Journal archives for July 2018

July 06, 2018

Identify Suggestions on Obs Detail Page

We're running a test of using the Suggestions from the Identify tool on the observation detail pages on the web instead of the Identotron (click the button at the bottom of any obs detail page). On the plus side, you don't have to leave the page, you can look at options from observations and vision in addition to just checklists, and you get a little more info about each taxon. On the minus side, no more quirky name, can't peruse a lot of maps at once, no color filtering (not that that was really working). Mostly just posting here as a way to solicit bug reports.

Anyway, if nothing really bad turns up in a few days we'll make this the default. Holler if you find any problems.

Posted on July 06, 2018 11:38 PM by kueda kueda | 10 comments | Leave a comment

July 10, 2018

“My break time is the time for iNat! ;-)”: Observation of the Week, July 10, 2018

Our Observation of the Week is this Clown Stink Bug, seen in South Korea by @wongun!

Sometimes iNaturalist users ask us, or members of our Google Group, if they should take down observations which no one has identified to a family, or genus, or species level. I always tell them you never know who might come along and be able to identify their observation at a later date, and the reason I say this is because of users like wongun.

The insect order Heteroptera, also known as “true bugs,” contains tens of thousands of species and, for a long time on iNaturalist, it would be tough to get IDs on many observations of Heteropterans. Then one day last year I saw that all of a sudden a new user named wongun had started adding identifications, at least to family and genus level and sometimes to species, to many of my languishing bug observations. Others were experiencing the same thing, and it was a great feeling to see some of your older observations get some attention. It’s kind of magical when a stranger halfway across the world helps you learn just a little bit more about what you had observed. And we almost missed having him as an iNaturalist member.

“I accidentally found iNat [while] searching for something,” recalls WonGun Kim.

I used to upload my photos to a local site, but once or at most a few times for each species. Recently, I needed data on when and where I found the species, and I thought iNat was a suitable place...After beginning iNat, I have been studying Heteroptera from over the world for identifying other observations, and such activity in iNat made my knowledge on the Heteroptera broader and more systematic.

In just over a year, WonGun has become an invaluable member of the iNaturalist community, adding nearly thirty thousand identifications to other users’ observations - an incredible number for a difficult taxonomic group. It’s this kind of dedication and generosity that makes iNaturalist run.

And how does he find time to make all of these IDs? Simple: “My break time is the time for iNat! ;-)”

In what has become a common theme among Observation of the Week users, WonGun says he was interested in nature as a child, but that interest until he procured a camera.

Although I was born and grown in the city, I often went to and stayed with my grandparents in the outlands. I learned the names of the plants from my grandfather, a farmer. But I lost my interest in nature after my family lived together in the city. My interest in nature began again about ten years ago due to the development of the digital camera. I began to take photos of flowers and plants, and then my interest moved to the insects. Now, I am mainly interested in true bugs, particularly in the plant bugs.

He was in the field with a colleague and it was his colleague who caught the stunning Clown Stink Bug at the top of the page. “[This] beautiful species has two color forms and is very common in Korea,” he says.

The Clown Stink Bug belongs to the family Scutelleridae, which are also known as “jewel bugs”. While not true Stink Bugs (family Pentatomidae), they can emit an unpleasant odor when threatened, much like their relatives. And like other true bugs they have tubular mouthparts, which they use for feeding on the saps and juices of plants. The Clown Stink Bug’s remarkable iridescence is caused by structures in its exoskeleton which refract and scatter the light. Awesome.

Not only a photographer, WonGun has also written some papers on Korean Heteroptera and is the second author of an illustrated guide to terrestrial Heteroptera of Korea, containing around 490 species. It will be published in a few days.

- by Tony Iwane


- Check out more Clown Stink Bug observations on iNaturalist, which show off both color forms of this species as well as the quite different-looking nymphs!

Sweet footage of a Clown Stink Bug walking around and doing its thing.

Posted on July 10, 2018 11:26 PM by tiwane tiwane | 20 comments | Leave a comment

July 13, 2018

An Interview with @greglasley

If you have posted a bird, dragonfly, or damselfly observation to iNaturalist, odds are that former law enforcement officer and lifelong nature enthusiast Greg Lasley (@greglasley) has added an identification to it. With over 262,000 IDs made for over 13,000 users, Greg is iNaturalist’s current top identifier (@aguilita is a close second) and he has shared a lifetime of knowledge and experience with our with iNaturalist community. The humility and generosity of many in the iNaturalist community really is wonderful.

