Tech Tip Tuesday: Searching "Places"

Vermont is undeniably a place of astounding natural beauty. Even in the cold, grey clutches of early winter, the landscape remains enchanting. These past few mornings the sun has risen on fields encased in a delicate layer of frost. On many occasions I’ve seen deer tracks crisscrossing the silver-laced blades, indicating early morning foraging along wooded edges. Now the nights are cold and crisp, tinged with wood smoke and the promise of future snow. We Vermonters may be poor in nightclubs and pulsing city centers, however here we thrive on a different kind of night life. Give me the raucous singing of coyotes over midnight traffic any day.

When we live in a place we love long enough, we develop a deep hunger to learn as much about it as possible. We feel immensely curious about the hidden mysteries of the town we live in, the woods where we hike, and the fields we pass by on our morning commute. Because Vermont is a state that prides itself on its natural environment, we often want to know more about the plants and animals who also make their home here. Thankfully, through projects like the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist, we can become acquainted with our non-human neighbors and feel even more connected to this patchwork landscape.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

The concept of place is important in our lives and coincidentally it is also a very useful tool on iNaturalist. When I say “place” in the context of iNaturalist, I do not mean an observation’s “location”. In iNaturalist, location and place are two different subjects. “Location” relies on towns and street names from Google Maps and is often used by naming a broad area in the “location” search bar under the explore tab. While filtering your results by location is useful when simply looking for observations in a certain town, state, or country, this function is limited because it relies on areas recognized by Google Maps.

On the other hand, filtering by place is the way to go when exploring observations or species found in a more specific area. For example, when I search for the Green Mountain National Forest under "Places", it provides me with the observations made there, a list of species seen and people who have contributed observations, and a map showing all observations. The observation map is especially useful because it allows you to see the distribution of observations. This way you know which areas need more observations and which are fairly well-covered.

Ultimately, place is an incredibly valuable tool for all iNaturalist users, but especially for regional planners, land managers, and others who work on land use and conservation projects in specific areas. For these individuals, exploring a place can provide detailed data on species presence that could help guide planning and decisions.

The best way to explore by place is by going to the “more” tab at the top of your page and clicking the drop down menu. From there, select “Places”. Once you get to the page, you can search for a specific place. As an example, I chose the Green Mountain National Forest, however you can search for your own town or local area of interest if you want. Thanks to VCE’s Kent McFarland, you can find all Vermont towns under places.

What if your favorite park, lake, or forest isn’t already in iNaturalist? If you have made 50 or more verifiable observations, you can create your own place. To do this, go to “Places” as described above and click “add a new place” in the lower right-hand corner. From there, select “manually create new place” and then either draw a boundary around the area on the map or upload a KML file (a KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth). After that, you’re all set to begin filling out your place’s information.

And that’s it! This useful feature is not difficult to access once you’re aware of it. Many people don’t think to use it because it’s tucked away from the usual search feature. However, for those who want to learn more about the species found in a particular spot, “Places” is invaluable.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to search for places in iNaturalist, it’s time to explore! Pick a place in Vermont where you enjoy exploring the outdoors and look it up under “Places”. Explore the different tabs, checking out what people have seen for species in the area. Take a look at the map for the place. Do you see any clusters of observations? Do you see big gaps with few observations? If you see big gaps, make note of where they are. If the place is easily accessible, I encourage you to go and add observations into those gaps next time you are out observing.

Do you have a favorite place that isn’t listed in iNaturalist yet? Then create it! Places provide valuable data to biologists, regional planners, and others who may use the information to pursue conservation projects in that particular area. Who knows, by adding your favorite place, you could create a new pool of valuable, easily accessible data.

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s web of life and happy observing!

Posted by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2, November 05, 2019 20:04

Comments

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Wow--spoken word + tech tip. Wonderful.

Posted by hill_jasonm 12 months ago (Flag)
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Hartland, VT does not seem to be in the "Places."

Posted by deandsusan 12 months ago (Flag)
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Hi,

I checked "Places" and I was able to locate both Hartland and North Hartland. I've noticed that "Places" is very sensitive to spelling and other variations between the search name and the result -- it doesn't like to make any guesses about what you're looking for. I recommend trying it again and if it's still not there, please let me know.

Posted by emilyanderson2 12 months ago (Flag)
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I also confirm that Hartland is in there. Entering even "hartland vt" and hitting return in the "Find a Place" box brings up both options that Emily mentioned.

Posted by hill_jasonm 12 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks - I found it -realized inaturalist doesn't like Hartland, VT, US but works with Hartland, US, VT - strange way of identifying a town in VT! A lot of interesting information - but Kent lovely winter photo that's on the page is actually Woodstock not Hartland!

Posted by deandsusan 12 months ago (Flag)

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