Journal archives for January 2022

January 11, 2022

A Conservationist in Ecuador Finds a Leafy Skinlichen! - Observation of the Week, 1/11/22

Our Observation of the Week is this Leafy Skinlichen (Leptogium phyllocarpum), seen in Ecuador by @angelmario!

Angel Mario Hulapa Erazo (below, in 1990) lives in the southern Ecuadorian town of Loja and says he’s always been interested in nature, but two seminal trips in his teen years, to the Cordillera del Condor and Podocarpus National Park, inspired him to take up a career in conservation - the field in which he’s spent the last 32 years of his life.

[In the] Cordillera del Condor…I met the Shuar (an amazonian indigenous group) and became impressed with their knowledge about the forest and everything connected to it. I was excited to see monkeys, jaguars, sahinos (wild pigs), snakes (boas, yamungas, equis, corals), toucans, cocks of the rock, yamalas, agoutis, poisonous frogs, alligators and others…

[and in the] Lagunas del Compadre protected area [of Podocarpus National Park], which included a strenuous hike for 14 km with limited mountain equipment, I managed to reach to this place for which I have a lot of respect due to the harshness of its conditions and its beauty where I was able to observe deer, spectacled bears, wolves, mountain tapir and jambato frog (Atelopus Podocarpus now extinct). Every time I was in nature, my interest and curiosity grew. It also allowed me to learn about the threats faced by ecosystems which motivated me to work on the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.

At age 17, Angel and some of his friends founded a conservation NGO where he worked for 24 years, then he founded Grupo Green Jewel with Paola Rengel, for which he is the General Coordinator. The group focuses on environmental education in southern Ecuador and northern Peru and also works with iNat’s partner in Ecuador, INABIO, to promote iNaturalistEc, the City Nature Challenge, the Great Southern Bioblitz, and Bioblitz LatAm, among other initiatives. 

As for the amazing lichen you see pictured above, Angel came across it while in the cloud forests of Yacuri National Park, supporting students working on a thesis project about frogs. “We had been enduring a very harsh climate for two days,” he recalls,

[and] the rain and the cold caused my camera to have problems - that is why I had to use my phone’s camera to take pictures. The third day the weather improved and in the trunks of the trees I could see this lichen (Leptogium phyllocarpum). Its pattern captivated me, since I had never seen it before. I think that if the weather had not changed and if I had not accepted the invitation of the students to accompany them to their field trip, now I would not be telling this story, for that reason, I firmly believe that nature has magic and connects us with the world.

Found in many parts of the world, leafy skinlichen is often found growing on bark (sometimes rocks) in drier areas. However, it’s known to swell quite a bit when wet, which you can see in Angel’s photo. The reddish areas of the lichen are its apothecia, or spore-bearing structures. 

Angel (above, in 2020) has, for years, taken nature photos but tells me

I always thought that having them on a hard drive or computer was useless. And although some of these photographs I used for guides, manuals, presentations, posters, folders and videos, I was still frustrated about not being able to share them with more people. With social networks I found a window to share my photos and that made me feel a little better, but something was missing, the science was missing on platforms Facebook and Twitter.

At the urging of an English friend and conservationist he joined iNat in 2019 but didn’t use it much until he was invited to the launch of iNaturalistEc. At that presentation, “I saw many of the uses and I said to myself, ‘this is the tool I have been looking for.’” He and others with Grupo Green Jewel have been teaching park rangers, students, technicians, and others how to use iNat, and this year “we are going to launch the ‘Bichos Loxa’ initiative to encourage walking and recording biodiversity in the iNaturalistEc of parks, trails and natural areas, aimed at children, youth and adults who love biodiversity and adventure...

