Journal archives for November 2015

November 04, 2015

Observation of the Week, 11/3/15

This Jewelled Gecko observed by Shane Orchard in New Zealand is our Observation of the Week - which also happens to be Conservation Week in New Zealand!

A riparian ecologist who’s often “on the lookout for interesting patterns in nature,” Shane spotted this Jewelled Gecko (Naultinus gemmeus) in a beech forest along the way to New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Jewelled Geckos are endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, and Shane says they are “distinguished by having more variation in color and pattern than any other gecko in New Zealand, with different color combinations being characteristic of the different regions!” The two main populations known are on Otago and Banks Peninsulas, with another smaller population found in Southland. In addition, they are occasionally recorded on the eastern slopes of the Southern Alps, as was the case here, and less is known about these populations.

In 2012 the Jewelled Gecko was reclassified the as “At Risk” under the New Zealand Threat Classification System in recognition of having an ongoing decline, partly due to pasture development. A more unusual threat is that these and other New Zealand geckos are targeted by wildlife smugglers, including a recent example of Jewelled Gecko smuggling that was discovered by authorities in Germany. “This is a key reason why iNaturalist observations of threatened species are automatically obscured,” explains Shane.

Shane is also a Trustee of the NZBRN Trust who has developed the NatureWatch NZ site, the regional node of the iNat network in New Zealand. The NatureWatch NZ team started off by hosting a separate instance of iNaturalist, but New Zealand developments “have now been merged back into the global iNaturalist platform and are now available for all!”

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 November 04, 2015 03:33 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 18, 2015

Observation of the Week, 11/12/15

This Long-tailed Blue butterfly seen by Tamsin Carlisle in the United Arab Emirates is our Observation of the Week!

After obtaining a BA in Zoology from Oxford and a PhD in Evolutionary Ecology at UC Santa Barbara, Tamsin Carlisle had every intention of being a field biologist, but the “disruptive nature of life itself” intervened and she has since become a successful business journalist, based in Dubai and writing mainly about oil and gas.

She’s never given up on her passion for biology, however, and soon after moving to Dubai she joined the Dubai Natural History Group, a group whose members “head out of the Glitter City to explore the surrounding expanses of far-from-barren desert and mountains, along with the occasional mangrove swamp.” For the past year she’s been the Bird Recorder for the group, and began to use iNaturalist as a way for her to keep a list of her sightings, and for help with identification.

With her background in evolutionary biology, Ms. Carlisle is interested in “how new species arise and become established, why they spread or contract geographically and wink in and out of existence over time.” This led to her observation of the Long-tailed Blue butterfly, which she noticed looks and behaves similarly to another lycaenid butterfly, the the Plains Cupid (above). The former she has seen east of the rugged Hajar Mountains, and the latter she observed on the western side of them. These observations, along with two similar Lacertid lizard species divided by the mountains, has made her wonder if “a pattern [was] emerging and, if so, what role was being played by the physical barrier of the Hajar Mountains?”

With questions such as these, in “a region where fauna and flora have been incompletely inventoried and mapped,” she writes, “citizen naturalists can help.”

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 November 18, 2015 07:48 PM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the Week, 11/18/15

This Texas Diamondback Terrapin seen by robberfly in Aransas County, Texas, is our Observation of the Week!

Ken-ichi here, guest-writing this week's OOTW. I had the very great privilege of spending the last week naturalizing parts of Texas with iNat superstars Mark Rosenstein (maractwin), Liam O'Brien (robberfly), and most importantly Greg Lasley (greglasley, who generously hosted us and showed us around his great state), and while this turtle that Liam photographed was but one of many amazing organisms we observed, it seemed significant to me for a number of reasons.

For those who don't know, the Diamondback Terrapin is a turtle of brackish coastal marshes that can be found all up and down the Atlantic seaboard of the United states, as well as around the Gulf coast. By the early 20th century they had been nearly hunted to extinction for use in turtle soup, but while they have managed to hold on (perhaps due to the decreased popularity of that dish), they remain threatened across their range due to car and boat injuries, death in crab traps, and most importantly, destruction of their coastal wetland habitats.

