Journal archives for October 2015

October 31, 2015

Observation of the Week, 09/21/2015

iNaturalist is pleased to announced the launch of our Observation of the Week program! Our first Observation of the Week comes from Pavel Kirilov (@pavelkirilov), a biology and chemistry teacher from St. Petersburg, Russia.

Kirilov, who is also a macrophotographer, made this picture of a Ladybird Beetle in Mexico City near the National Autonomous University of Mexico campus, where he found it in the grooved bark of an oak tree.
The Ladybird family, Coccinellidae, is a beetle family with over 5,000 described species found worldwide.
“Since childhood I've been fascinated with nature, especially with bugs, and always dreamed of tropical places,” said Kirilov. “Back when I was growing up, places like Borneo or Mexico seemed like different worlds. Not only were they far away, but travel outside the Soviet Union was restricted back then. Fortunately, that went away in the 1990s.”
Kirilov’s observation was made while out walking a pair of Tibetan Mastiffs that were straining against their leashes, which made stopping to photograph the <10 mm Ladybird specimen with his Nikon D90 and SB 900 flash all the more challenging.

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

By Matthew Monte

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:05 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 09/29/2015

Fyn Kynd’s close-up of a Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) has been selected as iNaturalist’s Observation of the Week.

Fyn (@fyn_kynd), an eighth grader from Searsmont, Maine, found this female specimen along the edge of a swamp on Hog Island, located in Muscongus Bay, Maine. He made the picture during the Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens Camp, sponsored by the Audubon Society.

When asked about his interests, the homeschooled 14-year-old said, “My favorite subjects are photography and anything in nature, whether it's mountain biking, swimming, or getting up at dawn to see migrating birds, I love it all.”

A birder at heart, Fyn says his “second loves” are butterflies and dragonflies. He’s been a nature photographer for about three years.

“I use a Canon 7D with a 400mm f/5.6 lens for my bird and dragonfly shots where I sometimes use an extension tube to let me get a little closer to my subjects,” said Fyn. “For macro I use a 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens with extension tubes.”

Celithemis elisa belongs to the order Odonata, which is divided into two suborders, Anisoptera (dragonflies) and Zygoptera (damselflies). There are approximately 407 odonate species represented in North America and >5000 worldwide.

Commonly called Pennants, Celithemis is a genus of 8 species, all native to eastern North America, where they primarily inhabit riparian ecosystems.

Because dragonflies depend on freshwater, a very at-risk ecosystem, they are often good environmental quality indicators. Dr. Viola Clausnitzer, a scientist with the IUCN’s Dragonfly Specialist Group studies dragonfly populations and their role in freshwater conservation efforts. She calls them “guardians of the watershed.”

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

By Matthew Monte

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:05 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 10/05/2015

Dani Montijo (@dmontijo) and her crowd of Light-Blue Soldier Crabs (Mictyris longicarpus) were selected as iNaturalist’s Observation of the Week.

The Light-Blue Soldier Crab belongs to the Brachyuran family, Micryridae. The species ranges northward from southern New South Wales and from Perth, Western Australia, to New Caledonia in the east, to Singapore in the north, and to the Bay of Bengal in the west.

Montijo, a senior at UC Berkeley, is currently studying abroad at the University of Queensland and made her discovery on North Stradbroke Island. Though she only started using iNaturalist a few months ago, Montijo already feels like she’s learned so much in the process. What’s more, she’s been able to share that knowledge with young people.

“Over the summers I work as a counselor at a summer camp, and this last summer I used iNaturalist to identify different species around camp,” said Montijo. “Once I'd identified them, I was able to learn more about their ecology, and then pass on that knowledge to my campers. I think that's one of the great things about iNaturalist—it helps make learning about nature more accessible.”

Montijo also loves that tools like iNaturalist are at the forefront of the citizen science movement: “It [iNaturalist] helps people get involved in their environment, and helps create up-to-date maps of species distribution, which can be really valuable, especially in a world where we don't have enough scientists and resources to go around.”

As for the Light-Blue Soldier Crabs, her study abroad group had just arrived on North Stradbroke Island and was staying at a nearby research station. They went exploring by the beach, and were stunned to see the thousands upon thousands of soldier crabs running across the sand.

“It was so surreal—there were just so, so many,” said Montijo. “You could actually hear them running, the sounds of thousands of little tiny legs splashing in the shallow water, and as you walked closer to them, the sound got louder as they started running faster! Once you got too close, they'd give up on running away and just burrow straight down into the ground to get away.”

In Australia Mictyris is known as the "soldier crab." This appellation is appropriate in view of the habits of the genus. Immense numbers of M. longicarpus congregate in dense masses and wander over tidal flats in apparent formation. Their activities exert a particular fascination not only because of these huge "armies," but also because soldier crabs walk forward and not sideways, as do most crabs.

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

By Matthew Monte

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:06 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 10/13/2015

A Sugar Maple observed by Erika Mitchell (@erikamitchell) in Washington County, Vermont is our Observation of the Week.

Self describing as “really into data” and also someone who likes to get an exercise walk in each day, this summer Erika figured, why not combine these? She tracked down a local county road map and carefully laid out a plan to walk all 80 miles of road that criss cross her town while taking iNaturalist observations along the way. Over the course of the ensuing months, Erica walked all 80 miles of road each way (160 miles round trip). “I wanted the survey to be systematic, so I set the alarm on my phone to go off every few minutes.” Erica said. “When it went off I’d stop and take observations of the three nearest trees.” But the naturalist admits mixing in a few less systematic reports “whenever I saw something really pretty like a wildflower in bloom.”