iNaturalist changed the way I interact with biodiversity and the environment. I am more observant of details,I’ve been able to discover introduced species, threatened and endangered species, and species potentially new to science or the region. This knowledge has allowed us to generate more knowledge to share with our colleagues, with our talks and conversations with various local groups. In addition, we believe that the information will help local governments in their territorial planning, especially in the creation of new protected areas. This year, we are going to take small photographic guides of local biodiversity derived from information on iNaturalist in order to share with the public in our environmental education program Biodiversity of Southern Ecuador to raise awareness and strengthen the environmental consciousness of the local community.

iNaturalist has become part of our daily lives…[and] I believe that the time we spend entering observations and helping with identifications is a great contribution to the knowledge of biodiversity. Personally I consider myself an iNaturalist that’s why I use the hashtag #SomosInaturalistEc and for this year we will also use #SoyInaturalistEc.

(Quotes translated from Spanish by Scott Loarie, and have been edited for clarity.)

- Check out Grupo Green Jewel on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

- Lichens are awesome! Check out the most-faved lichen observations on iNat here.

- This is a pretty good lichen video explainer.

- Angel’s leafy skinlichen was originally identified by @kai_schablewski - check out our Identifier Profile about him!

Posted on January 11, 2022 10:32 PM by tiwane tiwane | 19 comments | Leave a comment

January 18, 2022

A Young Naturalist Spots a Tree-Like Moss in Lithuania! - Observation of the Week, 1/18/22

Our Observation of the Day is this Tree Climacium Moss (Climacium dendroides, Palminė junetė in Lithuanian), seen in Lithuania by @stelute!

[@stelute is an account shared by a young naturalist, seven year-old Stela Beatrice Nauburyte (Stelute is a nickname), and her mother Brigita. Brigita answered my questions via email, so the quotes all come from her. - Tony]

“On the first day of 2022, while walking in the forest,” recalls Brigita,

Stela Beatrice noticed the tree climacium moss and exclaimed “Mom, look what a beautiful moss!” Mother still doubted if it was worth photographing, because this type of moss had both been found before, but Stela persevered.  “So green in winter, so gentle, so soft - just amazing, let's take a picture!” And it was definitely worth it! This discovery by Stelute not only delighted the girl, but also received pleasant attention from the iNaturalist community :)...

Walking along the forest paths, discovering various mosses, watching the life of beetles is like hearing a new fairy tale of Nature, unheard of and more and more interesting.

A species that’s found in many moist places across Eurasia, North America, and parts of New Zealand, tree climacium moss gets its common name from the palm tree-like stems which can grow up to 10 cm tall.

Stela learned about iNaturalist last year when two Lithuanian iNatters, @almantas and @tomasp, appeared on TV to promote their “Surask juos visus 2” (“Find them all 2”) project, encouraging young Lithuanians to find 100 interesting species in the country. She found a very cool Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus, Platusis elniavabalis in Lithuanian) soon after that an “she brought it in the palm of her hand and asked - ‘What is it, maybe one of the hundred we are looking for?’ It was fantastic to see those joyful eyes when she heard the positive answer!” says Brigita.

So in the spring of 2021, Stelute, her brother, and her mother began exploring nature nature - meadows, forests, near water bodies, around home. Stelute’s parents, relatives and some friends got involved as well. It is a wonderful incentive to take a fresh look at the environment around us, to fall in love with nature's creations once again and more sincerely. And where there are new friendship with Nature enthusiast, photographer, and poet Ramunė Vakarė (@ramune_vakare), entomologist of Kaunas Tadas Ivanauskas Zoology Museum and researcher at the Botanical Garden of Vytautas Magnus University Vytautas Tamutis (@vytautas_tamutis), and of course countless other information and photos from iNaturalist observers from all over the world, which Stelute and her family view and discuss - this is an inexhaustible source of knowledge!

