iNaturalist March News Highlights

Happy Easter everyone! We had a hard time narrowing down our highlights this month from so many great stories. If you missed last month’s highlights, you can catch up here.

Species Discoveries

Here are three of the most amazing species discoveries on iNaturalist from this month:

A. In New Zealand, @pav_johnsson hung a mothlight from his hotel balcony while on a birding trip and became the only living person known to have seen the holy grail of New Zealand moths, the Frosted Phoenix moth.

B. In California, @lcollingsparker posted an observation that, with the help of scientists @easmeds, @bugsoundsjc, and @willc-t, turned out to be the rediscovery of Western Red Cicada which was thought to be extinct.

C. In Brazil, @birdernaturalist played an important role in the rediscovery of the Tananá, a katydid used as an example in Darwin’s writings on sexual selection that hasn’t been seen for 150 years.


Distributions and Range Extensions

These three examples illustrate why iNaturalist is such a powerful tool for monitoring changing species distributions in real time:

D. As shown in this observation by @pondgators, the sudden appearance of thousands of By-the-wind-sailors covering beaches documented by the iNaturalist community made headlines in California and Oregon.

E. In Arizona, @lynnharper, @hootyowl52, and @cameronramsey discovered the first U.S. record of a Mexican Beetle.

F. In Brazil, @rogerriodias contributed the northernmost record of an extremely rare Lance Lacewing to this study published by @calebcalifre.



Invasive Species Science

G. @brendaramirez and @jmccorm’s Free-Flying Los Angeles Parrot Project was featured in this article on how these non-native parrots like this one are adapting to urban forests of California.

Similarly, iNaturalist data is revealing how Swinhoe’s white-eye is expanding in California by using these urban forests according to a new study in Biological Invasions by @devonderaad and colleagues.


Conservation Science

iNaturalist is scaling how the conservation community is monitoring and protecting endangered species.

H. Thanks to observations like this one by @renae_mermaid, the iSeahorse project on iNaturalist improved International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List assessments for 35 of the 46 known seahorse species.

I. Florida is home to the critically endangered Smalltooth Sawfish such as this one observed by @rangeldiaz. Scientists like @dean167 are trying to understand why they are mysteriously dying and are asking the public to post observations to iNaturalist.

J. The collision death of Flaco this month, the beloved owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo in New York, has refocused attention on bird deaths by building collisions and the many iNaturalist projects seeking to better understand and prevent this phenomenon by gathering observations like this one by @jtmerryman.

Climate Change Science

This study in PLoS from March used iNaturalist data to project the extent to which climate change will shuffle the species found in North American cities in the next few decades. Here are two more examples of how scientists are using iNaturalist to understand climate change impacts.

K. Climate change is causing earlier springs and warmer winters which is taking a toll on species. In Massachusetts, @maryhannah are monitoring how native hemlock trees are under increased pressure from the hemlock wooly adelgid pest which thrives in warm winters.

L. Similarly, @fuzzybumblebee explains how warmer winters in Minnesota are stressing native bees like this one observed unusually early by @daniellehudson by interrupting their winter hibernation.

iEcology

We continue to be amazed at all the ecological insights scientists are gleaning from information contained in iNaturalist images (iEcology). For example, this month we saw of studies on:

M. Understanding color aberrations - such as this white Rufous-collared Sparrow observed by @myerssusan included in this publication from Ecuador. @allisonshultz is also using iNaturalist to understand bird plumage patterns. This PNAS study on neon colored sea anemones and this study on wasp pigmentation in Italy use iNaturalist to explore the link between climate and these changes in pigmentation

N. Discovering new hosts species for spider wasps - such as this tarantula hawk observed parasitizing Dotted Wolf Spider by @rochalita that was included in a new study by @rickcwest and @frankkurczewski.

O. Understanding life histories of gall wasps - such as this observation of the gall made by a Dandelion Gall Wasp by @earley_bird included in this study by @louisnastasi.



AI Naturalist

P. In Germany, @jchiavassa and colleagues published a study on an automated malaise trap that leverages iNaturalist's Computer Vision AI to demo autonomously recording and identifying biodiversity records.

iNaturalist continues to be a standard benchmarking dataset used in AI studies around the globe like these five this month from Zhang et al., Bu et al., Cong et al., Hogeweg et al., and Daroya et al.


Bioblitzes and Events


Three big upcoming events dominated the news in March:

iNaturalist and Social Sciences

In a Nature Sustainability paper titled “Mobile Apps for 30×30 Equity”, @duanbiggs and colleagues recommend building on iNaturalist to link data collection to payments in order to simultaneously fill data gaps and provide financial support for people in developing economies. This study dovetails with another study in People and Nature this month by @cesarestien and colleagues on how socioeconomic factors can drive participation gaps on iNaturalist.



iNaturalist’s Education Impact

R. This article describes an "Exploring Nature using iNaturalist" training in Indonesia that @naufalurfi helped teach.

Other articles on using iNaturalist in the classroom included this one on bioblitzes by @issacvshl, this one on elementary school climate change education in Portugal, and this one by @katetilly and colleagues on using iNaturalist in the college classroom setting.


iNatters in the News

S. Don’t miss this great profile on @dj_maple from Australia who has posted over 15,000 observations to iNaturalist including many rare moths.

