Some thoughts on iNaturalist Big Days

As a birder, I have been familiar with Big Day culture. But with iNaturalist, there are so many variables - it is a whole different field of play. Having been both a Big Day aficionado and an umpire (when part of the American Birding Association's Rules and Ethics committee), I have come up with these preliminary features for a number of Big Days and the ways to measure them.

This was my biggest day, I think, with 213 observations, on the first day of 2019's City Nature Challenge. I can do better! https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/gyrrlfalcon/2019/4/26

So the variables for measuring a Big Day include
TOTAL Verifiable Entries
TOTAL Verifiable Entries that earn Research Grade
TOTAL Verifiable Entries with substantive comment by observer and/or identifiers
TOTAL Species seen (with differentiated rules for different taxa; specifically, those taxa where getting an entry to family or genus level is itself a triumph).
TOTAL number of the Thirteen Categories represented (see my journal entry https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/gyrrlfalcon/26417-the-thirteen-inaturalist-categories )

Big Days could maximize habitats, or seek to get the most out of one or two. I drew up this (likely incomplete) list of generalized habitat types:

1. Salt water
2. Fresh water
3. Riparian
4. Beach/Reef
5. Swamp
6. Grassland
7. Shrubby (Chaparral)
8. Mixed woodland
9. Conifer forest
10. Tropical forest
11. Montane woods
12. Montane talus
13. Desert
14. Agricultural
15. Urban/Suburban
16. Unique to your area (e.g. Karoo, kipuku)

I would think that before running the Big Day, another cool thing to do would be to check the species totals for the geographic umbrella zone (e.g. San Mateo County, Western Cape, O’ahu) to set a baseline. Adding species to the county or state list is a major accomplishment in most areas that have power users willing to undertake a Big Day, so that is a valid statistic to maintain, too.

So with these factors in play (and yes, I like such baseball statistics as Wins-above-replacement), we could construct a matrix of ways to conduct and score competitive (or self-competitive) Big Days.

I also would like to see a "Green" version wherein one seeks the highest number of entries/species with shortest distance traveled.

Anyway, I'd be interested in further thoughts.

Posted by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon, November 03, 2019 23:21

Comments

Thumb

I like this idea. I wish there was an easier way to search iNat Big Days. I think mine are 24-Aug-17 by observations (282) https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/muir/2017/8/24 and 20-Aug-17 by life list firsts (~94) https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/muir/2017/8/20 . Alas, I have never intentionally taken the gyrrfalcon challenge to pursue the 13 categories....

re weighting species additions differently depending on iNat usage. One way that I've thought about this is that areas differ in the average number of iNat observations to add a new species. So, for example, in 2017, for every new species recorded on iNat in the DC area, 43 observations were made. In 2016, it was easier: there was one new species recorded every 23 iNat observations, and so on. In the halcyon days of 2011, a new species was added every third iNat observation, or so. (I am just learning the kingfisher connection to the phrase "halcyon days," and am pleased.)

When I last looked (a reminder to myself that I was going to look at this again....), the DC-area species accumulation curve was starting to slow down / level out. As I wrote: "2017 was the first year in which we recorded fewer number of *new* species than the year previous (~1255 new species in 2017 vs ~1326 new species in 2016)." So, if you were going to create a rule that gave a different weight to a new area record depending on the previous iNat observation intensity, you might want to distinguish areas by how many iNat observations it takes to record a new species on average. More observations = more weight/points. Or have some kind of understanding of where each area was on its unique species accumulation curve, the asymptote of which is going to vary depending on the species richness of the site.

Posted by muir 3 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Interesting points, Matthew. If an area is not easily made geographically discrete (as in, say, an unincorporated section of a town) the calculations would be quite difficult.

Posted by gyrrlfalcon 3 months ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments

Is this inappropriate, spam, or offensive? Add a Flag