Journal archives for December 2017

December 02, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/2/17

Our Observation of the Week is this North Philippine temple pitviper, seen in Malaysia by @nakarb!

While this blog post is about his beautiful snake photo, Nikolay Vladimirov (nakarb) is, first and foremost, an insect enthusiast and photographer. Inspired by his grandmother, who was an agronomist, Nikolay “walked around the garden, collected insects, and my grandmother told me about them. Later, already at school, I began to collect a collection of insects; I had a lot of books about insects, it was interesting for me to learn something new about them.”

He later became and aquarist, but in 2007 he obtained his first camera, a Canon S3IS, and “ interest in insects resumed on a new level: I began to photograph them.” He eventually upgraded to a DSLR with a macro lens and for eight years has been photographing wildlife.

During this time I already have photos of the most frequent and large species, so now I have to use different methods of collecting and catching insects used in entomology: ground traps, food and light baits, nets, shaking of bushes, search in rotten logs and under bark of trees, collecting of caterpillars, etc. This turned out to be a very interesting activity, and now my photo collection is much larger than the one I collected as a child. Experts from forums molbiol.ru, diptera.info, and now also inaturalist.org help me to determine the photographed species.

He photographed the pitviper while on a trip to Borneo with his wife. They spent several days in Bako National Park, “[where] I brought back several thousand photos of insects, spiders, frogs and reptiles.”

[The North Philippine temple pitviper] I noticed quite by accident about in the middle of the 6-km-long ring track Lintang. This was the first snake found by me in the day, before that they were shown us by guides on night excursions around Bako. The snake was very small, about 20 cm, and was sitting on a tree just above eye level, comfortably leaning on a branch. For all the time of photographing (we walked around it for about 20 minutes) the snake behaved completely non-aggressive and did not even change its position.

This behavior is typical for snakes in the temple pitviper (Tropidolaemus) genus. Skilled ambush predators, they are known to stay motionless for long periods of time - allowing them to quickly ambush prey such as rodents, birds, frogs, and lizards, that might pass by. Like other vipers they are venomous and their venom mainly consists of hemotoxins (flesh and blood destroying toxins) rather than neurotoxins. While a fatal envenomation is unlikely, it can’t be excluded as a possibility. And as Nikolay observed, this is not an aggressive snake.

“iNaturalist is a very interesting project,” says Nikolay, above, at Bako National Park. “It makes it very convenient to organize your observations, analyze the distribution of flora and fauna in different geographical areas and communicate with nature lovers around the world. In addition, there is a large number of experts in different groups of animals and plants who are happy to help in determining the results of observations.”


Nikolay has also shared some tips for macrophotography:

  • Do not be afraid to experiment; macrophotography, like photography in general - a very creative process. Learn the experience of other photographers.
  • Do more frames, slightly changing the camera angle. Among them, for sure, there will be good shots. Unnecessary or unsuccessful frames can always be deleted.
  • Photograph an insect from different sides (from above, from the side, a portrait, some characteristic fragments). This will help in determining it.
  • Objects for macro photography are everywhere and always, sometimes in the most unexpected places.
  • Learn the biology and behavior of insects, this will help in their search and photography.

- by Tony Iwane


- You can see Nikolay’s awesome photos on this site.

- Check out these two videos that show off these snakes’ impressive camouflage and zen-like stillness. 

- There are nearly 500 observations from Bako National Park on iNat, take a look at them here.

Posted on December 02, 2017 08:43 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 05, 2017

Vision Suggestion Updates!

We just updated our computer vision-assisted species suggestions! It's been almost six months since we quietly launched the first version, and despite not making much of a hullabaloo about it, you folks definitely noticed, as did the media. One of our favorite parts about our approach to teaching computers to recognize species in images is that our system is constantly learning from the iNat community. If someone chooses a suggestion that ends up being wrong, that turns into new training data, and if someone observes something the system doesn't know about, that turns into new training data too. In June, we released a system trained on iNat photos added up until May 2017. It could identify 17,246 species, and it had the right species in the top ten results ~78% of the time. The system we just released yesterday trained on data through August 2017, and while it's only slightly more accurate (right answer in the top ten ~81% of the time), it knows about 20,217 species, so that's a 2,971 species improvement!

To give you and idea of what's changed, here are some of the most-observed new species the system can recognize:

We were very happy to see a bunch of species from outside our core areas of the North America and New Zealand in there, and we were particularly impressed with Sphenomorphus indicus, a lizard that has experienced a surge in observations this year thanks for iNat folks in Taiwan. A lot of species have years of observations, but only just passed our threshold of having Research Grade observations by ten different people, but that lizard really just became super popular this year. Go lizard.

We also made a slight change to how we use nearby observation data to add suggestions and sort them: we reduced the radius of the search, so hopefully it will make better "nearby" suggestions. It is not excluding suggestions that have not been observed nearby, but that's certainly something we're considering since so many of you have asked for this.

Anyway, a big thanks to all of you for making all of this possible. We couldn't provide this kind of service without all of your hard work making observations and adding identifications.

