November 27, 2017

iNaturalist as iSpot

It is now nearly a month since we took the decision to migrate from iSpot to iNaturalist. We: the iSpot 5000 team (those iSpotters with more than 2000 observations and 1000 identifications and comments) and about 150 iSpotters who undertook the migration survey.

The biggest issue by far is getting used to iNaturalist. The philosophy is so different. iSpot was simple: it was about getting an ID and evaluating the accuracy of the ID. Everything centred around that. Yes there were interactions, and badges, and the taxonomy surfer, and the quiz and projects: but the philosophy was getting an accurate ID and evaluating it. To that end the reputation system with its expert and knowledgeable reputation was core. Outside experts regularly contributed to the IDs making the IDs really powerful. It was clearly designed for old eyes and computer novices – simple and logical.

iNat is quite different. It seems to centre more around the user and promoting the user. IDs are almost incidental: a world expert in a group is just another anonomous user with no acknowledgement or reputation of their status. There are tools to allow you to make dozens of IDs every hour, but your contribution to the ID is the same as the world expert and a green schoolkid: IDs by world experts to species level are drowned by well-meaning contributions like “plant”. And it is busy! There are observations and species and users and places and projects and they all contribute to the milieu and philosophy. The word “species” means at least four different things: any taxon, species only, species and subspecific taxa, and taxa that are research grade. Starting from a place and selecting a species gives different layout and results from starting from a species and selecting a place. iNat was clearly designed for young eyes and computer gurus: everything clicks, fonts start at almost-invisible serife 1 pt and anything you might want to do can be found on the page – somewhere, and not necessarily using the wording that you might expect! Click and discover!

It will take quite a while to make the transition. Clearly iNat has lots of features that we only dreamed about on iSpot (I still believe that the iNatters visited the iSpot forums and implemented most of our iSpot wish list). The four items we will miss most are the reputation (iSpot was leagues ahead), the interactions (should be easy for iNat to implement), society badges and keys. But iNat has features that are supercool. The ID tool is magic. The guides are really cool (and in time could include keys). The observation fields and projects work really well (once one gets used to them). And who knows: with a bit of training the machine ID might be able to identify southern African plants without giving us lists of irrelevant North American ones.
And we already have our plant dictionary half on. All the current names. Synonyms are coming soon with common names. And then our animal names ...

So if iNat is going to be home, what have we got? What are we starting with?

Let us look at the iNat stats for southern Africa as at 25 November. You can see these for yourself at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?created_d2=2017-11-25&place_id=113055 (although this stats was for half way through the day):

39 374 Observations (= verifiable; vs 43 453 tota - I must find out what "verifiable" means)

The top observers out of 1002 observers are (over 500, ***= “iSpotter”) –

gawie 2,394 ***
tonyrebelo 2,046 ***
johnnybirder 1,664
calebcam 1,579
markuslilje 1,500
Joachim 1,460
zanskar 1,216
i_c_riddell 1,186 ***
florem 1,064
muir 830
snidge 822
csavy 771
tapaculo99 762
tonybenn 652
shauns 617 ***
graeme 581
colin25 514 ***

The top identifiers (our of 1086 identifiers) are (over 800) –

johnnybirder 18,247
jakob 11,748
calebcam 6,319
alexdreyer 3,162 ***
ldacosta 3,089
tonyrebelo 2,142 ***
wildnothos 1,746
wouterteunissen 1,656
john8 1,591
henrydelange 1,510
kokhuitan 1,301
martingrimm 1,197
colin25 1,101 ***
karoopixie 987 ***
alexanderr 985 ***
joachim 980
alanhorstmann 966 ***
shauns 931 ***
beetledude 862 ***

But the crux of the issue are the species records.