I had the opportunity to interview Greg this past April during the “Southwest Texas iNat-a-thon” and we discussed his experience with nature photography, how iNaturalist has changed the way he photographs wildlife, and about his ID contributions. A humble man, Greg didn’t have too much to say about that last topic but it was great to hear how he has found a home for decades worth of photographic slides and how documenting species for iNaturalist has changed his habits and objectives when out in the field. Check out the interview below, and look for @briangooding, iNat’s top Odonata identifier, in a brief cameo).

An Interview with @greglasley from iNaturalist on Vimeo.

And here are some related links:

- Greg’s professional nature photography page.

-  An Observation of the Week post we wrote about Greg in 2016.

- A Texas Parks and Wildlife video that features Greg at about 3:30.

Posted on July 13, 2018 10:10 PM by tiwane tiwane | 24 comments | Leave a comment

July 17, 2018

A Snail with a "Bubble Raft" - Observation of the Week, 7/16/18

Our Observation of the Week is this Violet Sea Snail, seen in Brazil by @deboas!

Ben Phalan (deboas) is currently residing in the Brazil, where he is a visiting professor at the Federal University of Bahia, but he’s taken quite a route to get there. Originally from rural Ireland, Ben says “I’ve been a naturalist for as long as I can remember...I was free to spend the entire day out exploring woods, fields, ponds and a large garden. My parents were very supportive, and were unfazed when I filled my bedroom with fungi, ferns, jars housing tadpoles and caterpillars, old skulls, discarded fragments of birds’ eggshells, and whatever else captured my interest.”

While his interests covered nearly all taxa, Ben says he “found it most satisfying when I could put a name to what I had found...and I think I ended up focusing most on birds because of the satisfaction of being able to identify them to species level.” He joined what is now BirdWatch Ireland and eventually learned to band birds, even venturing to Bird Island off of South Georgia to band albatrosses. Ben thanks his many mentors over the years, including John Marsh, the late Oscar Merne, and Alyn Walsh.

Switching gears to study “the effects of agricultural expansion and intensification on biodiversity in Ghana, West Africa” for his PhD, Ben has travelled to West Africa several times, “recently to lead an expedition in search of the enigmatic Liberian Greenbul (a species that was described in the early 1980s, but which – partly thanks to blood samples I collected in Liberia – we now know was never a valid species).”

And after stints in Cambridge, England and Corvallis, Oregon, Ben has found himself in Salvador, Brazil, where he says “the incredible biodiversity of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and Caatinga is sure to keep me occupied for years!” And that biodiversity includes, of course pelagic snails that might wash up on the beach:

I was walking with my wife and dog along a beach in Salvador and started to notice beautiful little blue sea snails (Janthina) washed up along the tideline. I’d left my smartphone at home for safety, but luckily my wife had hers and I was able to document a few of the snails. I had heard about these ocean wanderers, but this was the first time I was lucky enough to see one...There were also some small Portuguese Men o’ War washed up, which is one of the prey species of Janthina, and some shells which I took to be from a gastropod. In fact, the shells were from a deep-water, bioluminescing squid-like creature called Spirula, which is the only member of its Order.

Look closely at Ben’s snail photos and you will notice a mass of bubblies by the shell’s opening - this is its “bubble raft,” which the animal uses to stay afloat in the open ocean. It “collects” the bubbles in transparent layers of chiton and, as Ben notes, “incredibly, for a species that spends its life on the open sea, the adults can’t swim. If they get detached from their bubble raft, they’ll sink and die.” The snails do feed on hydrozoans like the Portuguese Man o’ War and By-the-wind Sailor and like many other marine life are countershaded - one side of the shell is dark purple, the other whitish.

“The feeling of contributing to something bigger is the main thing that attracted me to [iNaturalist],” says Ben (above, checking out some large fungi in Oregon). “I like being able to learn more about the species I encounter, and it makes me especially happy to know that my observations become part of GBIF and can be used by researchers worldwide.” He’s also begun adding old observations from his time in Africa and admits “I spend probably more time than I should adding identifications. I tend to focus on birds in Brazil, but occasionally dabble in other taxa and regions as well. It’s especially satisfying to find and correct misidentifications. I have definitely learned a lot through doing this.”

- by Tony Iwane. Photo of Ben Phalan by Luciana Leite.


- You can find Ben’s publications here

- You want to watch a Janthina snail make a bubble raft, right?

- Ben still manages BioBlitz projects in Corvallis, Oregon from Brazil, like this one

Posted on July 17, 2018 01:43 AM by tiwane tiwane | 1 comments | Leave a comment