Posted on December 05, 2017 08:08 PM by kueda kueda | 15 comments | Leave a comment

December 09, 2017

iNaturalist in Chile / iNaturalist en Chile

A few months ago, @loarie wrote a blog post about how international iNaturalist is. Piggybacking on that, we thought it might be interesting to do a deep dive into each country. And with spring and summer underway in the southern hemisphere, here's a look at some of the numbers for Chile! Below is a map of Chile which shows the number of observations spread out regionally. In each region, the top observer is shown.
Hace unos meses, @loarie escribió una entrada de blog de que tan internacional es iNaturalist. Llevando a cuestas eso, pensamos que sería interesante ser una inmersión profunda en cada país. Y con la primavera y verano en marcha en el hemisferio sur, aquí están unos números para Chile. A continuación se muestra un mapa de Chile y los números de observaciones distribuidas regionalmente. En cada región, se muestra el observador superior.

And here's a chart of observations per month, showing iNat's growth in Chile. Mouse over to see the top observer for each month.
Y aquí hay una tabla de observaciones por mes, ensenando el crecimiento de iNat en Chile. Pase el ratón sobre el mapa para ver el observador superior de cada mes.

Finally, below is a breakdown of the groups of species that people are observing within Chile. The top identifier for each group based on the number of identifications on these observations is also shown.
Finalmente, a continuación se muestra un desglose de los grupos de especies que las personas están observando dentro de Chile. El identificador superior para cada grupo esta basado en el número de identificaciones en estas observaciones también.

We reached out to some of the top observers in Chile to see what they had to say about iNaturalist and how they use it. Like all iNat users, they each have their own approach. It will be exciting to see the community grow!
Nos pusimos en contacto con algunos de los principales observadores en Chile para ver qué tenían que decir sobre iNaturalist y como les gusta usarlo. Igual que todos los usuarios de iNat, cada uno tiene su propio enfoque. ¡Será emocionante ver crecer la comunidad!

User @archiverde originally learned about iNaturalist when he was living in Italy, where iNaturalist has a fairly robust community. He says “iNat is my only tool to register my near 1000 observations around the world…[and it] is a part of my life since i discovered it some years ago.” Since he moved to Chile in 2014, archiverde says “I have tried to spread iNat among my friends…[I] hope our community could grow quickly, even in countries - like Chile - where wildlife is always under threat.”
El usuario @archiverde originalmente aprendió sobre iNaturalist cuando estaba viviendo en Italia, donde iNaturalist tiene una comunidad bastante sólida. El dice –iNat es mi única herramienta para registrar cerca de 1000 de mis observaciones de todo el mundo…y es parte de mi vida desde que lo descubrí hace algunos años-. Desde que se mudó Argentina en 2014, @archiverde dice – He estado de extender iNat entre mis amigos…[Yo] espero que nuestra comunidad crezca rápidamente, incluso en países como Chile, donde la vida silvestre siempre está amenazada-.

@jorgeeduardo uses iNaturalist as part of his work, surveying wildlife for an the environmental services company Patagua Ltda, which received a grant from the Social Innovation Fund of CORFO. He presented his survey data at the Chilean Congress of Ornithology 2017.
@jorgeeduardo usa iNaturalist como parte de su trabajo, estudiando la vida silvestre para una compañía de servicios ambientales, Patagua Ltda, que recibió una subvención del Fondo de Innovación Social de CORFO. Presentó los datos de su encuesta en el Congreso Chileno de Ornitología 2017.

And @palomanunezfarias is an iNaturalist advocate, who explains “in Chile [iNaturalist] is a very recent and dynamic community, in only 2016 to 2017 the national biodiversity projects doubled in number.” She works for the CEAZA scientific center, and says “Together with @salvanaturaleza, @josecortezecheverria we are sharing the naturalist spirit, citizen science and nature awareness with visitors to the Fray Jorge National Park (FJNP)...[which] was established as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and it was the first Starlight Reserve in South America, which was designated in 2013.”
Y @palomanunezfarias quien es un defensor de iNaturalist explica que –en Chile [iNaturalist] es una comunidad muy reciente y dinámica, en 2016-2017 los proyectos nacionales de biodiversidad se duplicaron en número-. Ella trabaja para el centro científico CEAZA, y dice – Juntos con @salvanaturaleza @josecortezecheverria compartimos el espíritu naturalista, la ciencia ciudadana y la conciencia de la naturaleza con los visitantes del Parque Nacional Fray Jorge (FJNP)…[que] fue establecido como Reserva Mundial de la Biosfera en 1977 y fue el primer Starlight Reserve en Sudamérica, que fue designada en 2013-.

Paloma explains that there is a small fishing village, named El Toro, which has a school (@escuelacaletaeltoro) “where you can find 19 curious children and who are technology fans."
Paloma explica que hay un pueblo pequeño de pescadores, llamado El Toro, que tiene una escuela (@escuelacaletaeltoro) – donde puedes encontrar 19 niños curiosos y que son fanáticos de la tecnología-.

