Journal archives for May 2023

May 04, 2023

Identifier Profile: @darielsaqui

This is the sixteenth entry in an ongoing monthly (or almost monthly!) series profiling the amazing identifiers of iNaturalist. 

There are currently about 120,000 observations of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) in Costa Rica on iNaturalist, representing about 5,275 leaves. Compare that to a place like Texas, which currently has over one million observations of lepidoptera that represent 3,801 leaves and you start getting an idea of how diverse neotropical insects are. One of the top identifiers of leps in Costa Rica is Dariel Sanabria Q., a resident of Grecia. Not coincidentally he found iNaturalist while trying to identify moths. “There is a lack of information about Costa Rican moths, and iNaturalist has been a very useful tool,” he explains. “I use it mainly to identify insects that I do not know, comparing living specimen pictures, looking for distribution ranges, and helping people with IDs, or at least getting them closer to species.” Dariel’s added about 14,000 IDs in nearly four years, over 10,000 of those for lepidoptera in Costa Rica.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve felt very attracted to nature, especially animals and, later during my teenage years I focused on insects, mostly butterflies,” says Dariel. “My main interest is to learn about Costa Rican lepidopterous fauna. Right now I’m researching butterfly populations in some regions of Costa Rica. We are working in a species database, but later we plan to do work related to the presence of bats, birds and butterfly species in cattle farms and forest patches in northwestern Costa Rica.”

When he has time to identify on iNat, Dariel searches mostly for Costa Rica butterflies and moths, but also IDs other insects, such as Fulgoridae and Caelifera.

Then I identify the “easy ones” (common species or species that I have no problem identifying). Next, I continue with the harder ones, for which I have to do some research…

Moth identification requires more time, effort and experience. There are no field guides or books about all Costa Rican moths. You will need to do a collection of several sources of information such as scientific papers, online resources and databases. Some of the most useful tools are webpages like, BoldSystems, Janzen's ACG Caterpillar Database, Butterflies of America, and Leps FieldGuide.

In addition to his research and iNat identifications, Dariel leads online courses and field workshops about Costa Rican butterflies and moths, “in order to teach people about this amazing world.” He also has an Instagram account called Moths of Costa Rica where he shares photos and information, and here’s his advice for how to get started with find moths:

Moth-watching is easy to do. You just need a white sheet, something to hold it on and a light to attract the insects. I recommend using ultra violet (UV) light because it works very well, even the UV led lights. In Costa Rica, moth-watching nights are better in moonless conditions, especially during the rainy season. As the moths start arriving, you will discover all their different forms, sizes, patterns and colors. In my experience, most of the people that participate in moth-watching activities get amazed by such diversity and develop a new and more comprehensive way of seeing moths.

(Some quotes were lightly edited for clarity.)

- you can contact Dariel if you’re interested in a workshop or presentation.

- check out our Identifier Profile of @michelledelaloye from 2021, who identifies butterflies in South America!

- Take a look at the most-faved observations of Costa Rican lepidoptera!

- National Moth Week has more tips on how to find moths.

Posted on May 04, 2023 08:14 PM by tiwane tiwane | 13 comments | Leave a comment

May 12, 2023

A new Computer Vision Model (v2.3) including 1,624 new taxa

We released a new computer vision model today. It has 74,135 taxa up from 72,511. This new model (v2.3) was trained on data exported last month on April 2nd and added 1,624 new taxa.

Taxa differences to previous model

The charts below summarize these new taxa using the same groupings we described in past release posts.

By category, most of these 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 May 12, 2023 10:16 PM by loarie loarie | 28 comments | Leave a comment

May 16, 2023

Meet the First Cayman Brac Cicada Posted to iNaturalist! - Observation of the Week, 5/16/23

Our Observation of the Week is the first live Cayman Brac Cicada (Diceroprocta ovata) posted to iNaturalist! Seen in the Cayman Islands by @caymanmatt.

A few weeks ago I received a message from @humanbyweight (Chris Alice “Alie” Kratzer), who’s working on a cicada field guide, and she told me about Matt’s cool cicada find from the Cayman Islands. According to her, this is the first known documentation of the insect in the wild since 1938, which is really cool!

Matt Southgate came across it while participating in a bioblitz organized by CBRAC

We had just finished working through a transect of plants, at which point the cicada showed up and I took the photo. At the time I hadn't realised how underphotographed the cicadas were, and didn't think anything of it until the ID came up on iNaturalist. I've since looked it up in the Cayman Islands Natural History and Biogeography (Brunt and Davies, 1994) which states there is an endemic scrub cicada to each of the three Cayman Islands. I've now taken part in a couple of Bioblitz events for CBRAC and there is always something unusual to be found.