T. In British Columbia, this article describes @stephbrulot’s encounter with a 2-foot deep sea Giant Siphonophore

U. This article by @underwaterpat describes his encounter with a ribbon worm hunting a goby off the California coast.

V. This article tells the story of @srichakrapranav and @vimalraj’s encounter with a group of Sea Swallows along the Bay of Bengal in India



Thank you to everyone who participated in iNaturalist this March. We're amazed by all the impact this incredible community is having around the world. You can become an iNaturalist supporter by clicking the link below:


Donate to iNaturalist


Posted on March 31, 2024 07:08 PM by loarie loarie

Comments

This is so cool! I'll have to admit I find species discoveries some of the most exciting things to find out about from this website! To think Pav was just a first time visitor to New Zealand, yet managed to photograph something so rare. It just goes to show when visiting foreign countries you should photograph everything you see just in case lol.

Posted by jarronevsbaru 18 days ago

So many things to be excited about. Congrats to you all!

Posted by schizoform 18 days ago

Amazing!

Posted by ajott 18 days ago

Love the new format with letters, images, and user profile images!

Also, Portugal under R should be capitalized :)

Posted by hmheinz 18 days ago

Capitalized thanks!

Posted by loarie 18 days ago

These monthly highlight blogs have become a highlight of my month as well! :) An amazing community of naturalists indeed!

Posted by sambiology 18 days ago

Awesome highlights, thanks for setting the report up, great format, so insightful!

Posted by tiagolubiana 18 days ago

Wait, what? One of the linked articles says that the Tananá was "collected in 2010 in northwestern Brazil by a local collector" and they "purchased a collection of insects from a local Brazil collector"?

I HIGHLY DOUBT this collector had the proper permits to do it. This merits some ethical investigation. It is quite hard to collect specimens legally in Brazil, even more so to sell them to foreigners. This smells like textbook biopiracy/scientific colonialism.

Why are there no Brazilian institutions involved in the publication? What is the name of this collector? Who authorized the sale of the specimens?

@birdernaturalist has nothing to do with this purchase, and his observation is indeed outstanding (congrats and thanks!), but the linked research doesn't smell good.

iNat is one of the best places on the Internet, but we should make sure it is not a vehicle for unethical/illegal behaviour, even by accident. I believe that highlighting ethically ambiguous research pieces should be avoided.

Posted by tiagolubiana 18 days ago

Great to read about all these discoveries and advances, and beautifully presented, thanks! The user tag under "N" is not working as a link.

Posted by deboas 18 days ago

I came to my attention that the third example of the "Species Discovered" session is higly problematic... As @tiagolubiana pointed out, the research linked in the article has clear signs of biopiracy/scientific colonialism, which is a real shame. I'll contact immediatly the Zootaxa Editorial Board to inquiry about the situation, for this is possibly a grave violation of Brazilian Laws.

Posted by edgar_crispino 18 days ago

Wow! Great jobs everyone!

Posted by bosqueaaron 18 days ago

Link fixed thanks!

Posted by loarie 18 days ago

Really like the new format with images of organisms and contributors. Easy (and fun!) to read and exciting to see all the new work done with iNat data!

Posted by cthawley 17 days ago

So awesome, thanks for the feature and for all these links to amazing stories all over the world!!

Posted by underwaterpat 17 days ago

@tiagolubiana @edgar_crispino that is concerning, and it is important for iNaturalist to avoid highlighting unethical research. Please share any response from Zootaxa. As you point out, there is no suggestion of anything wrong with the iNaturalist observation, just with the research article linked

Posted by deboas 17 days ago

Thank you for putting this together!

Posted by bcfl14 17 days ago

what a fantastic update! A lot of effort to pull this together so nicely

Posted by adrian_aus 17 days ago

This is really awesome! It's great to see new and rare findings!

Posted by nature-tracker 17 days ago

Congrats to all the naturalists who took part in this highlight!

Posted by nature-tracker 17 days ago

Thank you for these great highlights.
!

Posted by katrin_simon 17 days ago

This is all so incredibly encouraging! Thank you for sharing these highlights!

Posted by forest--dweller 17 days ago

Love this! Thank you!

Posted by ecologistchris 16 days ago

I actually just found out inaturalist had a nature news highlight, and I'm glad i did! So many fascinating discoveries to look at and hear about!

Posted by nature-tracker 16 days ago

This list is incredible and makes me so thankful that iNaturalist exists to facilitate all of these discoveries and cool research.

Posted by upupa-epops 16 days ago

Very incredible!

Posted by nature-tracker 16 days ago

Inaturalist really helps me a lot with my research, and has taught me a lot of interesting things about nature

Posted by nature-tracker 16 days ago

Awesome collection of updates. The NZ moth is especially exciting!

Posted by sophiasperd 14 days ago

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