The Centro Cultural Libertad and the CEAZA Scientific Research Center are developing an outreach program to teach schoolchildren how to protect their natural heritage, which includes taking pictures of the local flora and fauna to upload to the INAT Biodiversity of Arid Zones project.
El Centro Cultural Libertad y el Centro de Investigación Científica CEAZA están desarrollando un programa de alcance para enseñar a los estudiantes a proteger su patrimonio natural, que incluye tomar fotografías de la flora y la fauna locales para subir al proyecto INAT Biodiversidad de Zonas Áridas.

Here are some of the photos Paloma sent us. First is a photo of the children of @escuelacaletaeltoro, and below them are @palomanunezfarias, @josecortezecheverria, and @salvanaturalista in the field.
Estas son algunas de las fotos que Paloma nos envió. Primero hay una foto de los niños @escuelacaletaeltoro y debajo de ellos están @palomanunezfarias, @josecortezecheverria, and @salvanaturalista en el campo.


Paloma also recently visited New Zealand, where she says “I was even able to meet @tangatawhenua [with] whom my daughter and I stayed with], and naturalized on the north coast of NZ, it was very fun.” Paloma was surprised and inspired by the impressive iNaturalist community there that identified her observations within hours; she hopes that Chile will have a similar iNat community in the near future. “We need to disseminate the platform more among [Chile’s] national researchers so that they become identifiers and so it can be much more interactive, since today there are many observations of ordinary people who do not have identification.”
Paloma también visitó recientemente Nueva Zelanda, donde dice –Pude conocer a @tangatawhenua [con] quien nos quedamos mi hija y yo y naturalizamos en la costa norte de Nueva Zelanda, fue muy divertido-. Paloma se sorprendió y fue inspirada por la impresionante comunidad de iNaturalist que identificó sus observaciones en cuestión de horas; ella espera que Chile tenga una comunidad de iNat similar en el futuro cercano. –Necesitamos diseminar más la plataforma entre los investigadores nacionales [de Chile] para que se conviertan en identificadores y por lo tanto pueda ser más interactivo, ya que hoy en día hay muchas observaciones de personas comunes que no tienen identificación-.

Posted on December 09, 2017 04:14 AM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 11, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/10/17

Our Observation of the Week is this pair of dueling arboreal salamanders, seen in California by plainsashchalaca!

“My little sister actually discovered the salamander fight,” says Sasha Robinson (@plainsashchalaca). “She came back in the house to tell me that ‘two of those speckly salamanders’ were on the porch eating each other and I ran outside to check it out.”

Just like his sister, Sasha himself was into nature when he was a child. “Some of my first and most vivid memories are of camping near Yosemite with my family,” he recalls “When I was around 10 years old, I got a pair of binoculars and started putting names to the birds I saw flitting around my backyard. I think birding kind of showed me how much fun using a field guide was and I was soon buying plant guides, herp guides, and more!”

Sasha obtained a degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management at California’s Humboldt State University, where he herped, tidepooled, and mushroomed. “While my main focus remained on the flying dinosaurs that had kindled my passion, I continued to develop a healthy appreciation for all the things I found ‘along the way’.”

But back to the salamanders.

“I have know idea how long these two apparently male arboreal salamanders had been fighting, but it had been raining all night which must have bumped up the ‘mander activity,” says Sasha. He continued to check-in on them as the morning went on, “only to find them still at it and slowly dragging each other into the bushes where I lost them. Both were still living when I last observed them although one had a nasty gash on his head.”

Members of the Plethodontidae, or lungless salamander family, arboreal salamanders are a common sighting along the western coast of North America and are even found (natively) on the tiny Farallon Islands off of San Francisco. They’re known to sometimes inflict painful bites on humans with their large jaw muscles and teeth and according to California Herps, “Both males and females are agressively [sic] territorial. Individuals covered with scars (probably from fighting) are often found, and captives kept together often bite the other salamander's tail.”

Currently, Sasha has “taken up the ‘bird-bumming’ lifestyle (as a traveling avian field technician), gaining ever more field experience while honing in on where I want to focus my career.” He’s studied declining grassland songbirds for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and banded birds in the Cordillera de Talamanca highlands for Costa Rica Bird Observatories (where he was in the photo below, banding a slaty-tailed trogon).

He uses iNaturalist “to explore my interests in other taxa, most frequently: lepidopterans, plants, fungi, herps, and nudibranchs.

For example, I brought a moth light during a recent 5 month stint spent working in Costa Rica. I took hundreds of photos of moths, most of which I could only tentatively ID to family. When I got back to the states I started mass-uploading them to iNat and nearly all of them have now been identified by others! Incredible! Thanks iNaturalist!

- by Tony Iwane


- No arboreal salamander fights on YouTube, but these fire salamanders in Belgium certainly go at each other with some intensity.

- True to their common name, arboreal salamanders do climb up trees, using their feet and prehensile tail. Check out the curled tail in this observation.

