timcameron's observations, which also have an underwater-focus, are also centered in this region. Top observers @blogie, @greg3ph, and @shelley_b have observations clustered in Mindanao to the south. Beetle researcher and National Geographic grantee @anncabras24 is also based in Mindanao and has several projects such as this one incorporating iNaturalist into her research.

There are several peaks in the Observation per month graph that reflect bursts of activity from a handful of top observers. For example, the peak in March 2015 was driven by a burst of observations near Davao by @blogie and observations by California Academy of Science researchers @tgosliner and @rmooi on Mindoro resulting from the 2015 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. Similarly, the peaks in March and June of 2018 were driven by @rhabdornis and @maractwin respectively. During the last year, we seem to be seeing more sustained growth in the Philippines in contrast to these isolated peaks of activity.

In addition to being top observer in the Philippines, @maractwin is the top identifer. He also leads in fish identifications which is the second most "observose" category. Mollusks and 'other animals' are the third and fourth most observose categories reflecting all of the observations of marine mollusks like nudibranchs and marine organisms such as corals and echinoderms being observed by the underwater focused observers. Thanks to @hsini_lin and @phelsumas4life for lending their expertise to these two categories and all the other underwater focused top identifiers such as @kemper, @joe_fish, @sascha_schulz, and @jpsilva. The top species categories based on number of observations (with @hkmoths as the top identifier) probably reflects all the Lepidoptera observations by @rhabdornis. @shawnodonnell is the top plant identifier lending his South East Asian botany expertise. You can read about his research through the SUNDASIA project here. Is this the first country we've examined where birds aren't in the top 5 species categories?

What can we do to get more people in the Philippines using iNaturalist? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@maractwin @rhabdornis @curiousann @liselle @greg3ph @paulengler @kemper @phelsumas4life @joe_fish @hsini_lin

We’ll be back tomorrow with the Poland!

Posted by loarie loarie, August 08, 2019 21:43



A big thanks @loarie, for your feature of the Philippines!

There are several closed groups on FB such as Philippine Native Tree Enthusiasts which has 12.3K members, Wild Bird Photographers 16.9K members, Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines 10.7K members, Philippine Biodiversity with 5.2K members and so on. I see some of them here, except they are not as active. Probably because there are already existing online communities to post wildlife photos (force of habit). And, it is in these groups where scientists, hobbyists, environmentalists, conservationists... hang out to tackle environmental issues as well. Also, since these people somehow know each other, the conversation is more engaging. Thus, it becomes a one-stop shop.

Re: Is this the first country we've examined where birds aren't in the top 5 species categories? There are several birders in the Philippines (myself included) but we post it either in our own closed group or at eBird.

A 30K observation is very low considering that the Philippines has a very high degree of land and animal endemism and is considered a biodiversity hotspot. However, wildlife poaching/trafficking is a big problem. Imagine, it is currently considered the fourth most lucrative illegal trade next to narcotics, human trafficking and arms deal! Despite a slew of environmental laws and the collaboration of NGOs, wildlife trafficking has become an even more lucrative trade because of online marketplaces and various social media platforms. I have qualms about sharing photos of vulnerable and endangered species especially because it's not clear how iNaturalist can protect these. So, having a small FB group of conservationists/environmentalists... makes it easier to screen that these people are really here to protect and conserve biodiversity. But who knows maybe eventually we'll have more and more Filipino scientists/conservationists on iNaturalist.

Another way to get more people to use iNat is to organize bioblitzes in Universities.

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, logistics can be challenging. So, choose strategically located schools in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. E.g. Silliman University in Dumaguete. Dumaguete is in Central Visayas and it serves as the jump off point to reach Siquijor, Bohol, Apo Island and other neighboring provinces that aren't as easily accessible via land and air travel.

