Journal archives for October 2022

October 02, 2022

Welcome, iNaturalist Taiwan! 歡迎《愛自然·臺灣》

iNaturalist Taiwan is the newest member of the iNaturalist Network! iNaturalistTW is a collaboration with the National Chiayi University and Taiwan Forestry Research Institute.

《愛自然·臺灣》(iNaturalist Taiwan) 是 iNaturalist 國際網路的最新成員!《愛自然·臺灣》是由國立嘉義大學與行政院農業委員會林業試驗所共同協作維運的。

Taiwan is located in the transition zone between tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. A total of 70% of the land area is covered by mountains in Taiwan, while 60% of the terrestrial area is covered by forests. Therefore, complex mountainous topography and humid climate affected by Asian monsoon cause rich habitats and high biodiversity. The logo for iNaturalist Taiwan is the Taiwan lily (Lilium formosanum A.Wallace), which is widely distributed from the seacoast to the mountain summit over 3,000 m. The Taiwan lily was chosen as the logo because the scientific name “formosanum” is from the Formosa (The first time Portuguese sailors saw Taiwan and said “Ilha formosa”, which means “a beautiful island”). It can be representative of Taiwan people’s resilience and solidarity. Some indigenous tribes, such as western Rukai people, believe that the Taiwan lily is a symbol of purity in their culture.

臺灣位於亞洲熱帶和副熱帶交界,其中大約有 70% 的土地是山地地形,而 60% 的陸域面積是由森林所覆蓋。複雜的山地地形和亞洲季風系統所帶來的潮溼氣候讓臺灣有豐富的棲地環境和極高的生物多樣性。《愛自然·臺灣》的標誌是臺灣百合(Lilium formosanum),其廣泛分布從海邊到3000公尺高山上。我們選擇作為臺灣的代表標誌是因其學名 formosanum 是由臺灣的古名福爾摩沙(Formosa,葡萄牙水手第一次看到臺灣後,稱呼臺灣為「美麗之島(Ihla formosa!)」)而來,而臺灣百合也可以代表台灣人的堅韌與團結。有些原住民如魯凱族貴族的花飾文化視臺灣百合為純潔的象徵。

The iNaturalist community in Taiwan has been growing steadily since 2018 when Dr. Cheng-Tao Lin (@mutolisp) translated the iNaturalist website and mobile apps into Traditional Chinese. Dr. Lin is a professor at Biodiversity Research Center, Department of Biological Resources, National Chiayi University. Dr. Lin introduced iNaturalist in the courses of environmental education curriculum and engaged in promoting biodiversity citizen science projects. Recently, there are over 1.47 million observations, 30,000 observers, and 11,000 identifiers in Taiwan. Many researchers, citizen scientists, NGOs, and even government agencies use iNaturalist to explore and study Taiwan’s biodiversity and contribute biodiversity data for conservation policies. You can read more about earlier activity in Taiwan from the iNaturalist World Tour post in 2019. iNaturalistTW appreciates the contributions of many naturalists, citizen scientists, community members and especially the identifiers, such as the top identifiers @galanhsnu, @leaf0605, @jodyhsieh and @fernslu. iNaturalist Taiwan also thanks the financial support by the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, National Science and Technology Council (MOST 110-2121-M-415-001, 111-2121-M-415-001), and Yushan National Park Headquarters.

臺灣的《愛自然》社群在林政道博士(@mutolisp)將網站和行動裝置介面翻譯成正體中文之後,從 2018 年就開始穩定成長。林政道是國立嘉義大學生物資源學系&生物多樣性中心的教授。林政道將《愛自然》引進環境教育學程中的課程,並致力於推動生物多樣性相關的公民科學專案。目前《愛自然》在臺灣有 147 萬多筆觀察紀錄、30,000 多名觀察者和 11,000 多名鑑定者。許多研究者、公民科學家和 NGO 團體,甚至是政府單位使用《愛自然》來探索與學習生物多樣性,並貢獻這些生物多樣性的資料於保育政策上。您可以閱讀 2019 年的這篇《愛自然世界之旅》 介紹來了解更多早期發展的相關細節。《愛自然·臺灣》非常感謝眾多公民科學家、社群成員與熱心的鑑定者,特別是 @galanhsnu, @leaf0605, @jodyhsieh, @fernslu 等協助鑑定,也感謝林業試驗所國家科學及技術委員會(補助計畫編號:MOST 110-2121-M-415-001, 111-2121-M-415-001)和玉山國家公園管理處提供經費上的補助。