Posted on December 11, 2017 02:14 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 15, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/15/17

Our Observation of the Week is is Rhiostoma snail, seen in China by ladybird_sunbathing!

Yes, it’s a snail with a snorkel! iNaturalist user Yang Yi (@ladybird_sunbathing) found it in the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) this past September. The botanical garden is located in extreme southwestern China, and he was there with a group supervised by Dr Li Shuqiang of the Beijing Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The group’s focus was on collecting spiders, and Yang Yi tells me “there are approximately 800 spider species in 1125-ha XTBG, with an increase of 100 new species every year at present,” so there was a lot of work for them to do!

In addition to spiders, Yang Yi also photographed other organisms, like this beautiful green Cyclophorid snail and this “horrifying” (to quote Yang Yi) caterpillar. He found the Rhiostoma snail in the Green Stone Forest area of the park, “an area of tropical karst landform, topographically fluctuated, where rain forest and limestone forest coexist.” Although he had no idea what kind of snail it was - “those snails all looked the same to my untrained eyes” - he says “I knew @susanhewitt and @jkfoon would identify the snails.” iNat’s robust mollusk-loving community came through again, and both Susan Hewitt and JK Foon (also a featured player in the rediscovery of a snail via iNat) did come through with an ID (it’s the first Rhiostoma on iNaturalist!) and some encouraging comments.

As JK Foon commented, it’s speculated “that [the snorkel’] function could be to facilitate the snail's respiration while minimising water loss when the snail retract into its shell and seal itself up inside during long drought periods in monsoonal rainforests.” And what’s even cooler is that these snails are more closely related to marine snails (operculates) than your common land snails (pulmonates).  Amateur malacologist Phil Liff-Grieff (@pliffgrieff) tells me, “One way to see this is the location of the eyes; pulmonate eyes are at the end of their tentacles/eyestalks and operculates (both terrestrial and many marine) are at the base of the tentacles.”

As a child, Yang Yi (pictured above) was interested in nature, and devoured nature documentaries and TV shows such as those by Steve Irwin, but says

I grew up in a conventional culture, so my hobby ([thought to be] useless and ridiculous) wasn't properly supported and guided...I believe exposure to nature and cultivation of its aesthetic from early age can contribute to a lasting effect on one's development beyond measure

Yang Yi graduated from the School of Microelectronics at Fudan University this past June, and he’s now thinking about a career in conservation. “I'll soon go for an internship on bats across Yunnan Province and Southeast Asia, administratively based in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), meanwhile look for a possible postgraduate opportunity.”

The iNaturalist community in East Asia continues to grow, and when talking about why he uses iNat, Yang Yi quotes Hong Kong stalwart @sunnetchan:

As @sunnetchan points out, a drive lies in the obligation to record as many graceful life as possible before they are wiped out due to our neglect: pollution, commercial exploitation, climate change… There are never enough ecologists, so the data from citizen scientists matter.

- by Tony Iwane (Note that some of Yang Yi's quotes have been lightly edited.)

Posted on December 15, 2017 09:36 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 22, 2017

iNaturalist in Argentina / iNaturalist en Argentina

A few months ago, @loarie wrote a blog post about how international iNaturalist is. Piggybacking on that, we thought it might be interesting to do a deep dive into each country. And with spring and summer underway in the southern hemisphere, here's a look at some of the numbers for Argentina! Below is a map of Argentina which shows the number of observations spread out regionally. In each region, the top observer is shown.
Hace unos meses, @loarie escribió una entrada de blog de que tan internacional es iNaturalist. Llevando a cuestas eso, pensamos que sería interesante ser una inmersión profunda en cada país. Y con la primavera y verano en marcha en el hemisferio sur, aquí están unos números para Argentina. A continuación se muestra un mapa de Argentina y los números de observaciones distribuidas regionalmente. En cada región, se muestra el observador superior.


And here's a chart of observations per month, showing iNat's growth in Argentina. Mouse over to see the top observer for each month.
Y aquí hay una tabla de observaciones por mes, ensenando el crecimiento de iNat en Argentina. Pase el ratón sobre el mapa para ver el observador superior de cada mes.

Finally, below is a breakdown of the groups of species that people are observing within Argentina. The top identifier for each group based on the number of identifications on these observations is also shown.
Finalmente, a continuación se muestra un desglose de los grupos de especies que las personas están observando dentro de Argentina. El identificador superior para cada grupo esta basado en el número de identificaciones en estas observaciones también.



We contacted several of top iNaturalist users in Argentina to get their perspective about iNaturalist:
Nos pusimos en contacto con varios de los principales usuarios de iNaturalist en Argentina para obtener su perspectiva sobre iNaturalist:

@nicoolejnik: In my opinion iNaturalist is a very useful tool to better understand the biodiversity that surrounds us. Argentina is a country with an enormous diversity of flora and fauna, with many species poorly studied and not yet even described, so platforms like iNaturalist are excellent for documenting observations of these and other species.