I grew up seeing these beautiful turtles at the Meigs Point Nature Center, Hammonasset State Beach, in Connecticut, so seeing them in Texas was like running into an old childhood friend in a faraway place. This population has special significance for iNaturalist, however, because it was first documented by Matt Muir while visiting the same spot with Greg Lasley in 2014, when it caused quite a stir in the Texas herpetological community. One herper called it his “holy grail of Texas turtles.”

“That's one of the things I love about iNaturalist,” Matt says. “Observations can be more valuable/special than one realizes in the moment, and one doesn't need to be an expert or taxonomic specialist to contribute something notable. Observe everything!”

And as you can see from Greg's observation from the same spot, several other folks from iNat have had history with these turtles in this part of the world.

To me, this was iNat at it's best: people connecting to nature through careful observation, but also connecting to our past selves through evoked memory, and connecting to each other through shared experience. This was sort of the underlying theme of this entire trip as we met up with several generations of Texas naturalists, some of whom have spent lifetimes exploring the wildlands of Texas and seemed to know not just every plant and butterfly, but plenty of people we met along the way as well, and every animal (human or otherwise) seemed to have a story. Others, like me, were completely new to the state, so every common bird and weed was a fresh experience to be greeted with our strange naturalist's combination of joy and scrutiny, the subject for new memories and stories.

It was a great trip, with great people. If you haven't already, try and find other iNat folks in your area! The more you know people in person, the better the community gets.

  • by Ken-ichi Ueda
Posted on November 18, 2015 07:51 PM by kueda kueda | 1 comment | Leave a comment

November 25, 2015

Observation of the Week, 11/24/15

This Glassy Tiger Butterfly photographed by Sanjit Debbarma in Assam, India and posted by ivijayanand is our Observation of the Week!

Dr. Vijay Anand Ismavel has been a pediatric surgeon at the Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital in the Assam region of India for over 22 years, but it was a heart attack in 2008 that caused him to really notice the wildlife surrounding him in this remote area. After the heart attack,

I was asked to walk 2 kms every day. I found this tiresome and took my daughters along. One day I noticed a tapping sound and found an unfamiliar woodpecker pecking on a dead bamboo stump...I photographed it and posted it on Flickr and it was identified as a relatively rare woodpecker (Stripe-breasted woodpecker – Dendrocopos atratus). I became very interested and started noticing all sorts of interesting birds and insects...I found that observing, photographing and reporting...wildlife in the campus and surrounding areas was very relaxing and added new meaning to my walks.

Dr. Ismavel soon upgraded his camera equipment (his wife budgeted it under “Cardiac Rehabilitation Expenses”) and began taking coworkers on his nature walks, later posting their observations on iNaturalist in addition to Flickr - the Makunda Nature Club was formed! Earlier this year they went on a trek into nearby forests and were the first to photograph a van Hasselt's Sunbird in India.

The Glassy Tiger Butterfly observation was photographed by Mr. Sanjit Debbarma (Dr. Ismavel posted it for him and is working on getting everyone in the club an iNat account) during the Makunda Nature Club’s attempt to find the van Hasselt’s Sunbird again. The club plans to soon start “the Makunda Spider Survey which will document the first 100 (or more) unique spider species in the campus (and surroundings) with an eminent Indian arachnologist.” There is now even a Department of Biodiversity Documentation and Wildlife Conservation at the hospital and school.

Many of the villagers in the surrounding forest participate in deforestation and trapping, and Dr. Ismavel says

the greatest impact we foresee is in the keen interest being taken by school students...We hope to instill in these children a sense of wonder at the sheer beauty and variety of nature around them by making them members of the student wing of the Makunda Nature Club. We hope that they in turn will influence their parents and other villagers. Some of them came with us as guides on the three treks we had into deep forest. Maybe one day they would exchange their woodcutting for ecotourism and work to save the forests and their biodiversity.

It’s amazing what a photograph, an observation, and an online naturalist community can accomplish. Keep up the great work, Dr. Ismavel and the Makunda Nature Club!

Posted on November 25, 2015 06:48 PM by tiwane tiwane | 1 comment | Leave a comment