muir's 2016 iNat Year in Review

Observations
I made an iNaturalist observation in every month of 2016, almost missing December but saved by a single observation of a chilly Autumn Meadowhawk that I saw with my local iNat buddy @carrieseltzer. In total, I posted 1,834 observations and 854 species (IDed as of this journal post). That's a slight increase from last year, but still down from 2012-2014. iNat has really grown since then! As an example, I topped the entire site's observation leaderboard in 2012 and my observations accounted for %0.02 of iNat's total. In 2016, in contrast, I am currently the #105th most prolific observer and my contributions are 0.001% of iNat's total observations. (Hooray for iNat's awesome growth and congrats to this year's leaders @reallifeecology @sambiology @finatic!)

Places
About 40% of my 2016 observations were from outside the United States, my highest level since I joined in 2011. I traveled to three new-to-me African countries: Morocco (71 observations, 49 species, 45 life list firsts), Uganda (167 observations, 107 species, 26 life list firsts), Rwanda (82 observations, 62 species, 12 life list firsts). I also traveled to DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, but to places that were new to me: Garamba (122 observations, 88 species, 25 life list firsts), Nouabale-Ndoki (262 observations, 100 species, 35 life list firsts) and Odzala (71 observations, 48 species, 10 life list firsts).

About 40% of my 2016 observations were from my DC area home range. Some of my regular favorites: Huntley Meadows, VA (104 observations, 76 species, 4 day trips), Occoquan NWR, VA (82 observations, 64 species, 2 day trips), Idylwild WMA, MD (117 observations, 80 species, 4 day trips), Jug Bay, MD (26 observations, 22 species, 2 day trips), Bombay Hook NWR, DE (46 observations, 38 species, 2 day trips), Chincoteague NWR, VA (36 observations, 30 species, 1 day trip), and Little Bennett State Park, MD (36 observations, 28 species, 2 day trips). Some new sites for me: Governor Bridge Natural Area, MD (39 observations, 33 species, 9 life list firsts); Lums Pond State Park, DE (15 observations, 15 species, 2 life list firsts), Long Branch Nature Center, VA (22 observations, 18 species, 4 life list firsts), Sky Meadows State Park, VA (41 observations, 35 species, 6 life list firsts), and Pokomoke River WMA, MD (17 observations, 15 species, 4 life list firsts).

Finally, I traveled to Austin, Texas in May (222 observations, 142 species, 78 life list firsts) and northern California in July (Big Sur to Truckee: 64 observations, 41 species, 23 life list firsts). In TX, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with @greglasley to re-visit Hornsby Bend, and then spend 3 days at McKinney Rough State Park at @jcabbott and @kendrakabbott 's amazing BugShot macro photography workshop.

Species
In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species photos that I took in 2016, most of them life list firsts:

I observed a small leaf beetle on the shores of Rwanda's Lake Ruhondo. Many thanks to @borisb for ID help on this observation, and many other beetle observations.

On the same walk, I also saw a Giant Carpenter Bee, tentatively IDed as Xylocopa flavorufa.

Thanks to @fungee , my stinkhorn fungus on the Uganda-DRC border was identified as Lysurus corallocephalus.

A wattled lapwing impressed in Queen Elizabeth NP, Uganda.
A funky planthopper in Congo, seen in May.
An Acraea chrysalis from the same area in Congo.
Mazuca dulcis and Delorhachis viridiplaga, two attractive moths in Congo and some of the few I managed to ID to species. Of the 140 Lepidoptera observations I documented in Bomassa, only 26 have so far been identified to the Family level or below.

Western gorillas in Congo's Odzala National Park and Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes NP, Rwanda.

Moray eels for sale in the Essaouira fish market, Morocco.
In a sand dune in SE Morocco, I found a spider in the Cebrennus genus, possibly the "flic-flac" spider featured in the New York Times. My own video was not as impressive but @jakob like it anyway.

Closer to home, I was thrilled to see my first Gray Petaltail in June, and then I observed one decapitated by a European Hornet.
Texas beetles observed during BugShot: a clown weevil(Eudiagogus pulcher), Ironclad Beetle (Zopherus nodulosus ssp. haldemani), and a buprestid (Polycesta elata).

My first iNat observation of a virus turns a pillbug purple.

Finally, not a life list first, but a revelation: dancing penguins are a diagnostic field mark to distinguish Forest Tent Caterpillars from Eastern Tent Caterpillars.