As the community of users of this site increases in the country, a database and photographs about our flora and fauna will be generated, which will be fundamental to understanding the distribution of the species and through the photographic records to better understand the different types of colorations, sizes, shapes, plumage stages and life cycles of said animals and plants.

In my particular case I use the site as a detailed record of all the species that I manage to photograph during my field trips. Finally I think the site is an excellent learning tool to allow us to observe images of many species in different areas of the country, and it is a useful tool for beginning observers of flora and fauna.

To give an example, during the last years I gave several courses of ornithology and birdwatching in which I included the use of iNaturalist as a tool to record bird observations and to learn about the distribution and abundance of birds in different areas of the country.

En mi opinion iNaturalist es una herramienta sumamente util para entender mejor la biodiversidad que nos rodea. Argentina es un pais con una enorme diversidad de flora y fauna, con muchas especies pobremente estudiadas e incluso sin describir aun, por lo que las plataformas como Inaturalist resultan excelentes para documentar observaciones de estas y otras especies.

A medida que la comunidad de usuarios de este sitio vaya en aumento en el pais se generara una base de datos y fotografias sobre nuestra flora y fauna que va a ser fundamental para entender la distribucion de las especies y mediante los registros fotograficos llegar a entender mejor los distintos tipos de coloraciones, tamaños, formas, estadios de plumajes y ciclos de vida de dichos animales y plantas.

En mi caso particular utilizo el sitio como un registro detallado de todas las especies que logre fotografiar durante mis salidas de campo. Finalmente creo que el sitio es una excelente herramienta de aprendizaje al permitirnos observar imagenes de muchisimas especies en distintas zonas del pais, ademas resulta una herramienta util para los observadores de flora y fauna que estan comenzando en el tema.

Por dar un ejemplo, durante los ultimos años dicte varios cursos de ornitologia y observacion de aves en los cuales inclui el uso de Inaturalist como herramienta para registrar observaciones de aves y para aprender sobre la distribucion y abundancia de las aves en distintas zonas del pais.


@ezequielvera: I discovered iNaturalist recently (in fact, I started to do birdwatching activities quite recently). In Argentina, the iNat community seems to be growing, but is (still) a small one. There are other platforms that have been here for a long time (in particular EcoRegistros, and also eBird) that seem to have a great number of users. I try to use the three, because I believe they serve different purposes.

I really like the fact that users can suggest identifications for the taxa reported, helping to correctly identify the species. It is like a peer review system. And the same community of users is what makes it work better. I'm totally amazed at how precise the species suggestions can be sometimes when trying to identify uploaded taxa. And certainly when more and more users contribute with data, this will work better and better.

Also, the possibility to edit names to allow local common names appear, is a fantastic addon. Even if it may be a little tedious (adding names of every taxon), if everyone contributed from time to time editing the names...

I use iNat mostly to have a life list or travel list, with photos and georeferences. In particular, I'm also interested in taxa from where I live, Buenos Aires. I am part of one of the many birdwatching clubs (Clubes de Observadores de Aves) dependant from Aves Argentinas, and iNat also provides an interesting tool to attract people to birdwatching activities and nature conservation, creating field guides or looking for species reported in a particular location.

Keep up the fantastic work!!

Descubrí iNaturalist recientemente (de hecho, comencé a realizar observación de aves muy recientemente). En Argentina, la comunidad de iNat pare estar creciendo, pero es (todavía) una comunidad pequeña. Hay otras plataformas que han estado por aquí hace bastante mas tiempo (en particular Ecoregistros, y también eBird) que poseen un mayor número de usuarios. Trato de usar las tres, porque creo que sirven para diferentes objetivos.

Realmente me gusta mucho el heco de que una de las características mas relevantes de iNat es que las identificaciones tienen que ser revisadas por los usuarios. Es como un sistema de revisión por pares. Y es la misma comunidad de usuarios la que hace que funcione mejor. Estoy totalmente sorprendido con lo preciso que es muchas veces con las sugerencias de las especies, al momento de tratar de identificar taxones que son subidos. Y ciertamente cuantos mas datos son subidos, el sistema funciona cada vez mejor.

Además, la posibilidad de editar los nombres, para permitir que el sistema muestre nombres locales, es una adición fantástica. Aún si puede resultar un poco tedioso (el agregado de los nombres de cada especie), si todos contribuyen de vez en cuando editando nombres...

Uso iNat principalmente para generar una lista de todas las especies vistas de por vida, o una lista de viaje, con fotos y georeferencias. En particular, estoy interesado en taxones que viven donde yo vivo, la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Formo parte de uno de los muchos Clubes de Observadores de Aves dependientes de Aves Argentinas, e iNat también funciona como una herramienta interesante para atraer gente a las actividades de observacion de aves y conservación de la naturaleza, generando listas de campo o buscando especies reportadas en regiones particulares.

Sigan con el fantástico trabajo que están realizando!



