Philippines - iNaturalist World Tour

The Philippines is the 46th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour. The top observer @maractwin, needs no introduction on iNaturalist. As a self described "avid scuba diver, fish geek and underwater photographer" its clear why he's made so many observations in the Philippines which is one of the greatest scuba diving destinations in the world. @maractwin's observations are clustered in the southern part of Luzon near the capital of Manila and the island of Mindoro alongside other scuba-focused top observers such as @tonydiver and @tgosliner. @liselle and @michaela are other top observers in this region.

On the northern part of Luzon Island @rhabdornis's observations are centered along with @paulengler and @tonyg. @rhabdornis' observations highlight the incredible Lepidoptera diversity in the Philippines. You can read more about @tonyg's connection to Luzon Island in this Observation of the Week post. Further south, @curiousann is based in the Central Visayas region. Check out her blog here. @timcameron's observations, which also have an underwater-focus, are also centered in this region. Top observers @blogie, @greg3ph, and @shelley_b have observations clustered in Mindanao to the south. Beetle researcher and National Geographic grantee @anncabras24 is also based in Mindanao and has several projects such as this one incorporating iNaturalist into her research.


There are several peaks in the Observation per month graph that reflect bursts of activity from a handful of top observers. For example, the peak in March 2015 was driven by a burst of observations near Davao by @blogie and observations by California Academy of Science researchers @tgosliner and @rmooi on Mindoro resulting from the 2015 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. Similarly, the peaks in March and June of 2018 were driven by @rhabdornis and @maractwin respectively. During the last year, we seem to be seeing more sustained growth in the Philippines in contrast to these isolated peaks of activity.


In addition to being top observer in the Philippines, @maractwin is the top identifer. He also leads in fish identifications which is the second most "observose" category. Mollusks and 'other animals' are the third and fourth most observose categories reflecting all of the observations of marine mollusks like nudibranchs and marine organisms such as corals and echinoderms being observed by the underwater focused observers. Thanks to @hsini_lin and @phelsumas4life for lending their expertise to these two categories and all the other underwater focused top identifiers such as @kemper, @joe_fish, @sascha_schulz, and @jpsilva. The top species categories based on number of observations (with @hkmoths as the top identifier) probably reflects all the Lepidoptera observations by @rhabdornis. @shawnodonnell is the top plant identifier lending his South East Asian botany expertise. You can read about his research through the SUNDASIA project here. Is this the first country we've examined where birds aren't in the top 5 species categories?


What can we do to get more people in the Philippines using iNaturalist? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@maractwin @rhabdornis @curiousann @liselle @greg3ph @paulengler @kemper @phelsumas4life @joe_fish @hsini_lin

We’ll be back tomorrow with the Poland!

Posted by loarie loarie, August 08, 2019 21:43

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A big thanks @loarie, for your feature of the Philippines!

There are several closed groups on FB such as Philippine Native Tree Enthusiasts which has 12.3K members, Wild Bird Photographers 16.9K members, Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines 10.7K members, Philippine Biodiversity with 5.2K members and so on. I see some of them here, except they are not as active. Probably because there are already existing online communities to post wildlife photos (force of habit). And, it is in these groups where scientists, hobbyists, environmentalists, conservationists... hang out to tackle environmental issues as well. Also, since these people somehow know each other, the conversation is more engaging. Thus, it becomes a one-stop shop.

Re: Is this the first country we've examined where birds aren't in the top 5 species categories? There are several birders in the Philippines (myself included) but we post it either in our own closed group or at eBird.

A 30K observation is very low considering that the Philippines has a very high degree of land and animal endemism and is considered a biodiversity hotspot. However, wildlife poaching/trafficking is a big problem. Imagine, it is currently considered the fourth most lucrative illegal trade next to narcotics, human trafficking and arms deal! Despite a slew of environmental laws and the collaboration of NGOs, wildlife trafficking has become an even more lucrative trade because of online marketplaces and various social media platforms. I have qualms about sharing photos of vulnerable and endangered species especially because it's not clear how iNaturalist can protect these. So, having a small FB group of conservationists/environmentalists... makes it easier to screen that these people are really here to protect and conserve biodiversity. But who knows maybe eventually we'll have more and more Filipino scientists/conservationists on iNaturalist.

Another way to get more people to use iNat is to organize bioblitzes in Universities.

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, logistics can be challenging. So, choose strategically located schools in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. E.g. Silliman University in Dumaguete. Dumaguete is in Central Visayas and it serves as the jump off point to reach Siquijor, Bohol, Apo Island and other neighboring provinces that aren't as easily accessible via land and air travel.

In Mindanao, there's MSU in Lanao del Sur which occupies the western portion of Mindanao. You may pick one university in Davao as well to cover the southeastern section, then another in Butuan/Agusan for the northern part. In Luzon, there's UP Baguio and Benguet State University etc. Something like that. So people living in these areas will be the ones taking care of the observations in those places. Not just to post as many observations but to encourage local engagement and empower communities to conserve, manage and defend their sites. Not losing sight that the aim here is for biodiversity conservation and its sustainable use. :)

Posted by liselle about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Thanks for all the insight @liselle! I think one of the main values iNat brings that a FB or Flickr group doesn't is that the photos become data points which can be use to do things like flesh-out distributions, train the computer vision models, and feed into efforts like GBIF, but I'm not sure how to communicate that best to someone accustomed to posting to FB and whether it would entice them to post more to iNat. Any idea?

Re: poaching, iNat has tools in place described here to protect sensitive locations associated with threatened species - but I'm not sure thats widely known to people who've heard of iNat but not tried it.

I agree that Bioblitzes definitely provide something that FB groups don't in terms of cool stats like species counts, but they require local champions to volunteer the work needed to organize them. Any takers interested in organizing Bioblitzes in the Philippines? Is there any 'remote support' that we (the larger iNat community or staff) could provide that would make organizing Bioblitzes easier for said local champions?

Posted by loarie about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Very interesting information. As a diver I love the Philippines! So many creatures I have seen for the first time ... a recent trip to Anilao and just 8 dives added 50 new species to my observations! Have dived at Malapascua, Dumaguete as well and want to get back to explore other areas in the country.

Posted by tonydiver about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Thanks @loarie. We can tag those who are already here to read this post so they'll know the benefits of posting on iNat. Is there a way to find them in one search?

RE: Bioblitzes. Ok, I'll volunteer. Would you like to tie up with a local environment group? There's a Biodiversity on Wheels (BOW) a built-in multimedia and library rolled into one van that visits schools and communities to teach environmental topics such as Philippine biodiversity and solid waste management. They have 3 vans, one for each group of islands. Or, if you want independently, we can write the school directors and I'll find a contact person in the said region. I'll ask around who else can assist.

Posted by liselle about 1 month ago (Flag)
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wow that would be awesome! Let us know how we can help from afar

Posted by loarie about 1 month ago (Flag)
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@loarie the link to the observation of the week post is not working...

Posted by alexis_orion about 1 month ago (Flag)
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whoops - fixed, thanks!

Posted by loarie about 1 month ago (Flag)
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@liselle Go to Explore and enter "Philippines" (no taxon), then click "Observers" on the right

Posted by shelley_b about 1 month ago (Flag)
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@liselle and @anncabras24 you two should connect around bioblitzes! Tagging @aztekium_tutor too to keep him in the loop since he'll be visiting later this month.

Also, @liselle I remember you from waaaay back in the days of the Great Nature Project (looks like you got your iNat start there) and I'm so happy that you've stayed involved in iNat.

Posted by carrieseltzer about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Thanks, @shelley_b and @tonyrebelo!

Noted. Great to 'see' you again, @carrieseltzer :) You're right, it was through NatGeo's Great Nature Project that I got started here.
Thanks for the invite!

Posted by liselle about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Thanks a lot @carrieseltzer I look forward to meet and work with you guys in your country, I have talked to Ann already and we are planning some good training!

Saludos

Carlos

Posted by aztekium_tutor about 1 month ago (Flag)
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@loarie. I had a meeting with a local environment group yesterday to help with the logistics etc. They'll be sending the proposal this week FYI

@aztekium_tutor I look forward to meet and work with you as well. I have already sent a direct message to Ann and was figuring out how to add you. But, I guess iNat don't have a group chat feature yet...I'll send you a separate message then.

Posted by liselle about 1 month ago (Flag)
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thanks for the invite :)

Posted by geonyzl about 1 month ago (Flag)
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Thank you, Loarie. Greetings to all from Udalo, Occidental Mindoro!
Regarding a possible increase of observations please note: I have hundreds of photos of fauna observations plus hundreds more of local flora. Why are they not on iNat? Simply because of the lousy internet connection! We are still struggling along with 2G (Smart Edge) - even to process a simple email takes a lot of patience; uploading of photos is impossible most of the time. I don't know how it is in another remote areas but for here it's a really big problem. It's ridiculous to have to take a 60 minute boat ride one way to gain access to the nearest high speed data point. Until a solution is found I will continue to collect photos. At the same time, I will continue to raise awareness among the villagers - to open their minds and look at the natural beauty and immense biodiversity this area has to offer long-term and if protected: not just "food" for today but investment in the future for their kids. E.g. "Pawikan Patrol" - the protection of our three local sea turtle populations, especially their eggs and nests and nesting habitat, is already a success. People f all ages, up and down the 11km long municipal coast line, are now vigilant for sea turtle sightings and nests. It took five years but now no more poaching of eggs and quite a few fishermen actually rescue turtles if caught in their nets by accident.
How to increase contributions to iNat remains difficult - this is a poor area: not many people have money to spend on cameras, smart
phones, tablets, laptops or similar - and back to internet problem!

Posted by michaela 29 days ago (Flag)
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I imagine internet is an issue for many of the countries we've "visited" during the iNaturalist World Tour, and even more for many countries that have not been showcased yet. Not only is it often very slow, but many areas/plans involve paying high rates per MB, with unlimited plans being unaffordably expensive--even for many expats. In a couple of the countries where I've lived, I would manually turn off images to improve internet function and save money (I didn't even know there was such a setting on my internet browser before I moved overseas). But you can't use iNat with images turned off!

Posted by shelley_b 29 days ago (Flag)
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Thanks for the comments about internet speed. We've got a lot of room for improvement in terms of low bandwidth functionality. There are some tips on the Forum from other users about how they manage as-is and the features that may help: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/using-inat-on-slow-internet-connections-wiki/3482

Posted by carrieseltzer 29 days ago (Flag)
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Very cool to see these two Nat Geo organized recent Bioblitzes in the Philippines: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/matina-campus-um-bioblitz-2019 and https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/minibioblitz-kasalikasan-garden-green-area @aztekium_tutor, @shellfishgene and @anncabras24 do you have any more information about these events and any other exciting news on the iNat outreach front from the Philippines? @microbeexplorer (aka Shannon Bennett) from CAS will be in the Philippines in 2 weeks. Would be awesome if meeting up with @anncabras24 & @liselle to discuss more works out.

Posted by loarie 13 days ago (Flag)
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:( Wish I were still in Davao to participate!!

Posted by shelley_b 13 days ago (Flag)
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Hi @loarie Thanks for mentioning! We had two BioBlitzes in Davao City and 2 also in Manila I believe. The other Bioblitz was with the indigenous people Bagobo Tagabwa tribe in Mt. Apo Natural Park (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/mount-apo-bioblitz-2019-ng?tab=observations). It was a back to back event (August 29-30). Both events were amazing!!! A total of roughly 300-400 people joined for both BioBlitzes. Public school teachers, professors, biologists, students (from elementary to college), farmers, military people and people from the corporate world joined. It was an amazing event and great way to expose them to iNaturalist. Some had difficulty having their observations be reflected to the event but we are working with them on those. We got very nice feedback from everyone especially the teachers and they would want to adapt the use of iNaturalist. In fact at the end of the month, I got an invitation to talk about the use of iNaturalist in one school as they will be having their environmental camp. I would like to ask your permission for that or anybody from iNaturalist :) We plan on doing a similar activity which is discuss a bit about iNaturalist and then do a short BioBlitz in their campus. Also the schools who joined expressed their desires to replicate the UM BioBlitz to their own campusesn. We also plan to join City Nature Challenge next year...So far these are the updates :) :) :)

Posted by anncabras24 12 days ago (Flag)
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Kudos to Carlos @aztekium_tutor for an awesome job here in Davao City!!! :)

Posted by anncabras24 12 days ago (Flag)
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@microbeexplorer Shannon welcome to the Philippines in a few weeks :) Hope you have a great stay. Specifically, where are you staying? Thanks I'd love to meet you :)

Posted by anncabras24 12 days ago (Flag)
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@anncabras24 can I join you?

Posted by geonyzl 12 days ago (Flag)
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Thanks for the update- sounds like a great series of bioblitzes!

Posted by loarie 12 days ago (Flag)
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The last activitiy we did is this:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/ateneo-de-manila-university-miriam-college-bioblitz

Thanks to @anncabras24 for your leadership in this activities at Davao!, I learned a lot!

I am sure, everyone will be happy if you start doing training in your country!

Saludos a todos!

Posted by aztekium_tutor 11 days ago (Flag)
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Yay! Good to hear we have Nat Geo grantees doing Bioblitzes here!
Looks like iNaturalist already has local champions and more are needed to cover all 7,641 islands (plus underwater Bioblitz). :)

Kudos and keep up the good work!

Posted by liselle 11 days ago (Flag)

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