In Mindanao, there's MSU in Lanao del Sur which occupies the western portion of Mindanao. You may pick one university in Davao as well to cover the southeastern section, then another in Butuan/Agusan for the northern part. In Luzon, there's UP Baguio and Benguet State University etc. Something like that. So people living in these areas will be the ones taking care of the observations in those places. Not just to post as many observations but to encourage local engagement and empower communities to conserve, manage and defend their sites. Not losing sight that the aim here is for biodiversity conservation and its sustainable use. :)

Posted by liselle 10 days ago (Flag)

Thanks for all the insight @liselle! I think one of the main values iNat brings that a FB or Flickr group doesn't is that the photos become data points which can be use to do things like flesh-out distributions, train the computer vision models, and feed into efforts like GBIF, but I'm not sure how to communicate that best to someone accustomed to posting to FB and whether it would entice them to post more to iNat. Any idea?

Re: poaching, iNat has tools in place described here to protect sensitive locations associated with threatened species - but I'm not sure thats widely known to people who've heard of iNat but not tried it.

I agree that Bioblitzes definitely provide something that FB groups don't in terms of cool stats like species counts, but they require local champions to volunteer the work needed to organize them. Any takers interested in organizing Bioblitzes in the Philippines? Is there any 'remote support' that we (the larger iNat community or staff) could provide that would make organizing Bioblitzes easier for said local champions?

Posted by loarie 10 days ago (Flag)

Very interesting information. As a diver I love the Philippines! So many creatures I have seen for the first time ... a recent trip to Anilao and just 8 dives added 50 new species to my observations! Have dived at Malapascua, Dumaguete as well and want to get back to explore other areas in the country.

Posted by tonydiver 9 days ago (Flag)

Thanks @loarie. We can tag those who are already here to read this post so they'll know the benefits of posting on iNat. Is there a way to find them in one search?

RE: Bioblitzes. Ok, I'll volunteer. Would you like to tie up with a local environment group? There's a Biodiversity on Wheels (BOW) a built-in multimedia and library rolled into one van that visits schools and communities to teach environmental topics such as Philippine biodiversity and solid waste management. They have 3 vans, one for each group of islands. Or, if you want independently, we can write the school directors and I'll find a contact person in the said region. I'll ask around who else can assist.

Posted by liselle 9 days ago (Flag)

wow that would be awesome! Let us know how we can help from afar

Posted by loarie 9 days ago (Flag)

@loarie the link to the observation of the week post is not working...

Posted by alexis_orion 9 days ago (Flag)

whoops - fixed, thanks!

Posted by loarie 9 days ago (Flag)

@liselle Go to Explore and enter "Philippines" (no taxon), then click "Observers" on the right

Posted by shelley_b 9 days ago (Flag)

@liselle and @anncabras24 you two should connect around bioblitzes! Tagging @aztekium_tutor too to keep him in the loop since he'll be visiting later this month.

Also, @liselle I remember you from waaaay back in the days of the Great Nature Project (looks like you got your iNat start there) and I'm so happy that you've stayed involved in iNat.

Posted by carrieseltzer 9 days ago (Flag)

Thanks, @shelley_b and @tonyrebelo!

Noted. Great to 'see' you again, @carrieseltzer :) You're right, it was through NatGeo's Great Nature Project that I got started here.
Thanks for the invite!

Posted by liselle 9 days ago (Flag)

Thanks a lot @carrieseltzer I look forward to meet and work with you guys in your country, I have talked to Ann already and we are planning some good training!



Posted by aztekium_tutor 8 days ago (Flag)

@loarie. I had a meeting with a local environment group yesterday to help with the logistics etc. They'll be sending the proposal this week FYI

@aztekium_tutor I look forward to meet and work with you as well. I have already sent a direct message to Ann and was figuring out how to add you. But, I guess iNat don't have a group chat feature yet...I'll send you a separate message then.

Posted by liselle 8 days ago (Flag)

thanks for the invite :)

Posted by geonyzl 5 days ago (Flag)

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