@guille: I use iNat in many ways, andI love it! First, it helps me track my pictures of plants and animals that I see, since I have a digital camera. It also helps me learn the names of those organisms, it makes me put in the effort to identify them, and it makes me happy when other people who know those organisms confirm my ID or suggest a different organism that I did not previously know. I have learned a lot from iNat.

Second, I have started many projects, some of them are related to an NGO (BIOTA) that makes efforts to improve the geographic distribution of threatened species of my state, Mendoza, and seeks to identify priority areas for conservation. There are many people who help with these projects, like @pepeportela, @leandro, @valentingf, @exequielb, @johi_abraham, and many other collaborators.

Another project that started recently, and is growing rapidly, is “ Biodiversidad en viñedos de la Argentina” (Biodiversity of Argentinean Vineyards). With @pepeportela and @romanelagiusti Istarted this project so recently that most of the records are still on our cameras!

The aim is to show the diversity of organisms living in vineyards, especially those that are set close to nature, and get some ideas for how to more sustainably manage this crop and make it work with native species conservation. In the near future, we want to develop a iNat guide of vineyard biodiversity for winegrowers to adopt, and we hope to also convince them to start their own projects about biodiversity in their vineyards.

Uso iNat de varias maneras, de hecho, me encanta! Primero que nada me ayuda porque puedo ver todos los registros y fotos que he tomado de plantas y animales desde que tengo cámara digital. También me ayuda a conocer los nombres de esos organismos, el hecho de cargar los registros hace que me esfuerze en identificarlos y es reconfortante cuando los especialistas confirman mi ID o sugieren especies que no conocía previamente. He aprendido mucho gracias a iNat.

Segundo, he iniciado varios proyectos, algunos de ellos están relacionados con una ONG (BIOTA) que dedica esfuerzos en mejorar el conocimiento de la distribución geográfica de especies amenazadas y endémicas de Mendoza, y busca identificar áreas prioritarias para la conservación. Dentro de esos proyectos hay muchas personas involucradas que ayudan con sus observaciones, como @pepeportela, @leandro, @valentingf, @exequielb, @johi_abraham y otros colaboradores.

Otro proyecto que comenzó hace poco y que está creciendo rápidamente en observaciones es “Biodiversidad en viñedos de la Argentina”. Con @pepeportela y @romanelagiusti iniciamos este proyecto que es tan nuevo, que la mayoría de las fotos están aún dentro de nuestras cámaras fotográficas!

El objetivo de este proyecto es mostrar la diversidad de organismos presentes en viñedos, en especial aquellos que se encuentran en contacto con zonas naturales, y obtener información para lograr un manejo de este cultivo que sea más sustentable y amigable con la conservación de especies nativas. En un futuro cercano nos gustaría desarrollar una guía en iNaturalist sobre esta temática para que sea adoptada por los dueños de los viñedos, como así también esperamos convencerlos de comenzar sus propios proyectos de biodiversidad.

(Sections in English have been lightly edited.)

Posted on December 22, 2017 07:38 PM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 24, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/23/17

Our Observation of the Week is a well-camouflaged Egyptian nightjar, seen in Iraq by @zain1224!

A naturalist from Iraq, zain1224 got into nature, as many of us did, through insects, which he found “intriguing” as as child. He read articles about birds and other organisms, and says “when I got a camera I began to photograph insects and every living that I laid eyes on.”

Insects, are also how he spotted the Egyptian nightjar pictured above. He recalls,

I was walking around with me and my friend in the area called the Baghdad district in Muhafda Basra in southern Iraq, and I was filming insects when I saw a bird fly from the dry grass. And when I went to the place it flew I found the bird's nest and there were birds but not adults and it was wonderful. I took the camera and I took a few shots.

The name “nightjar” comes from an old belief that these birds suck the milk from goats (and apparently put it in a jar?). While the “night” part is correct - they rely on camouflage plumage to hide during the day, then awake at dusk - nightjars instead consume moths and other large nocturnal insects, thanks to their insanely wide mouths. The one zain1224 saw is a juvenile, and you can see it with another nightjar (possibly a parent) in the photo below. They don’t build nests but rather their their eggs on the ground. This species, the Egyptian nightjar, ranges from southwestern Asia to northern Africa.

“I use inaturalist because I want to share with people what I'm filming and say that we humans are not the ones who live in this small world,” says zain1224. “ Every creature must be respected no matter how small. iNaturalist has changed my view of the world, because the world is full of animals in every corner of this planet, there are lives to discover and document.”

- by Tony Iwane

(Some of zain1224′s quotes have been lightly edited.)


- After a shaky beginning, here’s some great footage of an Egyptian nightjar. 

- Check out Cosmos magazine’s article about nightjar camouflage, which includes some awesome in situ photos.

- There are over 350 observations in Iraq, most of which are zain1224′s, definitely take a look at them.

