The Taxa List: A new way to keep score in iNat

I love the way iNat automatically tracks the total number of species that an iNatter has observed and has been able to identify (with the help of the iNat community). Now we can be just like the birders, obsessively keeping track of the number of species we've observed - comparing life lists, region lists, state lists, and yard lists; competing in big years and big days; spending most of our spare time and money searching for new species to add to our lists. The only difference is that unlike birders, we have to provide evidence that we actually saw what we claimed to have seen.

The species list idea works well in iNat for certain taxa, like birds and other vertebrates, and the bigger, flashier and better-known invertebrates, like butterflies and dragonflies. If you take a decent picture of any of these guys, it's likely you will be able to identify it - and if you can't someone in the iNat community will be able to help you.

But this isn't true for the smaller, more numerous, and less well-known invertebrates. It's often not possible to identify these taxa to species level even with very good photos. Mosses, algae, fungi, lichens, and vascular plants are also often difficult or impossible to identify to species from photos, especially if reproductive structures are not displayed.

So what should be done about it?

Well, I propose a taxa list, similar to the "leaves" option on iNat lists, except every major taxonomic group would be counted. This would include every kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species on an iNatter's list.

For example, I just saw and photographed a Common Wood Nymph on a raspberry bush in my backyard. Since this is a new genus and species for my yard list, my taxa list increased by 2, not 1. And earlier this week, I was able to add 5 points to my yard list when I identified a Common Pill Bug, adding a new class, order, family, genus, and species to my list.

I'm not suggesting that the taxa number replace the species number in iNat, only that it be used to supplement it. This would:

  1. Encourage iNatters to include and try to identify the more difficult taxa (which is most of them), which now often languish without attempts to ID.
  2. Emphasize the taxonomy behind the IDs.
  3. Promote diversity on iNat lists.

It's easy to keep track of the taxa list with a spreadsheet. Here are my results for my yard list.

Kingdoms: 3
Phyla: 6
Classes: 11
Orders: 29
Families: 59
Genera: 67
Species: 55
Total Taxa: 230

Of course it's still a bit of trouble. So I suspect that my yard list taxa total of 230 will remain the highest value for a while. At least until iNat starts to compute it automatically.

Posted by swells swells, August 17, 2016 17:59

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare)

Observer

swells

Date

August 16, 2016 09:59 AM HST

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

Observer

swells

Date

August 17, 2016 08:09 AM HST

Description

On a raspberry leaf

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