muir's 2018 iNat Year(s) in Review


A very on-brand observation of the Centaurus Beetle (Augosoma centaurus), Congo.

I wrote a "Year in Review" in 2016, that sort of felt like my Christmas card to the iNat community, and really enjoyed reflecting on where I went, what I saw, and who I was with. Partly out of exhaustion (new baby), and partly out of the iNat team stealing my thunder with a very cool "Year in Review" stats page, I didn't write an annual review in 2017. With the current government shutdown, however, I have more time on my hands.

Observations


I made an observation every month in 2018, continuing a streak that dates back to February 2011 -- the year I joined iNaturalist. Now that I'm aware of this 94 month streak, I will be more conscious about keeping it up! In total, I posted 1,101 verifiable observations, with 539 taxa currently IDed. That's a big dip in activity and species for me -- I've been averaging about double that since 2012, and am now out of the top 500 of the most prolific iNat'rs. (For comparison's sake, and to note how much the iNat community continues to grow, you needed to post at least 1,640 observations in 2018 to crack the list of the top 500 observers. In contrast, 1,640 observations in 2011 would make you iNat's fifth most frequent observer.)

Places

I changed home ranges in April 2018, relocating from Washington DC to Anchorage, Alaska. I was born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, but don't know the Anchorage area well, so it's been a pleasure to explore new trails and places. Westchester Lagoon replaces Huntley Meadows as my go-to nature place, but the Coastal Trail & Kincaid Park, Glen Alps trailhead, and Portage Pass in Whittier have become fast and convenient favorites.

About 80% of my observations and species were recorded in the United States. I made only one work trip internationally, to a park I've been to before (Nouabale Ndoki) in Congo Brazzaville, and mostly stayed close to home. In 2017, I traveled much farther afield, including Asia for the first time. I traveled to two Indonesian national parks in the southern tip of Sumatra, Way Kambas and Bukit Barisan Selatan, as well as the Bogor Botanical Gardens south of Jakarta, and a layover in Narita, Japan (which I wrote an iNat journal post about).

My other big trip of 2017 was joining the iNat-athon in SE Arizona. A big thank you again to BJ, Jay and others who helped set the itinerary through a series of spectacular places in and around the Sky Islands.

Species

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species photos that I took in 2017/18:

A forest elephant in Mbeli Bai, Congo, observed for more than two hours in its natural state. A real treat as I spend most of my work life reading about dead poached elephants.


An Appalachian salamander (Plethodon jordani) and a salamander found creekside in Tuckaleechee Cavern, both observed on an amazing four day trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.


A pair of Cobra Clubtails (Gomphurus vastus), overlooking the south fork of the Shenandoah River. I attended the 2017 meeting of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas in Staunton, Virginia, and learned of several sites for gomphids and other Appalachian specialities. I miss seeing those gomphids.


While wading the Rivanna River looking for odes on a very warm day, I caught by chance a longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) leaping. What a cool fish.


Judy is one of my inspirations in DC, and when she posted a Riley's clearwing moth (Synanthedon rileyana) that I coveted, we organized a field trip to the same area. Incredibly, I observed the same species, which stayed long enough to get a single photo, and then proceeded to hug everyone around me. Ha, what joy!


Westchester Lagoon is one of Anchorage's most popular birding spots, and I'm grateful to now live in the neighborhood. Red-necked grebes (Podiceps grisegena) are present throughout the summer, nesting on floating veg and parenting attentively. These birds were gorging on fish (salmon?) fry, headed out into Cook Inlet. Waterfowl abound when the lagoon is ice-free, and I also found my first Lake Darner (Aeshna eremita), the state's largest dragonfly, there this year.


In Cook Inlet, but just a short walk away from Westchester Lagoon, I spotted a pod of belugas, which is always a special experience. These belugas are one of the few taxa in Alaska listed as Endangered (others with critical habitat in the state include the North Pacific right whale, the Western Steller sea lion, and the Aleutian shield fern. sources: USFWS & NOAA). Since I was born, the Cook Inlet beluga population has decreased by about 75%, and currently number around 330 individuals.


In the backyard, I have moose, snowshoe hares, some charismatic hoverflies, and this Northern Goshawk which landed feet away from me on my deck. I love to live this close to wild life, and have plans to make my yard more insect-friendly in the coming years.


In late August, on the first day of hunting season, I helped my cousin butcher a moose, north of Palmer. The papillae in the mouth, which help move the tough browse that moose consume in the right direction, were incredible to see up close. We eat moose meat a couple times a week now.


Finally, I took a short entomology course from Derek Sikes this summer in Denali, and learned of the existence of Elaphrus marsh ground beetles. Being a tiger beetle admirer (aren't we all?), I was fascinated by a look-alike group that patrols riverbanks to prey on insects caught up in the water. I was proud to find one near Campbell Creek Science Center, a place I'm hoping to spend more time at in 2019.

I have too many favorite observations from Indonesia and Arizona, so I "faved" a bunch of them and you can find them here and here, respectively. One of the less charismatic, but scientifically interesting things I shared on iNat from those trips was a psyllid that Chris Mallory recognized as perhaps the first known photo of the Metatrioza genus, and the first record since the species was originally described out of Tucson in 1944. Even when I'm wrong or ignorant of the significance of what I'm observing (which embarrassingly happens a lot!), iNat continues to be a source of joy that my wanderings in nature can contribute to something bigger than myself, finding and sharing things that pique the interest of friends, taxonomic specialists and land managers. Similar to the psyllid (which Chris returned to the site the following year to re-find), @groverbrown came across one of my turtle observations, and suggested that it may be a new Maryland state record, for a species that is expanding its range during climate change. State biologists and Jug Bay land managers are now on the look out to confirm its presence. I think about that a lot now in Alaska. Not so much about finding state records, but about the potential for each observation to be interesting to science and conservation in the future, particularly as alpine and boreal species shift and disappear and arrive in Alaska over the next 10-20 years plus.

People

Tagging people I enjoyed being outside with in 2017/18 (and hoping you don't consider this being spammed). DC-area: @judygva @carrieseltzer @treegrow @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @mellis @ashley_bradford @achang @lagin6489 @katzyna @mattluizza @guyfoulks iNatathon: @finatic @jaykeller @berkshirenaturalist @kueda @loarie @dloarie @matthew_salkiewicz @nathantaylor @psyllidhipster @sambiology @silversea_starsong @bogslogger Great Smokey: @reallifeecology DSA: @greglasley @pbedell Indonesia: @stsang @dewichristina. And a big THANK YOU to @borisb @treegrow @psyllidhipster @joshuagsmith @nlblock @johnascher @brucebennett @gwark @edanko @briangooding @jasonrgrant & @wongun for identifying a huge number of my observations over the past couple years. I invite all of you to Anchorage -- our home & Alaskan nature await you.

2019 Goals

-- Visit west of Cook Inlet
-- More tide-pooling
-- Mystery Creek road
-- Harvest a caribou
-- 500 AK species
-- Plan for Peru in 2020
-- Revisit my interest in predicting species occurrence and observations on iNat
-- Go outside with some AK iNat'rs, including @connietaylor @awenninger @mbowser @mckittre @gwark @brucebennett @jasonrgrant @paul_norwood @camwebb @jrfulkerson @dssikes @troydeclan some of whom I've met, and some I hope to in 2019

From my family to yours, Happy New Year everybody.

Posted by muir muir, January 09, 2019 23:52

Comments

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Great post, Matt! Especially enjoyed the photo of the moose's papillae. I did not know that such structures existed. Congrats on your new baby and good iNatting in 2019!

Posted by joshuagsmith 8 months ago (Flag)
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Thank you for sharing! The gar's my favorite.

Posted by edanko 8 months ago (Flag)
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Great recap , great photos, great year! Was wonderful meeting you last year, looking forward to seeing what sorts of cool things you manage to find this year :)

Posted by psyllidhipster 8 months ago (Flag)
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Great posting! You are really getting some good stuff and a great accounting of the year!

Posted by greglasley 8 months ago (Flag)
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Matt, your numbers may be down but the quality is still as high as always. Thanks for the kudos on the 2017 AZ iNat-athon. Hoping to get one down again in 2019!

Posted by finatic 8 months ago (Flag)
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Matt, you are an inspiration!

Posted by judygva 8 months ago (Flag)
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Awesome! I'll be in Anchorage for the AOS conference in June (and a pre-conference trip to Nome!). It would be great to spend some time in the field with you!

Posted by nlblock 8 months ago (Flag)
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Beautiful journal entry — I really enjoyed this. :)

Posted by sambiology 8 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks all. @nlblock Nick, that would be great to meet up. Do you know @richardhall at UGA? He must be going to the same meeting b/c he just asked to iNat around those same dates. We were at Davis together. Give a shout when you have your dates, and let me know if you need a place to stay. My email is in my profile.

Posted by muir 8 months ago (Flag)
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Great to meet you last year Matt. Hopefully this year brings you on even more iNat adventures than the last. @finatic I can't wait for another iNat-athon. Keep me posted!

Posted by matthew_salkiewicz 8 months ago (Flag)
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I loved reading this—tag me anytime! Miss you lots in DC but so glad you are all loving Alaska and that we got to catch up when you passed through town.

I had no idea moose had those in their mouth, and googling it I guess it's a common ruminant adaptation. If I were naming them, I would have called them "hair teeth" because I think that's what they look like.

Hope iNat time is a silver lining to your furlough. :-/

Posted by carrieseltzer 8 months ago (Flag)
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Enjoyed meeting you at the DSA meeting in VA! If I remember right, we saw a Ruffed Grouse along a river gomphid site. One of my goals this coming year is to get to 2000 species observed on iNat.

Posted by pbedell 8 months ago (Flag)
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Matt! It was so nice to meet you on the field trip and great to hear from you.
Great snaps. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year from Boston!

Posted by achang 8 months ago (Flag)
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More info on the papillae if folks are interested --Why the Inside of a Camel's Mouth Looks Like a Sarlacc Pit

Posted by muir 8 months ago (Flag)
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Wow...love all the shots and the recap. Hope you achieve all your goals in 2019!

Posted by briangooding 8 months ago (Flag)

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