Posted on December 24, 2017 02:08 AM by tiwane tiwane | 1 comments | Leave a comment

December 27, 2017

Tallying observed Vertebrate species with "complete taxa"

As a community, we've observed 1/3 of all known vertebrate species on iNaturalist! Plus, we're ticking an additional 5 to 10 new species each day. How do we know this? We're introducing new functionality that allows us to mark a taxonomic clade on iNaturalist as "complete" and then keep track of how many species on that list are ticked off with observations over time. Below I'll explain how we're using "complete taxa" tools to tally vertebrate species.

Marking a clade as complete means that all extant species in the clade are included in the iNaturalist taxonomy - no more and no fewer. Since vertebrates are marked as complete, you'll now notice new decorations under the taxonomy tab indicating this on taxon pages that fall within it. There is also a section listing "Taxon Curators" who are now the only curators with permissions to edit members of a complete clade.

Because complete taxa give us a clearer understanding of all the potential species in a clade, they allow us to track some interesting stats about progress the iNaturalist community has made in ticking these off of the list. At the top of a taxon page that falls within a complete taxon, you'll see a new "Total Species Observed" stat which, at the time of this writing, is "22,538 of 68,295" for vertebrates. The denominator is defined by the "complete" iNaturalist taxonomy and the numerator counts the subset of these species that have been observed. It's kind of remarkable that we've collectively observed 1/3 of all vertebrate species. Considering the thousands of rare deep-sea fishes, tropical herps with tiny ranges, and nocturnal bats and rodents that this number includes, this is a pretty amazing accomplishment!.

Under the trends tab, below the "Trending" feed there are two new feeds. The first is "Discoveries." This shows the most recent newly-identified species in the taxon. The second is "Wanted" which shows species in the taxon that have not yet been observed.

I did a quick analysis of the vertebrate discoveries from the last 38 days and I count:

91 reptiles

43 amphibians

56 birds

19 mammals

78 ray-finned fishes

3 other fishes
Here's how those discoveries over the last 38 days stack up over time. It's pretty exciting to see that we're getting about 5-10 new vertebrates added to iNaturalist each day. At that rate it will take us about 4 more years to reach half of all vertebrates. It will be interesting to see if that rate gets damped by increasingly hard-to-get species or boosted by a growing iNaturalist community.

You can click through to see the actual observations responsible for the growth in Discoveries. Mapping them reveals that most of these discoveries are coming from the tropics of the world. For example,
here's a map of the bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian discoveries from the last 38 days. This should come as no surprise since the tropics harbor the richest biodiversity on the planet and also represent some of the least-explored areas by the iNaturalist global community.

Two caveats: first, the discovery feed pulls from verifiable observations. Some are the result of mis-IDs. But they disappear from the feed as they get corrected. Second, some of the entries in the discoveries feed are triggered by taxonomic changes. For example, if the scientific name of a species changes, then the first identification of the output species will trigger an entry in the feed even though there were already identifications of the input taxon. We're working on a solution to keep these out of the feed, but in the meantime I tried to manually exclude these cases from the numbers above, but there are less than 5 complex cases that remain (e.g. when a species was in the system as two active synonyms representing the same taxa and then swapped together).

Taxonomic Details


Taxonomy is still very much a work in progress. It may come as surprise to some that we don't yet have a global list for plants or even butterflies. This means that the taxonomy for many branches of the tree of life for iNaturalist will inevitably be messy. Some taxa will be missing, while others will be duplicated as "synonyms" (different names that all refer to the same taxon). Fortunately, the branch of life representing we humans and our closest relatives, the vertebrates, is relatively well-known. For each of the 10 classes making up this subphylum, there are relatively well-maintained and continually updating checklists that list all extant species members globally. iNaturalist has adopted several of these lists as external taxonomic references. They are: FishBase for the 6 fish Classes, Amphibian Species of the World for amphibians, the Reptiles Database for reptiles, the Clements Checklist of Birds of the World for birds, and the IUCN RedList itself for mammals.

While new species of vertebrates are being described each day, these external taxonomic references at least strive to be relatively complete and to keep relatively up to date. Keeping iNaturalist in sync with these lists should, in theory, reduce curation work and taxonomic confusion for everybody

However, it's difficult to get the entire iNaturalist community onboard with a single external taxonomic reference. The inevitable errors, lag-time in adopting new species, and subjective taxonomic opinions in any list will frustrate some members of the iNaturalist community. When this happens, we can make an exception against using the external taxonomic reference for the controversial taxon/taxa in question by making an explicit discrepancy. For example, the Reptile Database considers just one species of Mountain Kingsnake in California, Lampropeltis zonata sensu lato (meaning in the broad sense). However, the most widely used regional reptile reference in California considers these snakes to represent 2 species, Lampropeltis multifasciata and Lampropeltis zonata sensu stricto (meaning in the narrow sense). It might therefore make sense for iNaturalist to make an explicit discrepancy to avoid following the Reptile Database's decision to merge Lampropeltis multifasciata & Lampropeltis zonata sensu stricto into Lampropeltis zonata sensu lato.

I've created journal posts to serve as discussions for proposing and making decisions about explicit discrepancies for
reptiles, fishes, mammals, and amphibians. Please contribute to those conversations if you'd like to discuss explicit discrepancies for each of these clades.