About the iNaturalist Network

The iNaturalist Network now has twenty localized sites that are fully connected and interoperable with the global iNaturalist site. Any iNaturalist user can log in on any of the sites using their same username and password and will see the same notifications. All data from all network sites are still shared globally and fully accessible from each site using search filters.

關於 《愛自然》國際網路
《愛自然》國際網路(iNaturalist Network)目前有 20 個在地化的網站,它們與全球的《愛自然》網站相連結與共同維運。任何一個《愛自然》的使用者都可以使用相同的帳號和密碼登入至任一網站,也會看到相同的通知。所有的網站資料仍會在全域中共享,並可以從每個網站使用搜尋篩選來存取所有資料。

The iNaturalist Network model allows for localizing the iNaturalist experience to better support regional communities and local leadership, without splitting the community into isolated sites. The iNaturalist team is grateful to the outreach, training, translations, and user support carried out through the efforts of the iNaturalist Network member institutions.

《愛自然》國際網路的模式讓 《愛自然》的經驗可在地化,以便在各國範圍內提供更好的社群支援和在地化管理,而不用把社群切分成各個孤立的地點。《愛自然》團隊非常感謝透過《愛自然》國際網路成員機構的努力來推廣、培訓、翻譯和提供使用者支援。

We would like to invite anyone from Taiwan to affiliate their account with iNaturalistTW!

我們想邀請臺灣的每個人來將您的帳號加入至 《愛自然·臺灣》中!

Posted on October 02, 2022 10:55 PM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 22 comments | Leave a comment

October 03, 2022

Identifier Profile: @galanhsnu

This is the thirteenth in an ongoing monthly (or almost monthly!) series profiling the amazing identifiers of iNaturalist. With the recent addition of iNaturalist Taiwan to the iNat Network, we thought we'd profile the top identifier there.

Although he grew up in Taipei, an enormous city, Chia-Lun Hsieh (@galanhsnu)was able to explore nature quite often, thanks to his parents taking him hiking on weekends. He loved looking for bugs at a young age, but in junior high he found the first edition of “蕨類入門 (Guide to Ferns)”, written by Dr. Chen-Meng Kuo and illustrated by Mr. Kun-Mou Huang (see the revised version here). “I was totally surprised and immersed by the intricate leaf patterns of various ferns (and also lycophytes) illustrated in that book. Starting with this book, my interest gradually expanded to all kinds of plants, not only ferns but also flowering plants...I believe people can always find a new world if they look carefully into a specific group of plants.”

That interest in plants lead him to his current position as a research assistant in Dr. Kuo-Fang Chung’s lab at the Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica (Taiwan). Current projects include researching the systematics of Berberidaceae, tracing the migration of Austronesian people through paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), the plastome evolution of Primulina (Gesneriaceae), Begonia, and Gentiana, and more. 

In 2018, Chia-Lun came across iNaturalist after returning from a trip to South Africa. “The diverse flora of South Africa is so fascinating but also bewildering for a newcomer like me,” he explains, and he found iNat when searching for information about Cape flora. 

After looking around the website, I soon realized that iNat is not only for South Africa or other western countries, but a worldwide platform for everyone to share observations of all kinds of organisms from any corner of the world. Meanwhile, I was very excited to find that there have also been some records and users from Taiwan on it, and my friend, Dr. Cheng-Tao Lin (@mutolisp), is the main promoter and curator for iNaturalist in Taiwan.

Now I frequently use iNaturalist for learning about the plants I don’t know through the taxon pages, which are very informative as I can get taxonomy, distribution, phenology, and image info there. With the continuous contributions from people all over the world and more carefully curated observation data, I believe iNat can be one of the most powerful and informative biodiversity databases that is universal to all countries and all categories of organisms. It is also an invaluable public science data source for all kinds of biodiversity research. I’m happy I found such a thrilling place!

In the nearly four and a half years since he joined iNaturalist, Chia-Lun has added IDs to over 222k verifiable plant observations in Taiwan alone, making him the top identifier of observations made there. He‘s constantly looking at newly uploaded observations from Taiwan (of plants and those without any IDs), and also goes through older Needs ID observations by family. He’ll also sometimes check out Research Grade observations to see if any need to be corrected, but doesn’t add agreeing IDs to existing Research Grade observations. “Additionally,” he says, “I force myself to always enter scientific names when I am making IDs for others. By doing this, I could gradually memorize more scientific names which are not frequently used in my daily life. It's very good botanical training.” 

When I asked him why he’s so keen on identifying observations on iNat, Chia-Lun, explained

I have a strong curiosity about any (Taiwanese) plant that I don’t know or I have never seen before. If I couldn’t call the name of the plant at first glance, I will try very hard to figure it out. When I reach the answer, I can get a huge sense of accomplishment. So I enjoy spending time on identification or searching and reading information about how to ID various plants… 

I [also] really appreciate iNaturalist as a platform for biodiversity data accumulation and for nature lovers all over the world to communicate and share knowledge with each other. Therefore, I am willing to contribute to iNat by improving the quality of its records. I could also benefit from this as I sometimes need to retrieve data from iNat, and I need to make sure those records are correct and ready for subsequent analyses.

iNat is a wonderful place for me to continuously practice and absorb new knowledge about various taxa. Since the beginning of my usage of iNat in 2018, I have learned so much and my plant ID skill has improved a lot as well during the process of IDing for others and communicating with other users or experts. For instance, I have acquired many updated taxonomic knowledge and identification tips of Peperomia from @guido_mathieu, Chamaesyce-type Euphorbia from @nathantaylor, Senna from @jeanphilippeb, Musa from @chris971, various Taiwanese plants from many Taiwanese users and experts, and more to be listed…

It is a delightful task when reviewing and identifying plants - as if I am meeting many old and new friends.

- You can check out Chia-Lun’s research on ORCiD.

- Some of Chia-Luns favorite references for identifying are 植物觀察資料庫 (Plant Observations Database), Plants of Taiwan, Flora of China, and various field guides to ferns and lycophytes of Taiwan.

- The photo at the top shows Chia-Lun next to a giant Chamaecyparis formosensis tree in Cinsbu, Taiwan.

Posted on October 03, 2022 10:16 PM by tiwane tiwane | 15 comments | Leave a comment

October 06, 2022

A Miniature Lichen Forest in Brazil - Observation of the Week, 10/5/22

Our Observation of the Week is this Cladonia lichen, seen in Brazil by @paularomano

From 2004 through 2016, Paula Romano lived in Brazil’s Itatiaia National Park, a period which she considers “the golden period of my life because I had the opportunity of observing one of the most biodiverse places in the world every day. There, I got in touch with many researchers who helped me start to understand the dynamics of a forest.”

And in 2008 she came across the remarkable lichen you see above. “Lichens always called my attention,” says Paula. 

This Cladonia was a great surprise because I had no idea it was a lichen and I had never met someone who studies them. Its shape is totally different from any plant and lichen I had ever seen. I remember that the first time I saw it I was very astonished…I wonder how it evolved to reach that form.

A few weeks ago Paula posted her photos of this lichen to iNat and they were identified by @carlosvidigal, a Brazilian lichenologist, as potentially either Cladonia calycanthoides or Cladonia imperialis (more details would be needed to say for sure). I asked Carlos, who studied Cladonia for his masters degree, for some information about these lichen.

Both species occur on highlands and rock outcrops and can reach up to 15- 30 cm tall, making them the tallest in the genus. Members of this genus occur mostly on the ground, rocks or near the ground on dead wood. 

The majority of the species are characterized by this vertical thallus, which are called podetia. There are a great range of shapes and sizes but this one specifically we call “verticillate” as the scyphi (the cup) flares from the center from another scyphi, like growing in tiers. Recent studies show that Brazil is the center of diversity of Cladonia and they are everywhere.

Paula (above, in 2009) says she’s not an academic person but is interested in many areas of nature. “My main interest (or curiosity) has always been the connection among the species and how we are dependent on them, mainly insects in general,” she says, and she’s volunteering at a community garden, documenting the various plants and animals found there. She’s also been teaching Photography and Citizen Science workshops, drawing from her experience photographing nature since 2004. 

She joined iNaturalist last year, “mainly to make my observations useful.” 

It's nonsense to have so many useless observations. I was very bothered by it. It's also a very good way to study the biodiversity I’ve been registering since 2004 when I bought my first digital camera. Each photo I take I have in mind that it must have an educational function.

I can tell you that iNaturalist is a good therapy as well. There is always a celebration in my brain when an observation is used for research.

I don´t think [iNaturalist] has changed the way I interact with or see the natural world, but it certainly has emphasized it, made it deeper and wider. Much deeper and wider. Thanks to the identifications and maps, it's possible to show people how fragile some species are. 

(Photo of Paula by Patricia Sierra)

- Nearly 200 species of Cladonia have been posted to iNat, check out the observations here.

- Until recently, lichens were thought to be the symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. But we now know there’s a third member of this partnership.

Posted on October 06, 2022 12:22 AM by tiwane tiwane | 11 comments | Leave a comment

October 11, 2022

A Nose-horned Viper Crosses the Road in Kosovo - Observation of the Week, 10/11/22

Our Observation of the Day is this Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes), seen in Kosovo by @liridonshala!

“I grew up among wonderful nature near Peja,” says Liridon Shala, “which is the most beautiful part of my country.” So he’s been interested in nature and its protection for nearly all of his life. Now, as pharmacist living the city of Prizren, he’s focused on nature photography. “With my photos, I want to show people about the beauties we have, like birds, animals, and everything that belongs to the wild world…My main goal is to document my country's species, and educate the younger generations to protect them and nature.”

A few weeks ago, Liridon and a friend traveled to Albania on a photography trip. They weren’t particularly happy with their finds, but on their way back they came across a nose-horned viper on the road. They pulled over but it took them a moment to re-find it after it slithered to some nearby stones. “Due to its camouflage, we couldn’t find it on the stones. When we did spot it, I started to take some pictures, but I was worried there might be others nearby.”

Occurring in mostly rocky habitats from Italy through the Balkans and into Turkey and Syria, nose-horned vipers are relatively large (growing up to about one meter) and their fangs can be about 13 mm in length. Adults eat mostly small mammals and birds, and younger snakes are known to eat invertebrates like centipedes. Their venom is considered medically significant to humans, but like just about any snake they prefer to warn or escape rather than bite. The “horn” on the nose is composed of scales and is reputed to be soft to the touch (but don’t try to touch it, please).

Liridon (above) joined iNat a few years ago. Not only has he added over 500 observations, he’s also part of a team that’s worked on translating it into Albanian. He mostly uses it as a personal portfolio for his photographs, and as a place to learn.

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

- You can check out Liridon’s photos on Instagram!

- Take a look at the most-faved observations in Kosovo!

Posted on October 11, 2022 08:16 PM by tiwane tiwane | 9 comments | Leave a comment

October 14, 2022

A new Computer Vision Model including 1,368 new taxa in 37 days

We released a new computer vision model today. It has 66,214 taxa, up from 64,884.

This new model (v1.3) is the second we’ve trained in about a month using the new faster approach, but it’s the first with a narrow ~1 month interval between the export of the data it was trained on and the export of the data the model it is replacing (v1.2) was trained on. The previous model (v1.2) was replacing a model (v1.1) trained on data exported in April so there was a 4 month interval between these data exports (interval between A and B in the figure below). This 4 month interval is why model 1.2 added ~5,000 new taxa to the model. The new model (v1.3) was trained on data exported just 37 days after the data used to train model 1.2 (interval between B and C in the figure below) and added 1,368 new taxa.

While our goal is to maintain this ~1 month interval, we caution that this is getting more and more challenging as the iNaturalist dataset continues to grow. Expect the interval to lengthen unless we secure improved training hardware or devise improvements to the way we generate a training set or train the models themselves. However, it’s fun to look at this comparison between models 1.3 and 1.2 and imagine what maintaining this pace of a new model and about 1,000 new taxa a month would be like.

Taxa differences to previous model

The charts below summarize these 1,368 new taxa using the same groupings we described in the 1.2 release post.

By category, most of these 1,368 new taxa were insects and plants

Here are species level examples of new species added for each category:

Click on the links to see these taxa in the Explore page to see these samples rendered as species lists.

Remember, to see if a particular species is included in the currently live computer vision model, you can look at the “About” section of its taxon page.

We couldn't do it without you

Thank you to everyone in the iNaturalist community who makes this work possible! Sometimes the computer vision suggestions feel like magic, but it’s truly not possible without people. None of this would work without the millions of people who have shared their observations and the knowledgeable experts who have added identifications.

In addition to adding observations and identifications, here are other ways you can help:

  • Share your Machine Learning knowledge: iNaturalist’s computer vision features wouldn’t be possible without learning from many colleagues in the machine learning community. If you have machine learning expertise, these are two great ways to help:
  • Participate in the annual iNaturalist challenges: Our collaborators Grant Van Horn and Oisin Mac Aodha continue to run machine learning challenges with iNaturalist data as part of the annual Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference. By participating you can help us all learn new techniques for improving these models.
  • Start building your own model with the iNaturalist data now: If you can’t wait for the next CVPR conference, thanks to the Amazon Open Data Program you can start downloading iNaturalist data to train your own models now. Please share with us what you’ve learned by contributing to iNaturalist on Github.
  • Donate to iNaturalist: For the rest of us, you can help by donating! Your donations help offset the substantial staff and infrastructure costs associated with training, evaluating, and deploying model updates. Thank you for your support!
Posted on October 14, 2022 02:44 AM by loarie loarie | 10 comments | Leave a comment

October 18, 2022

African Silverbills in a Weaverbird Nest? - Observation of the Week, 10/18/22

Our Observation of the Week is this African Silverbill (Euodice cantans) using a weaverbird nest in Nigeria! Seen by @harooon.

Haruna Mohammed Abubakar says that, as a child growing up in Maiduguri, Nigeria, “nature has always been part of my life, for as long as I can remember.” He always enjoyed birds as a youngster, but in the early-to-mid-1990s he stumbled up on Birds of West Africa by William Serle and Gerard J. Morel and Birds of the West African Town and Garden by John H. Elgood. “These books,” he says, “opened the door for me to see that birds have fascinating lives that really are a joy to sit back and watch.”

Having obtained a masters degree in Psychology, Haruna teaches psychology classes at a college in Potiskum, Nigeria and spends much of his free time birding. 

My curiosity lies in birds and their habitat, specifically focused on bird watching and mental health. The mindful nature of birdwatching makes it both a happy and healing hobby. I believe birdwatching allows us to switch off from the mechanical world and get back to nature, to re-boot our system, which can go far in regulating our moods and behaviour.

Since 2018, Haruna has been volunteering for the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project (NiBAP), and he represents it in northeastern Nigeria. Last October he was in the town of Kukuri, birding for NiBAP.

While in the field I learned that many of the more interesting or hard-to-find species may be lurking in more remote areas away from human activity. For that reason I put more effort to reach them as we did in this trip, together with my colleague. 

We walked down to scrub bushes, watching birds and exploring nature, and I spotted a short tree. On it there was only a dangling nest, what looked like an abandoned weaverbird (Ploceus vitellinus) nest. I heard the calls from a distance which I recognized as coming from an African silverbill (Euodice cantans), emanating continuously from the direction of the nest. As I approached the tree, suddenly one of the birds flew and perched by the nest side. I swooped my camera in its direction, hoping to get a perfect shot, when a second bird appeared from nowhere and its attention was to get into the nest without considering us as a threat. It went in and came out and back again for some time and came out. I was amazed and my experience with this observation lasted just a couple of minutes - a flash and it was gone. But it will stay with me a lifetime as it was the first time I observed  Euodice cantans utilizing an abandoned weaver bird nest.

African silverbills (Euodice cantans) like dry, grassy, and scrubby areas and range through much of the areas south of the Sahara Desert. They have also been introduced to other places like Portugal, Qatar, and Hawaii. Males generally gather all the nesting materials and both members of the pair build the nest. According to Finch Info, they are known to use abandoned nests as well, although I couldn’t find that information elsewhere. 

Haruna (above, in Kainji National Park) had been hearing about iNat and joined up earlier this month. He’s uploaded his photos from 2018 to the present,

and right now I’m having positive interactions with many experts in the field of ornithology and my knowledge is really improving - not only in ornithology but as well as other taxa. Using iNaturalist allows me to connect with absolute nature lovers, people that have passion and knowledge on different categories of biological resources, and that strengthens my commitment to conserve birds and their habitat.

(Photo of Haruna was taken by A.S Ringim. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.)

- Here’s some footage African silverbills making their own nest.

-  Sir David Attenborough narrates this video showing weaverbird nest construction.

Posted on October 18, 2022 11:06 PM by tiwane tiwane | 7 comments | Leave a comment

October 25, 2022

Siphonophore, or 3-D Model? - Observation of the Week, 10/25/22

Our Observation of the Week is this Bassia bassensis siphonophore, seen off of New Zealand by @luca_dt!

As a child, Luca Davenport-Thomas tells me “I would always love rock pooling or flipping rocks on the beach to find amazing things but it is only recently, about the same time as I signed up to iNaturalist, that I really started looking. 

When I started doing nature photography with my compact camera (Olympus TG-6) I began to take pictures of the tiniest and most amazing things…

I will usually snorkel in a marine reserve which hosts some extraordinary biodiversity, not far from where I live in Wellington. When I snorkel I am often searching for nudibranchs, and anything else interesting I find along the way is a bonus.

On a recent snorkeling outing north of Wellington, Luca came across the creature you see above.

Although Nudibranchs are my favourite things to search for, I admit that the most amazing snorkels I have are when there is a plankton bloom. From time to time we get amazing salp blooms filled with siphonophores, jellyfish and other incredible alien-like creatures. And sometimes a member of these blooms are the Bassia bassensis siphonophores. They are possibly the most unbelievable siphonophore to see. With their strange symmetrical, geometric shape and vivid white edges, they look like a digital 3D model come to reality. Swimming through them and all the other plankton feels like being on another world.

Siphonophores are actually colonial organisms, composed of smaller zooid organisms that are specialized for certain functions like predation, locomotion, reproduction, etc. Bassia bassensis feeds mostly on copepods by using its stinging tentacles, and reaches a length of 6-8 centimeters. Perhaps the most well known siphonophore is the Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis), and another siphonophore, the giant siphonophore (Praya dubia), can grow up to 40 m (130 ft).

Luca (above) is currently working toward a master’s degree in marine biology and studies Lepas Gooseneck barnacles, but he also hopes to one day participate in some deep sea exploration. He joined iNat last May, mostly for nudibranch ID help, 

but I quickly realised that a lot of the things I was observing were hardly or not at all observed before. This sparked my passion to keep exploring and learning along the way. Quickly, I became a part of a great community who share similar interests. Using iNaturalist I have become way more knowledgeable of marine life taxonomy. It is quite amazing to think how little I knew before, and how only in the short time I’ve used iNaturalist, it has completely opened my mind.

(Photo of Luca by Nadine McGrath)

- Here’s a good intro video to siphonophores and other colonial marine organisms.

- Check out the most-faved siphonophore observations on iNat!

- This Bassia bassensis is bizarre for sure, but is it as bizarre as the “chiton crab” seen in New Zealand back in 2014 by @emily_r?

Posted on October 25, 2022 07:17 PM by tiwane tiwane | 17 comments | Leave a comment