Diceroprocta ovata is still very mysterious,” says Alie. “Its song is still unknown to science!” Like Matt says, it’s related to two other species on different Cayman Islands, but Alie tells me “D. ovata always has a little more pruinosity (a white powdery wax) on its abdomen, and the male genitalia is subtly different.” Like other cicadas, these spend their nymphal time underground before climbing up plants and other structures and molt into their adult stage. 

As a child growing up in the Cayman Islands, Matt says he was first interested in the underwater world but got heavily into birding after that. He now works for the Cayman Islands Department of Environment in the Environmental Management Unit and also volunteers as a reviewer for eBird

Aside from the birding, my current goal and interest is to capture some of our endemic species that have been little photographed and little studied. I also recently captured a photo of Heteronobo caymanensis (our endemic scorpion), that although not super rare, was a first submission for iNaturalist. Most field guides or identification guides relevant to Cayman are geared to the underwater world (although we do have a great bird guide written by my friend Patricia Bradley and a very extensive Flora book written by George Proctor), so it's a fun challenge to try and identify many of our terrestrial creatures. It often involves searching through old studies dating back to the 1930s, for example.

An iNat user since 2020, Matt (above, processing a loggerhead turtle nest) tells me

I love to use iNaturalist to both record and identify the things I see around me. I believe being able to recognize and understand what you are seeing improves your enjoyment of the outdoors. iNaturalist and the community have definitely helped to improve my enjoyment of nature. I both submit observations and help others with identifications where I can. iNaturalist has also let me connect with others and share knowledge about the Cayman Islands that they aren't able to get from brochures or tourist maps. I love being able to give people pointers on where to go and what they can expect to see.

(Photo of Matt by Dr. Jane Hardwick.)

- Three other observations of Diceroprocta ovata were made on April 29th, bringing the current total posted to iNat up to four.

- Matt, along with, Kelsey Rae Smith and Nicole Martin, co-founded Cayman Birding.

- We profiled Alie last year, after her guide The Social Wasps of North America was published!

- Two notable cicada-related collaborations (both involving @willc-t) have been documented on the iNat blog in the past few years: one about cicada fungus, and the other a cicada rediscovery!

- And there’s more, as Alie explains. “Diceroprocta ovata is not the only cicada species that resurfaced on iNaturalist recently after decades of obscurity. Neocicada pennata, Proarna squamigera, and Diceroprocta mesochlora are a few other great examples. It is not an exaggeration to say that iNaturalist is pushing the boundaries of cicada research forward in ways that were utterly impossible just a decade ago.“

Posted on May 16, 2023 08:57 PM by tiwane tiwane | 17 comments | Leave a comment

May 23, 2023

A Rwandan Biologist Spots a Great Lakes Bush Viper! - Observation of the Week, 5/23/23

Our Observation of the Week is this Great Lakes Bush Viper (Atheris nitschei), seen in Rwanda by @mmindje!

“I have always been fascinated by nature since I was a child where I could always play in the bushes around my home,” says Mapendo Mindje, a PhD student in Natural Sciences at the University of Koblenz. “Later, my early interest prompted me to apply for biological courses at the high school and later studied Wildlife Resources management as an undergraduate.”

I further did my MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and am currently doing a PhD in Natural Sciences where my project deals with amphibian diversity in Rwanda. My current interest is in amphibians and I dedicate my time taking people in wetlands showing them the amphibians that live in Rwanda.

I have been surveying the amphibians and reptiles in the Gishwati-Mukura Landscape Biosphere Reserve. The forest is well known to have many individuals of Atheris nitschei [great lakes bush vipers] and opportunistically, I observed the species on the tree branch and also along a stream bank in the same forest.

The great lakes bush viper occurs in wetlands, meadows, and mountain forests throughout central Africa, and average about 60 cm (2 ft) in length. Opportunistic feeders, they’ll prey on lizards, amphibians, birds, rodents, and other small animals, usually catching them via ambush. Like other vipers they are venomous and a bite is medically significant. This is one of only 15 observations of the species on iNaturalist.

Mapendo (above) heard about iNat when he participated in a bioblitz run by the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Society, under the guidance of Providence Akayezu, a National Geographic explorer.

I use iNaturalist as a way to contribute data for Rwanda, especially amphibian occurrences. I am deeply happy about iNat and of course it gives an idea about probable species identity which I always look for. Before, I could go out in nature, take photographs and save them on my drives but today, with the iNat app, I simply load them not only for Identification but also to keep data.

(Photo of Mapendo by Umulisa Christella. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

- you can find Manpendo’s publications here.

- take a look at Mapendo’s Amphibians of Rwanda project!

- Mapendo spoke about wetlands last year for World Wetlands Day!

Posted on May 23, 2023 09:53 PM by tiwane tiwane | 14 comments | Leave a comment