Her camera and a phone with the iNaturalist app has become an indispensable helper in answering Stelute's (above) constant questions: “What is the name of this wonderful flower? And how long does this bird live? Why is it so hard to photograph this  northern dune tiger beetle? What do butterflies feed on?” And hundreds more :) Mom can no longer answer “I don't know...” to the questions of a young nature lover. Stelute immediately reminds her - “Let's take a look at the iNaturalist app!” It is gratifying that we find the answers immediately, and they are gladly supplemented by other iNaturalist observers. Thanks to that she felt like a young scientist!

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

- Almantas Kulbis’s Bird’s Nest orchid was featured as an Observation of the Week over four years ago!

- Brigita tells me that Stelute hopes to eventually have a career in science, but is not sure what field that might be. She has a small microscope but would love to eventually get one that allows her to see bacteria and other micscrosopic organisms.

Posted on January 18, 2022 10:30 PM by tiwane tiwane | 14 comments | Leave a comment

January 21, 2022

We're hiring a Systems Architect to help iNaturalist scale!

As you might have noticed, some parts of iNaturalist have struggled to keep up with growth. We haven’t grown our small team at iNaturalist for more than three years now, and in that time the site has grown more than 400%.

We’re pleased to announce that we are now searching for a skilled systems architect to help us keep iNaturalist scaling. While we’d like to start as soon as possible with the contract and some specific needs, our intent is to hire a full-time systems architect once the contract is completed.

You can find the job posting here.

Posted on January 21, 2022 11:44 PM by loarie loarie | 9 comments | Leave a comment

January 25, 2022

A Wonderful Weevil in Indonesia - Observation of the Week, 1/25/22

Our Observation of the Week is this weevil (likely in the genus Cercidocerus), seen in Indonesia by @janusolajuanboediman!

Currently at National Taiwan University where he’s studying for his bachelor’s degree in entomology, Janus Olajuan Boediman was born and raised in Indonesia and credits his mother for cultivating his already burgeoning interest in spiders and insects. “My mom bought me books and although I couldn’t understand them at the time [because I didn’t read English], the images in those books made me love those critters more,” he recalls. 

First it was just spiders, then it spread to arthropods, and eventually reptiles and amphibians along with all sorts of other animals and eventually nature as a whole. I like all animals, but the three I mentioned first (Arthropods, Reptiles, Amphibians) will always be my favourites. I’m always more interested in the ones most people find disgusting or weird.

I’m not sure if “disgusting” or “weird” describes the beetle you see above (I think is beautiful), but Janus tells me it was one of many arthropods he photographed at Cibodas Botanical Garden while on a family vacation just over two years ago. “Of course I couldn’t resist looking around and seeing what arthropods I could find,” he explains.

Like other “true” weevils (Family Curculionidae), members of the genus Cercidocerus have distinctive snouts with antennae protruding from either side. In general, adults weevils use this snout to eat vegetation and/or bore into a stem or seed where their eggs will be laid. 

While he’s known about iNaturalist for a few years now, Janus (above) only joined on January 10th of this year and he’s been uploading quite a few of his older photos such as this one. He was a little hesitant about sharing locations for some observations until he found out about iNat obscuration functionality and says he uses iNaturalist for several reasons.

The big benefit is of course being able to contribute as a citizen scientist, helping with records of species that may lack photographs. iNaturalist participation is very much lacking in Indonesia and I’ve found that some of the organisms I’ve uploaded have very few iNat observations or even none at all. Also of course helps me get ID help on things I’ve found and in the process I learn more myself. My observations could also help other people ID things they’ve seen, especially if there is a lack of online photos of that organism.

I’m not doing any sort of research but I always try and photograph anything when out in nature. I’m still deciding on where I want to focus in the future, since entomology is so diverse and there are many exciting options.

- Coleopterist @anncabras24 (who specializes in weevils) was featured in an Observation of the Week last year!

- Take a gander at the remarkably diverse weevil observations on iNat.

- Here’s some pretty cool footage of acorn weevil. 

Posted on January 25, 2022 04:52 PM by tiwane tiwane | 11 comments | Leave a comment