Erica, who has a PhD in linguistics and works professionally on water quality issues, got involved in natural history about 10 years ago after reading the writings of Henry David Thoreau. She learned about iNaturalist through the efforts of the iNaturalist Vermont project run by the Vermont Center for Ecosystem Studies as part of the Vermont Atlas of Life. According to Erika, “I kept hearing about iNaturalist, but once I realized that I could use it to get feedback on my observations and connect with a whole community of naturalists I got really into it”.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is native to the northeastern North American Hardwood forests and is famous for being one of the primary sources of maple syrup. To produce the syrup, a hole is drilled in the trunk so that the sugary sap can drip out and be collected. As much as 40 litres of sap must be boiled down to produce just a single litre of maple syrup.

Sugar maples are deciduous meaning they loose their leaves each winter. The maple syrup sap stores energy made during the previous summer that that is mobilized in late winter to provide the branch tips the energy they need to produce leaves and flowers. This sapstream climbs up the tree utilizing xylem tissue. Another sapstream utilizes the phloem tissue to 'phlow-down' delivering sugars made from photosynthesis in the leaves during the summer to other parts of the tree. The evolution of this vascular tissue (the xylem and phloem) is one of the characters that separates vascular plants from other more ancient groups like mosses and liverworts.

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

By Scott Loarie

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:07 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 10/22/2015

A Black-throated Gray Warbler observed by Donna Pomeroy (@dpom) during the Mountain Lake & Presidio Bioblitz is our Observation of the Week. 

A Bioblitz is an intensive one-day study of biodiversity in a specific location, bringing scientists and volunteer citizen-scientists together to find and record as many species as possible. After Mountain Lake’s recent restoration, the Presidio Trust, California Academy of Sciences, and Nerds for Nature organized a grassroots, smartphone-powered inventory of the area on October 10th, 2015. 

“This baseline [inventory] not only helps the Presidio Trust keep their species list up-to-date, but it can also be used to track future change,” says Allison Young, Citizen Science Engagement Coordinator at the California Academy of Sciences. “By using iNaturalist, not only do we have a platform to compile all these bioblitz observations and make them available to managers and scientists, but it's key in making bioblitzes accessible to everyone, not just experts.” 

One participant was El Granada's California’s Donna Pomeroy, an avid birder who searched the willow thickets around Mountain Lake and “was delighted to find the two [Black-throated Gray] warblers, along with five other species of warblers.” She says that because these warblers breed in oak woodlands, their presence at Mountain Lake shows us its importance as a stopover for migrating birds. 

However, Donna’s nearly 12,000 iNaturalist observations consist of a lot more than birds - she’s recorded many other organisms, with nudibranchs, butterflies and amphibians being particular favorites. “iNaturalist has changed the way I interact with nature by enabling me to use the iNat community to help me learn new taxa. Now when I am out exploring, I take photos of many of the smaller life forms that I would have overlooked or ignored in the past,” she says. 

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing. 

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

- By Tony Iwane

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:10 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 10/27/15

This colony of Straw-colored Fruit Bats observed by Martin Grimm in Tanzania is our Observation of the Week - which happens to be Bat Week!

A medical doctor from Leipzig, Germany, Martin Grimm volunteered at Tanzanian hospitals while on parental leave after his children were born. In Tanzania he would take the babies on nature walks and photograph wildlife as the babies slept, posting pictures to Flickr. That’s where Jakob Fahr, creator of the Afribats project on iNaturalist, found Martin’s photo and invited him to post it on iNat. Martin jokingly calls this first iNaturalist experience an “infection” and began to look for more bats “in villagers’ houses,...in hollow trees, in hotels. Bats can be found almost everywhere when looking close enough.” He now has 43 observations posted in the Afribats project! 

During Martin’s latest trip to Tanzania, Jakob asked that he look for some Straw-colored Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum) colonies and estimate their numbers. After finding several outside of Dar es Salaam, Martin’s guide brought him to a colony he knew by the Goethe Institute, which is the colony pictured in this post. Jakob says they have “been studying the local movement ecology of straw-coloured fruit bats with miniaturized GPS-loggers, but their large-scale movements are still a bit of a mystery, thus documenting whether these bats are around at a given colony and time is highly valuable information that helps us disentangle their long-distance migrations.” This colony, numbering between 10,000 and 100,000 individuals, was previously unknown on Afribats and is important data for the project. 

For Jakob, the “AfriBats project strives to showcase the incredible diversity of African bats, and to put their manifold ecosystem services into the limelight rather than their role as carriers of diseases, which is largely based on speculation rather than hard facts. Martin's excellent pictures have certainly helped to illustrate both the beauty of African bats and their important ecological roles!” 

Martin continues to contribute observations of many taxa to iNaturalist, including 40 observations in the Primates of East Africa project, and has begun to document the forests surrounding Leipzig. “My goal is to get an overview of life there around the day and around the year. So I try to visit the forest often and during day and night. This changed my life as naturalist a lot - didn't do things like this before I knew iNat.”

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

- by Tony Iwane

Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!

Posted on October 31, 2015 01:13 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment