Journal archives for April 2023

April 06, 2023

Facebook Login Is Gone

As we mentioned, Facebook audited our use of their API and decided our security practices are not sufficient so they suspended our use of their platform. Those of you who regularly signed in with Facebook will need to sign in with your iNat username and password from now on, and if you never set a password, you can try and do so by resetting your password, but that will only work if you had an email address associated with your iNat account. We will be removing the Facebook Login buttons from our software as soon as possible.

We are genuinely sorry if anyone got locked out of their iNat account, but we don't see a way to get back in Facebook's good graces. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to everyone: please enter a working email address for your iNat account. For those who want more detail, read on:

The Details

Specifically, Facebook's remaining complaints were

  1. Not proving that we scan our software for security vulnerabilities
  2. Not having sufficient administrative or technical controls over iNat employees storing Facebook user data on their devices

We actually do scan our software for security vulnerabilities, and we provided Facebook with evidence to that effect, but for reasons we don't understand they considered that evidence to be insufficient. We asked them to explain why our evidence didn't meet their standards, but all they did was point to their documentation, which didn't clarify things for us. Maybe this was a failure of understanding on our part, but we got to the point where all we could do was ask for more clarity, and Facebook was unwiling to provide it.

Storage of Facebook user data is a more legitimate sticking point. Facebook wanted proof of very tight, centralized control over staff devices that store Facebook user data, either technical controls in the form of multi-factor authentication to access devices like staff workstations, or administrative controls like policies about not sharing data and engaging in reasonable security practices. We don't have the capacity to implement the technical controls as we're a small, distributed team who all work from home. We did provide them with the policy evidence they asked for, but they deemed it insufficient, again without explaining how we could improve the policy. Both are kind of moot, though, because we use Facebook user data (like profile pics and usernames) to create public iNat accounts, so really everyone who uses iNat has access to Facebook user data and stores it on their device when they view iNat, and we can't really control that. Furthermore we think it would be unreasonable to prevent someone on staff from, say, downloading an archive of this data to perform an analysis on their laptop, when anyone else on the Internet can do the same by downloading iNat open data.

Ultimately, Facebook's security requirements seem to apply to larger organizations than ours with more centralized control. I suspect we got unlucky in getting audited by Facebook, but it happened, we tried to answer all of their questions, and it wasn't enough. We have been wanting to remove Facebook login for a long time because it's a headache to manage and it creates confusion when people sign in with Facebook but we can't link their Facebook account to their pre-existing iNat account, but we were hoping to do it in a more gradual and controlled fashion than this. Again, we apologize to everyone who has been inconvenienced.

Posted on April 06, 2023 09:50 PM by kueda kueda | 5 comments | Leave a comment

April 12, 2023

It's not a Grass, it's not a Sedge, it's a Pipewort! - Observation of the Week, 4/11/23

Our Observation of the Week is the first Comanthera kegeliana pipewort posted to iNaturalist! Seen in Brazil by @tjfilho

“Being raised in the Amazon Rainforest naturally attracts you to learning more everyday about what surrounds you, and that made me decide early in my life that i wanted to work with that, both as a teacher and a field researcher,” says Tales Alves Júnior. “I think it's important to bring awareness to the biodiversity that surrounds us - plants, fungi or animals, so we can value and conserve it.”

After earning his undergraduate degree in biological sciences last year, Tales is now a master’s student in the Botany Graduate Program at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (PPG Botânica - INPA), and he’s studying the interactions between bryophytes and entomopathogenic fungi (eg Ophiocordycipitaceae).

But from previous experiences, I learned to love everything: plants, birds, snakes (this one I learned a lot from my partner, who is also a Master's student at INPA at the Ecology Graduate Program), and especially fungi, which is, since the beginning of my undergraduate course, my true passion.

During a field class to the campinarana biome (with sandy, nutrient-poor soil) Tales saw theComanthera kegeliana you see photographed here, one of among dozens of individuals of the same species in the area. 

Pipeworts (family Eriocaulaceae) are related to grasses and sedges and they tend to grow in wet areas of tropical regions. The genus Comanthera is found in tropical South America and like other members of the family they grow small, wind-pollinated flowers. 

“I use iNaturalist mainly to register and get help identifying what I see with my phone in my daily routine,” says Tales (above), “while also using it to seek help on more specific things, like identifying Ophiocordyceps spp. (and other Hypocreales spp.) related to my current work. 

I also use iNaturalist to practice my identification skills, learning more and more how to differentiate species (with significant morphological differences, of course - there are a lot of cryptic species out there...), and by doing that, it made possible for me to learn faster, especially for groups that i'm not that familiar with, making it a great learning tool (and i can guarantee that i'll use iNat as a tool in my teaching career, trust me lol).

- Other campinarana species Tales mentioned are Aldina heterophylla and Cantharellus guyanensis.

- Check out  the more than ten thousand pipeworts posted to iNaturalist!

Posted on April 12, 2023 12:24 AM by tiwane tiwane | 7 comments | Leave a comment

April 18, 2023

Spring Reveals Cup Fungi in Japan - Observation of the Week, 4/18/23

Our Observation of the Week is this Microstoma macrosporum fungus, see in Japan by @kazuma_i.

“Last fall, I was observing mushrooms with a friend,” says Kazuma, “and she noticed what looked like little red buds.” After they did some research, Kazuma realized that the buds were actually Microstoma macrosporum fruiting bodies, which grow in the fall, overwinter in a bud-like form, and open up in the spring. So, when he was photographing wildflowers this month, Kazuma discovered a few colonies of open cups, one of which you see above. Below is a photo that includes two of the “bud” fruiting bodies.

Kazuma remembers fishing and catching insects as a child, and accompanying his father to the mountains where they’d collect wild mushrooms and vegetables. When he wasn’t able to make it to certain areas he waited for his dad but “I never got bored,” he tells me. He photographs nature now, and is especially interested in the “fun and beauty of mushrooms’ colors and shapes.”

“I have been photographing animals and plants in nature for a long time, but I was not very interested in identifying species or recording location information,” says Kazuma (above).

By participating in iNaturalist, I feel that I have come to understand trends and patterns while identifying species and recording location information while receiving advice.

It is becoming possible to estimate places where mushrooms are likely to occur by understanding the features of the terrain and vegetation. This leads to knowledge of the local ecology and is also useful for finding subjects for shooting.

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

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

Take a look at the most-faved observations of fungi in the family Sarcoscyphaceae!

- @robberfly’s Cookenia speciosa (which is also in family Sarcoscyphaceae) from Costa Rica was an Observation of the Week back in 2017!

Posted on April 18, 2023 07:38 PM by tiwane tiwane | 10 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2023

Temporary limitations on places and taxon changes April 26-May 8

In preparation for increased iNaturalist activity during the upcoming City Nature Challenge, iNaturalist will implement some temporary changes. From April 26 to May 8, we will temporarily restrict some processes on iNaturalist that are more demanding on the infrastructure. Most users will not notice these changes because they do not directly impact observations, identifications, comments, or projects.

Large places cannot be created or edited
Starting on April 26, any new or edited places must contain fewer than 10,000 observations and be smaller than roughly the size of West Virginia (~24,000 square miles or 62,361 square km). If you try to add or edit a place above these thresholds, it will give you a warning message.

All places added or edited during this time may experience extended times to reflect the edits or collect all of the observations. If you can delay adding or editing places, please do so.

“Search external providers” disabled
If you enter a taxon name that can’t be found in iNaturalist, normally you can “Search external providers”. This feature will be temporarily disabled to prevent the addition of new taxa that cannot be curated during this time period (see below).

Taxon changes & ancestry edits paused (applicable for curators only)
No taxon changes or edits to taxon ancestry (including grafting taxa) can be implemented starting April 26. If you try to do this, you’ll get a message that such changes are temporarily unavailable. You can still draft taxon changes and save them to be committed after the restriction.

These temporary limitations will be in place through May 8, which includes the observation period of the City Nature Challenge as well as the upload/identification period.

Other activities that are not restricted but should be deferred if possible:
-csv uploads: If you are uploading a csv of observations, expect considerable delays. Do not attempt the same upload more than once.
-csv data downloads: If you are trying to download a csv of observations, expect considerable delays. Do not attempt the same download more than once.

Thank you all for your patience with these temporary restrictions.

Posted on April 26, 2023 05:44 PM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 4 comments | Leave a comment