Has iNat Changed Your Behavior?

Hey folks, I'm trying to assemble some anecdotes about how iNat has changed peoples' behavior, so do you have any you can offer up? I know numerous people have told me that their partners complain about them becoming even slower hiking companions, or that they're now birders "gone bad" and diversifying into new taxa, so stuff like that. The more story-like the better, but I'm interested in everything, even if it's negative, e.g. now you waste away your life in front of the computer even more! Feel free to comment, or to message me privately if you have stuff you don't want on the web.

Posted by kueda kueda, October 01, 2014 21:23

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Oh gosh, I don't even know where to start. My wife definitely can get bored with my slowness, especially since i was prone to it even before finding iNat. We actually have a name for it - the 'naturalist crawl'. But I got really good at very rapidly adding things as I hike so now it doesn't slow me down much at all, unless I stop to take a nicer photo. That does show in the abundance of kind of blurry or generally unillustrative photos I post though.
In general, I just scour the landscape more than I used to. I mostly look for plants, and I am fascinated with mapping the location of plants because each tells such a strong story. Because plants can't walk around, finding a big tree in a place tells you it was able to survive there its entire life, while all that time competing with other species and also fending off things that want to eat it. Each tree tells a story, and while I don't really add 'every' tree I try to do one observation of every species when I get out. Oaks are at the edge of their range in Vermont so the stories they tell are even stronger... I go out of my way to map oaks.
Another anecdote I have has to do with moths. Like most other naturalist types, I'd rather be in the field, but I'm often in the office doing mapping and data entry. One of my coworkers found a neat moth in the stairwell to our parking structure, so I started looking for moths there. One day I found 15 different kinds! (http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/07/17/nature-on-the-ridges-and-in-the-cracks/). I've got 106 species of Lepidoptera on my life list now after two years watching the stairwell, and probably over half are from that stairwell. 50 or so species in a stairwell? I'm an ecologist, but when it comes to moths I am a clear amateur.. most of these species were identified by other people for me, though I since have learned some of the more common ones. So whenever someone tells me they can't see nature where they are... or they don't have anything to put into iNaturalist... I can show them that just about anywhere you can find a ton of neat stuff. I won't deny that I still prefer to be in the field, but considering all the time I spent in that stairwell before starting to see the moths... doing so has added a lot to my life.

Well, that's all for now. Probably too long. Feel free to use it for whatever, or nothing.

Posted by charlie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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iNat made me buy and add a camera to my gear bag ! Even more weight! My wife chuckles as she is a photographer but I am always saying grab my camera. So yes now more concerned about getting a photograph to document.

Posted by dave-barry over 6 years ago (Flag)
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iNat helped me realise an idea I had had many years ago - to keep photos of all species that I have observed. I tried to learn MS Access to build my own database to hold taxonomy, info & photos which wouldn't had half the functionality and then no social component either - and I am really bad at DB programming.

I then discovered iNat - my wife sometimes rolls her eyes as I duck to the PC to do some iNatting!

I know I am actively going out recording species and it has reinvigorated my science bent and I know I am contributing to citizen science projects all over. I also really enjoy helping confirm others observations and have learnt about species in places I have never been and may never visit.

Posted by ryber over 6 years ago (Flag)
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I have had a goal to try to understand more of the natural world for years; iNat has been a great catalyst to help me learn. One of my favorites areas to explore is Mount Rainier National Park, I was able to start a project (Mount Rainier Naturalists) that now has 23 members. The little community has been very useful to learn about the natural world of Rainier, with lots of help on identifications and other useful information. I also found out about a University of Washington citizen science project at Mount Rainier called MeadoWatch, and participated in gathering data this year. Another great community for me has been Puget Sound Naturalists which has helped me see the diverse ecosystems in the area that I live in. I also have to say that I learn by my mistakes (and there are quite a few) but the iNat community has been great in helping me correct these.

Finally, I have to echo ryber's comment above, through iNat I see natural areas that I will likely never visit but can appreciate.

Posted by brewbooks over 6 years ago (Flag)
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When I retired and moved to the Olympic Peninsula three years ago, I finally had time to look closely at the natural world around me, and there were so many species I'd never seen before. iNaturalist helped me create a life list, noticing a new chiton, a different orchid, an unusual butterfly. When I post a new species, I check it off in my Sibley's field guide to birds, my Pojar & MacKinnon book of plants, or my Andy Lamb guide to marine life. It has been fun being part of Puget Sound Naturalists on iNaturalist. (Hi, Brewbooks!) An expert in marine worms on iNaturalist taught me to photograph them in water in a clear plastic container for a more accurate image. And I like being invited to join other groups. For example, I was invited to join the Echinoderm group. Normally I wouldn't photograph the same species so frequently, but with Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, I now post an Ochre or Blood Sea Star whenever I find one. I also was invited to join the Roadkill group, which is trying to prevent so many animal deaths. In February my husband and I rode bikes the length of Tasmania, and were shocked to find so many dead bodies of nocturnal marsupials on the road. I posted a couple of photos of rare animals, including a Tasmanian Devil. Someone corrected my "wallaby" by identifying a Red-bellied Pademelon, which I'd never even heard of. iNaturalist has helped me learn new species.

Posted by wendy5 over 6 years ago (Flag)
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I am definitely way more interested in plants than I used to be. Before iNaturalist, I had kind of a mental tally of the number of animal species I had seen, but suddenly having a convenient and integrative place to keep track, as well as the temptation of upping my species lists, has made me stop and pay attention to green things as well!

I am also simultaneously more interested and lazier about identifying unknown species I grab a photo of. I want to see what they are, but I will often let the community do the hard work. :/ (BAD NATURALIST.)

At first, I was only cataloguing species that were new to me, but over the years, I have started trying to record all species I come across when I go to new locations, to help improve the coverage of areas where other iNat-ers may not have been yet.

It has also made me much more likely to advocate for citizen science when having discussions with academics.

Posted by field_daze over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Professionally, iNaturalist provides a mechanism that we just never had before to engage citizen scientists and volunteers. It is also opening a new door to research into species presence, distribution and abundance that we simply could never do in the past.

Personally, iNaturalist makes me pay closer attention and notice organisms (and habitats) in which I never took much notice in the past. It is like a constant scavenger hunt and encourages me to make the often substantial effort to get outside during meetings and other work travel.

I also carry a camera pretty much all the time now, which is improving my other photography.

Posted by faerthen over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Please see: http://www.inaturalist.org/journal/sekihiker/3292

I have been hiking every summer in the Sierra Nevada since returning to California in 1986. Before iNaturalist, most of my photos were of landscapes. Now and then I took a photo of a flower or a bear. Sometime in the mid 2000's, I set up a web site with some of my wildflower observations (http://sekihiker.home.comcast.net/~sekihiker/Wildflowers/index.html). I organized it the best I could using Excel. I searched for databases that would make a more pleasant presentation of my observations but never found any that fit the bill. When I discovered iNaturalist, I was amazed to find a ready-made database for my observations. Not only that, but iNat provided a community where I could find support that has encouraged me to grow and to focus on projects that seem to me worthwhile.

Instead of finding new cross country routes in and near Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP, I now spend most of my time studying the flora of the John Muir Wilderness west of Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs and east of Kings Canyon National Park.

Posted by sekihiker over 6 years ago (Flag)
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cross country travel is a great way to find new plant populations too though :)

Posted by charlie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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I now find myself in friendly conversations with fishermen and asking if I can look in their buckets and questions about their catch. They usually seem pretty fired up to explain what they're doing to someone armed with a camera rather than a fishing pole.

Posted by loarie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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At first I thought I was spending more time on the computer. Really, I'm spending the same amount of time, it's just all on iNat instead of bouncing around the internet trying to identify something. I've found it to be much more productive and fulfilling and I enjoy the sense of community one finds here.

iNat has also made me more attuned to the environment when I go out into the field or even when I'm walking to the grocery. To riff off of what Charlie said, many of my sightings occur in everyday situations (I haven't seen many species at work, but am going to start looking!) I live in Southern California and have recently started to notice the large numbers of parrots here. Previously, I just took them for granted (actually, I tried to ignore them since they are so loud in the early morning!)

I too have started to carry a camera more frequently and want to photograph everything.

Posted by joelferree over 6 years ago (Flag)
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iNat as awakened my love for bugs and being out in nature! As a child I was constantly outside searching for bugs and other creatures. My mom would be terrified every time I’d come home with a shoebox of new friends! I even made a bug hospital complete with tiny handmade hospital beds. I know, not very helpful, but at the time I thought I was doing something amazing.

Unfortunately that need to explore faded away as I became older. I was so busy with work, school, trying to figure out how to make a career in theatre. Now that I’ve been hiking more often, iNat has helped bring back that side of myself. I don’t just look at a plant and see a plant. I get close enough to see what could be crawling on that plant, and I want to know everything about it. Even when I’m not hiking, I’m finding that I’m so much more aware of the life that’s surrounding me. I could be walking home from the train station, and I’ll notice a bird sitting in a tree, and I’ll want to know what kind of bird it is, and try to take photos whenever I can.

Posted by danielled83 over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Photography of the natural world has remained about the same (it varies year to year), but what to do with the photos has changed a great deal.

Ids, ids, ids. iNaturalist has made a huge difference in identification of species photographed. I used to scour the internet for good sources of species ids, pester others for bird, butterfly, and plants ids. That has changed remarkably - fellow iNatters now help with ids, and the online species info on iNat has also helped to limit hours wasted in determining ids. I don't feel as lost or overwhelmed in learning the names of fauna and flora. And this knowledge is reinforced when helping others on iNat with ids.

Data, data, data. The iNat database and iNat tools have allowed the sharing of photos of natural resources with others via different websites, in a manner not possible before (without a huge investment in time).

It is also neat to "talk" about species with others all across the globe.

Whether I have time to do a lot or a little nature photography, iNat is now the central part of that activity, in recording, identifying, sharing, etc. because of the tools provided.

Posted by lynnwatson over 6 years ago (Flag)
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I upgraded my camera to one with a GPS. Taking photos of what I see is a much higher priority than it used to be. I'm going through old photos, brushing up on ID, and posting to iNaturalist for both my own life list and to share with the community. I stop to take pictures, even if they are with my phone, whereas before I'd just think "oh neat" and move on. Now I want to see what the iNat community can do with my unidentified observations. Sometimes I'm sad I don't have my camera with me when I see something cool, which detracts a bit from the experience of being outdoors looking at cool stuff. That's something I worried about when I started up with iNat, but it's worth the tradeoff to be part of this awesome community and learning so many more species than I would otherwise.

Posted by wisel over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Yeah, I use the smartphone app mostly, and I almost always have that with me. The bummer is if I see something far away like a bird or moose or something because the iPhone has a great camera for close up but no zoom. But I haven't decided to spend the money on a 'real' camera yet. Someday. I go back and forth between that and getting a little scope for my iphone, but the end result is I bought neither so far. Heh.

I hope Ken-Ichi posts in here too!

Posted by charlie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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I take crappier pics! Or rather I've become a bit more of a documenter than a photographer. I used to take pics of the things I found interesting with a dedicated camera, and skip over things that were familiar or at least not presenting themselves as good photographic subjects. Now I'm more inclined to document the common stuff with my phone, particularly if I know an area hasn't been well covered by other iNat users, or if I'm interested in building a decent list for a certain place. I post far fewer "nice" pictures to Flickr these days.

I'm also broadening my taxonomic scope because of the social connections I've made here. My recent interest in butterflies and moths is almost entirely thanks to robberfly, both through hiking around the Bay Area with him and knowing he can help me with IDs here on the website. Same goes for odes, lichens, non-nudibranch mollusks: I found them pretty daunting before, but knowing there are people here who can help makes me more inclined to spend the time to photograph them.

In general I'm becoming better at identifying a broader range of things, but strangely I sometimes find this also highlights how little I tend to know beyond mere identification. I often get asked "What does this eat?" or "Why is it this color?" and usually I can only speculate. To some extent, the ability to document interactions through observation fields incentivizes me to learn about behavior through direct experience, but I wonder if there's more we can do deepen our knowledge beyond identification.

Posted by kueda over 6 years ago (Flag)
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"if there's more we can do deepen our knowledge beyond identification" - my planned pursuits for 2015, hopefully.

Posted by lynnwatson over 6 years ago (Flag)
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iNaturalist has replaced facebook for me. I know -- monumental! :)

Seriously though, I have learned so much as I have posted on iNaturalist. It has revised my interest in insects and birds, whereas before I was almost primarily focused on plants. That is what is has done for me -- made me MORE interested in the rest of nature outside of my focus area.

To sum up - I like iNaturalist. Thanks. :)

Posted by sambiology over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Lord, where do I start...I joined a year and a half ago to work on my native plants ( cuz lepidopterists should know where the eggs are being laid...) As an illustrator, I'm asked to tell entire ecosystem stories on interpretive trail signs in San Francisco: iNaturalist has made me think WAY outside the box on that and tell obscure stories.
Victory recently when Armored Fog Lichen was added to one. Nice to be now thought of as a Naturalist and not just "The Butterfly Guy" - though I utterly exploit iNat as my own personal Masters Class on Mexican Butterflies.
How has it changed my life? I'm getting on a plane next week for Austin to hang with Greg Lasley - one of the God of Odes here at iNat. Do I know this person really? No, but the...insatiable curiosity we all share here...will be the smile I connect to with this stranger in an airport soon.

Posted by robberfly over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Again, thanks for all these, folks. One more question: does anyone have stories like these that relate to bioblitzes, specifically? Like, have you had an experience during a bioblitz (iNat-related or otherwise) that changed your behavior or perspective?

Posted by kueda over 6 years ago (Flag)
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this may not be what you are looking for but i helped with a bioblitz years ago, maybe 2009 or so, long before I was on iNaturalist. My experience? It was a huge pain in the butt. I already wrote plant species in my notebook for work, so it just felt like doing work. I didn't feel like the data was necessarily being used. I was trying to engage interest with the other people there but there wasn't much there and it didn't help that I wasn't that excited either.

I participated in a small bioblitz in Vermont last summer and that way way, way funner and easier because I had iNat and the app. I was able to input species I don't usually know such as dragonflies and bumblebees. I ended up finding a new bumblebee species for the park, and if it had been the 2008 bioblitz i wouldn't have even recorded the bee.

Posted by charlie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Using iNaturalist makes me want to stop and take more photos of things I see that I would not have otherwise bothered to photograph or document. I look for opportunities to stop and notice the everyday nature that I encounter in my neighborhood because it might be something cool I can post to iNat! It also makes me want to get a newer iPhone (I have a 4! ancient these days!), since that's the only camera I'm really using at all these days (which is conveniently geolocated, so even more reason to just use that). I can't wait until I can upgrade in January! I'm also thinking about getting a macro lens for it, which someone else also mentioned.

I wish I'd been on iNat in its early days when I was doing field work for my PhD. I suppose it would have been really difficult for me to contribute over my very slow internet connection, but still. As a result, I have an intimidating collection of photos from Tanzania that I really want to share on iNat, but only a handful of them are geotagged, so it's going to be a beast of a task to get it right, and I want to do it right.

Posted by carrieseltzer over 6 years ago (Flag)
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ooh, if you do figure them out I'm sure many people will appreciate them!

Posted by charlie over 6 years ago (Flag)
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Oh my gosh, iNaturalist has been a wonderful gift! I work in a park and teach science (mostly to kids), and people often come to our Nature Center with spiders in jars or a picture of something they saw, wanting to know what it is. We did our best, but now I can refer people to iNat. They get so excited that there is a site where people can help them ID their finds AND it can help scientists study the natural world!

More importantly (to me), iNat has a huge place in my personal life. I've always enjoyed photography and nature. I used to take mainly landscape, but still I would take pictures of neat animals or pretty flowers. I've since been working to upload all those, and it's a fun memory exercise to go back and remember where they were. I work with lots of naturalists and scientists, so I used to hound them to help with IDs in their areas of specialties and just figure I'd never know the rest. But NOWWWWWW... =D

Now, I find myself taking pictures of things I wouldn't have before. Like spiders. I used to be pretty arachnophobic, but taking pictures and seeing how pretty some of them, plus learning to ID some of them and which ones aren't harmful to people, has really changed my perspective. And I've developed a whole new level of patience (as has my fiance!) from waiting until I get a clear shot of a bird or insect moving around so I can get an ID. I love finding projects that I can contribute to, and learning new IDs. I feel like I am constantly learning new things on here - and the people helping with IDs are so wonderful and helpful in explaining even the smallest differences. Oh, and being able to create a life list and realize just how many different things I've seen - AMAZING!!

And my favorite change: I bird with my camera instead of binoculars. I finally got a camera with good zoom (between iNat and whale watching, I considered myself to have no choice, really), and since I'm still just mediocre at ID'ing, as I zoom in, I take pictures of birds and other animals, as many angles as I can. When people see me do this, at first they think I'm weird and/or offer me binoculars to borrow, but then when I get a good shot of something they saw only briefly, they understand. =)

Now back to catching up on my backlog of photos to post! =D

Posted by seakay about 6 years ago (Flag)
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I sympathize with taking crappier photos (sort of). I still try to take good photos, but I see most of them as documentation of the distribution and temporal occurrence of critters, rather than as art.

It has made me slower in some ways (which many of my friends thought was impossible), because I stop for way more slime molds, inverts, plants, etc. than I ever used to. But it has also allowed me to not take tripod-and-DSLR photos of every mushroom (because I now feel comfortable just using my iPhone to take record shots). Perhaps the two influences have evened out, and I'm as slow as I ever was. The breadth of my taxa-of-interest has dramatically increased as I mentioned above. Especially with regards to small, tiny, exceedingly tiny, and microscopic organisms.

I really want to start using the journal feature - particularly when visiting new places, I want to record impressions of accessibility, directions for future exploration, tips for travelers, etc.
It is so hard to find good information online about biodiversity-exploration when visiting a new place. Birders have trip reports that are often outstanding, but what if you are looking for mycorrhizal forests? Or orthopteran diversity? In Indonesia?!

I've taken some handwritten notes on these things, now I need to transcribe them.

Posted by leptonia about 5 years ago (Flag)
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I think i am probably the king of ugly photos on this site, at least among the higher-volume users. Don't get me wrong, I will occasionally take a nice one if I can, but as far as I'm concerned the biodiversity data is so valuable that anything that has a shot at research grade is worth doing. Even shots of easy-to-ID trees from the Interstate (while my wife is driving).

Then again I don't even have a 'real' camera only the iPhone camera, because I don't want to spend the money on a nice one. Some day maybe I can get a camera with good optical zoom and GPS. Until then...

Posted by charlie about 5 years ago (Flag)
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Yes, I bought a camera and now carry a camera into the woods with me! I also looks for life forms I may not of earlier.

Posted by dave-barry about 5 years ago (Flag)

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