There are 6032 species (= verifiable (I need to find out what that means) out of 6295 total): In descending order:

Elephant 649
Giraffe 388
Impala 359
Zebra 338
Kudu 249
Egyption Goose 243
Warthog 242
Lion 241
Hippo 196
Baboon 193
Wildebeest 189
White Rhino 165
African Wild Dog 162
Guineafowl 158
Waterbuck 152
Nile Crocodile 150
Buffalo, Vervet, Spotted Hyaena, Ostrich, Nyala, Leopard, African Fish-Eagle, Cheetah, Springbok, Hadada Ibis, Gemsbok, Lilac-breasted Roller, Rock Hyrax, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Penguin, Black-backed Jackal, Laughing Dove (101), Bushbuck, White-backed Vulture, Leopard Tortoise, Steenbok, Hartebeest, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Grey Heron (84),Southern Rock Agama, Black Rhinoceros, Grey Go-away-bird, Hamerkop, Southern Masked Weaver, Common Bulbul, African Striped Skink, Black-necked Agama, Bontebok/Blesbok, Southern Fiscal, Red-winged Starling, Bateleur (70), Angulate Tortoise, Brown Fur Seal, Klipspringer, Long-tailed Cormorant, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, African Darter, Bush Duiker, Eland, Pied Kingfisher, African Jacana, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Pale Chanting-Goshawk, Painted Reed Frog (60), White-fronted Bee-eater, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Smith's Bush Squirrel, Nile Monitor, Fork-tailed Drongo, Sacred Ibis, Ring-necked Dove, Kelp Gull, Cape Dwarf Gecko, Red-billed Oxpecker, Puff Adder, Woolly-necked Stork, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Rainbow Skink, Saddle-billed Stork, Pied Crow, Banded Mongoose, Cattle Egret, Tawny Eagle, Flap-necked Chameleon,

Baobab 51 – our First plant

- Another 55 species
Yellow Pansy 34 – first invertebrate
- Another 2 vertebrates – second invert Redveined Dropwing, then Welwitschia Bug!!!!! Then another 4 vertebrates: then Citrus Swallowtail
- Another 36 species (incl Honeybee & Blue Pansy, Painted Lady, Broad Scarlet, Plain Tiger)

Next plant #2 is Pillansii templemanii (28 observations)

& 40 more verts to next invertebrate.

(if you are interested in plants: #3 = Welwitschia, #4 Pelargonium cucullatum, #5 Black Wattle, #6 King Protea)

Conclusion: It seems that iNat southern Africa has been used mainly by big game and bird tourists up until now.

Of course, it is possible that all the plants are sitting there unidentified: So what are the totals?

Birds 11,709 obs, 793 spp, 427 Identifiers, 348 observers
Plants 8,882 obs, 2,685 spp, 272 Identifiers, 328 observers
Mammals 7,108 obs, 195 spp, 386 Identifiers, 492 observers
Insects 6,351 obs, 1,310 spp, 320 Identifiers, 332 observers
Reptiles 2,285 obs, 284 spp, 204 Identifiers, 301 observers

Chelicerates 649 obs, 143 spp, 100 Identifiers, 168 observers
Amphibians 602 obs, 82 spp, 81 Identifiers, 135 observers
Fish 408 obs, 210 spp, 53 Identifiers, 49 observers
Fungi 321 obs, 85 spp, 60 Identifiers, 59 observers
Molluscs 227 obs, 107 spp, 46 Identifiers, 55 observers
Protozoans 5 obs, 2 spp, 3 Identifiers, 4 observers
&
Unknown 431 obs, 2 spp, 9 Identifiers, 88 observers

So iNat currently has about as many plant species as the Cape Peninsula, out of 22 000 plant species for s Africa.
So that is our baseline. That is what we are starting with. What are we going to make of this site?

Our next step is to design our iNaturalist southern Africa user interface. If you would like to participate, or have some cool ideas, please contact me. (Just remember we are at the southern tip of darkest Africa. Fibre-optics stops somewhere in the Mediterranean. Fast lines drown in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. And in remote areas, emails may be almost as slow as ordinary mail, which is an achievement only possible in Africa. Our landing interface needs to take this into account).
Marion has some ideas which I will be circulating soon. If you feel strongly, contact me now, before ideas start stablizing.

PS: Would you like to help with the unknowns? You can:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=113055&subview=table&iconic_taxa=unknown

Posted on November 27, 2017 04:05 PM by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 20 comments | Leave a comment

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