People
In 2016, I had the good fortune to meet up IRL with @carrieseltzer @judygva @nhmordenana @loarie @kueda @sapito @katja @greglasley @jcabbott @kendrakabbott @briangratwicke @naturelady @congonaturalist @mattluizza @stsang @katzyna @maryeford @alexshepard @joelle @jackcamino and of course @aamuir who deserves credit for spotting most of the things we saw together. And a huge THANK YOU to @jakob @greglasley @aguilita @borisb @john8 @kevinhintsa @nlblock @maractwin @johnnybirder and @gcwarbler who were the top 10 identifiers to my observations. And another thank you to @joelle who (I think) was behind my favorite new thing about iNat in 2016 -- the revamped Observations page. Happy New Year everybody!

2017 Goals

  • SE Arizona, August w/ @finatic @jaykeller et al
  • Sumatra
  • Central African Republic
  • Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV
  • Ophiogomphus, Lanthus vernalis, more new odes
  • Learning a new way to contribute to iNat

Posted by muir muir, January 13, 2017 04:14

Comments

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Matt, this is an awesome write-up. I'm glad I met you this year and that you persuaded me to give iNaturalist a chance.

Posted by judygva over 4 years ago (Flag)
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very jealous of all your travels matt!

Posted by loarie over 4 years ago (Flag)
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Glad to play a part in this awesome story, Matt! Since we're talking numbers and firsts here, I think that stinkhorn was the first fungus I have ever I.D.'d in Africa (probably one of about 5 I.D.s attempted outside of N.A. and included in the perhaps 10% of my fungus observations made outside of the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, which is my area of interest!) I LOVE STINKHORNS, but less than the flys do.

Posted by fungee over 4 years ago (Flag)
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So glad to know you IRL now, after fangirling you on iNat for a long time! Looking forward to many more DC adventures this year.

Posted by maryeford over 4 years ago (Flag)
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Great summary and gorgeous pix! Thanks for taking us all on your travels with you - not quite as good as being your bag-carrier, but probably as close as many of us will get to these wonderful places and species. And thanks for your untiring enthusiasm for the "hunt" - always inspiring. %;-)

Posted by naturelady over 4 years ago (Flag)
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This is a great post. I really do hope to see you in Arizona this year.

Posted by finatic over 4 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks everybody!

@finatic me too! Very very excited. I should have identified that as the best idea that came out of 2016....
@naturelady ha! Because I am such a last minute planner, and you are always doing so many fun things, we need to start planning now for some spring eastern shore adventures. I can sense that Marshall misses you even if he doesn't articulate it.
@maryeford fantastic to meet you too! I'm a fanboy of everybody on here.
@fungee I am honored! You are a fungus hero.
@loarie So great to see you and Jessica and M. Thanks to you and iNat team for making and fostering such a cool thing.
@judygva I'm so glad to have met you at BugShot and for you to have joined iNat. You are already a star on here. That day we bumped into each other at Occoquan was one of my favorite nature days of 2016!

Posted by muir about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Wow! You really went all out on this post! I love the graphs and maps and country breakdowns. I'm tempted to do this too. I'm surprised you only got the one dragonfly observation from that Jug Bay adventure... I thought I was way behind you with my handful from that day. Or maybe I just have lower standards?

Posted by carrieseltzer about 4 years ago (Flag)
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At the risk of redundancy - WOW!! I think naturelady summed up my thoughts exactly. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

Posted by ellendale about 4 years ago (Flag)
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This is awesome! I was excited to see that i had only a modest decline from 2015 despite the fact that in 2015 I had no new baby and went to Costa Rica AND California. Less traveling than you but still. I've also noticed that I don't get on the leaderboards any more like I often did back in 2012, because there are so many more people. But it's a good thing not a bad one.

Posted by charlie about 4 years ago (Flag)
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So dang spectacular. Love this journal entry!

Posted by sambiology about 4 years ago (Flag)
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@charlie absolutely! You might anticipate less time for iNat in Year #2. My experience was kiddo napping far less and being far more mobile in his second year (so less free time) and a rejection of being in the backpack carrier so hikes covered less ground. He was born at the end of 2013 so it was only 2015 that I think I saw a dip. The trade-offs however are worth it! Here's my favorite 2016 photo of him outside:

Posted by muir about 4 years ago (Flag)
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@carrieseltzer I started this journal entry at your house!

Posted by muir about 4 years ago (Flag)
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aww! Yeah i may take a dip in observations this summer or the next but it will be so fun to watch her be able to explore more! She already is but can't walk quite yet. I am hoping that i can occasionally do inat mini-bioblitzes when i am doing field work for work, but usually we can only do that during certain types of surveys and only on public land. So who knows. I was able to do some last year.

Posted by charlie about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Super cool photos and review!

Posted by johnnybirder about 4 years ago (Flag)

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