Posted on December 27, 2017 07:42 AM by loarie loarie | 11 comments | Leave a comment

Year In Review 2017

We like stats, and we like you, so we made this year-in-review page for you to consider (and share!):

https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/2017

What's that, you want to see your own stats? We've got you covered:

https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/2017/you

Most of it is self-explanatory, but there are some tricky bits:

  • We're mostly just showing counts of verifiable observations. That means even though we're showing some "casual" observations in the pie chart at the top, the number in the middle is for your verifiable observations.

  • "Species" means "leaf taxa." If you have one observation of Genus Hyla and another of the species Vulpes vulpes we count that as two "species." If you have one of Genus Vulpes and another of the species Vulpes vulpes, we count that as one "species."

  • "Most Comments and Faves" are sorted by faves, then comments. Observations with lots of comments tend to be interesting, but observations with lots of faves tend to be pretty. We're suckers for pretty.

  • The map is interactive! Zoom around and you can watch the animation on a local scale. You can also click the date to pause and use the arrow keys to move forward and backward in time.

  • The "sunburst" is also interactive! This diagram will probably be a bit mystifying for some folks, but mousing over things will explain what the arcs represent, and you can click on them to view just that taxon. For touch users, tapping will have to suffice.

We may add a few more charts if we're not too busy celebrating the new year (or surviving our holiday colds). Hope you're all having a splendid holiday season, and, as always, many thanks for all you've done to make iNat what it is today! Here's to another great year.

Posted on December 27, 2017 10:42 PM by kueda kueda | 46 comments | Leave a comment

December 30, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/29/17

Our Observation of the Week is a Middle-European weasel (and its child), seen in New Zealand by @oscarkokako!

For someone who’s only seventeen years of age, oscarkokako is already an accomplished naturalist. His interest in birds was sparked by a field trip to the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary when he was just eight years old. “I had a school teacher who was one of the founders…[and] I quickly got hooked on New Zealand’s diverse and unique array of native birds, my favourite being the Kokako (even though it took a few trips to see one),” says Oscar.

He’s already seen over 160 of New Zealand’s birds species, and was recently part of a research trip to the Chatham Islands, “to help survey their critically endangered birds, including the Shore plover, Chatham Island snipe and the Black robin.” The latter species was one of the rarest birds in the world, with a lone breeding pair in existence (and five individuals overall) by 1980. In addition to  birds, Oscar says he’s now “trying to branch out into reptiles, insects and other [taxa] to gain a better idea of the entire picture.”

Mammals, of course, would be one of those non-avian taxa, as Oscar’s fantastic photo proves. He was volunteering for Napier’s Department of Conservation and he and friend went to the estuary to look for some birds that had recently been sighted there, when

Not 100 metres down the track from where I observed them, I came across the weasel. It was maybe 20cm long and running directly at me, holding its young (which at the time I thought was a baby rabbit). I heard these creatures were fairly blind so I decided to just lie down on the path and wait for it to come closer for a photo. Better to document this event than to try and catch it, as they are rarely photographed in New Zealand.

About that last point, Oscar is definitely correct - of the 15 Middle-European weasels (in New Zealand) posted on iNat, Oscar’s is the only one that depicts a living animal (the rest are all dead ones found in traps). Weasels were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s, as a response to the growing rabbit overpopulation problem on the islands, and they now pose a threat to many of the island’s native organisms.

“For some context, New Zealand had no mammalian predators before humans arrived here, bringing rodents, mustelids, cats and dogs,” says Oscar.

As a result, none of our native wildlife had adapted to protect itself against threats such as these. Many of the birds even became near flightless, as they had to hide from aerial predators through camouflage. Mammals, however, hunt using smell as opposed to sight, rendering many of our species defences futile. Kakapo are said to have a musty-sweet odour, which may be why only 130 individuals remain today.

Oscar, pictured above with a Kokako perched on his head, is currently a volunteer guide at Tiritiri Matangi and working with the Auckland Zoo on their conservation efforts. He uses iNaturalist to “keep a catalogue of all the organisms I see around the country. Obviously, this is difficult to achieve with insects and plants, as they are so plentiful and harder to identify correctly. I even have trouble walking past plants now without stopping to check if I’ve uploaded it yet.

NaturewatchNZ [iNat’s partner site in New Zealand] is full of smart and helpful users ready to identify even the most indecipherable photographs of things. A few years ago I had no idea about the website, but now I find more and more of my friends joining up, or else coming to me with the organisms they cannot identify. Our community consists of over 5,000 members with 272,000 observations of 11,300 species, and is steadily increasing.

- by Tony Iwane


- Elizabeth Kolbert wrote an interesting article about New Zealand and its invasive mammal problem for The New Yorker.

- A species of fungus new to New Zealand was discovered on NatureWatchNZ.

- This short video shows a calling Kokako on Tiritiri Matangi.

Posted on December 30, 2017 12:58 AM by tiwane tiwane | 4 comments | Leave a comment