Tech Tip Tuesday: Creating Lists

Brrrrr I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t quite ready for winter to start this week. The morning after the first snowfall is always the toughest as you acclimate to all of the steps needed to get out the door and into the world. No matter how many years I spend bundling up with hat and gloves, scraping ice off the windshield of my car, and driving a little slower to navigate icy roads, these extra steps always come as a surprise. In the days leading up to the snow, my property was a flurry of activity as my partner and I tried to finish up last minute pre-snow activities. And we weren’t alone. I always notice a burst of wildlife right before a storm hits. As I stacked firewood and finished putting the garden to rest, I noticed many birds and small rodents gathering seeds in preparation for the coming snow.

Although I can’t say that I’m quite ready for prolonged freezing temperatures, I am excited for all the new opportunities winter presents in the world of observing. The first snowfall always seems like the final transition between summer and winter. In the summer, everything is camouflaged and smothered under layers of foliage. Although wildlife is more abundant, their signs are sometimes harder to read. On the other hand, the first snowfall is a clean slate waiting for the species who have stayed to brave the cold months to write their narratives on its surface. Without the rustling of leaves, the landscape is quiet, save for the knocking of tree branches in the breeze. When the air is still in the winter, it seems like the whole world is holding its breath.

I love the stillness of winter and how easy it is to see little dramas play out all over the woods. I dare say that winter is actually one of my favorite seasons to go outside. This winter, I look forward to expanding my collection of observed tracks on iNaturalist and I hope that you will join me!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Since I expect to expand my personal database of tracks, I know that I will want an easy way to compile and view them. Thankfully, iNaturalist has a feature that allows you to do just that: lists! Lists are a great tool for organizing your observations and keeping track of what you’ve seen. iNaturalist allows you to make a couple different types of lists, however today I will walk you through how to make a basic list and a life list. By going to the iNaturalist help page, you can learn more about some other types of lists.

Before we get started, a quick disclaimer: some users do find that the list feature is a bit clunky. In some cases, it won’t always keep pace with adding observations to lists that are supposed to update automatically. As of 2018, iNaturalist is exploring other options for similar features and is no longer devoting as much energy to updating the “List” function. However, it is still a useful tool despite the occasional challenges.

To start, click on the dropdown menu under the circle containing your profile picture in the top right corner of your screen. Click on “Lists” under the possible options. Once you arrive at the “Lists” page you should see your “Life List”. iNaturalist automatically generates this first list for you. It contains all verified species that you have observed thus far.

If you want to see what an active list looks like, click on it and explore around. Notice how it offers several filter options on the right-hand side under “Stats”. Up along the top, you will also see a couple of other options. “Edit” allows you to edit the list’s title, description, and filter settings. “Edit Taxa” allows you to batch edit all of the species found in that list. There are also several different options for viewing your observations. When you first open a list, it will automatically display your observations by photo. However, you can also view them in lists organized by class and taxonomic clusters.

Once you’ve had a chance to explore this page, go back to your main list page. To create a new list, click on “New List” in the top left corner. Once on this page, you can give your list a title and a description. You will also see a list of options on the right-hand side of the page. The first question to answer is whether or not you want to create a life list. A life list differs from a basic list in that it (usually) gets updated automatically. Life lists also allow you to choose a taxa to focus on. For example, you could create a life list for all of the birds that you see or a life list for all of the hawks and eagles (family Accipitridae) that you see. All observations that fall into these groups will automatically get added to this list.

Once you’ve decided whether or not you want to create a life list, you can move on to the other possible options. The first option allows you to restrict the taxonomic rank accepted. For example, if you select “Species”, you can only add observations identified to the species level. If you select “Any”, it will accept any observation regardless of whether or not it’s identified to the species level. The second option lets you choose the picture you want displayed with your observation. You can choose either the observation’s photo or the photo that is already in iNaturalist for that taxon.

Once you have your title, description, and settings the way you want them, hit “Save”. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Remember the edit button we saw on the active life list earlier? By clicking there on your new completed list, you can edit everything except for its life list status at any point.

Now that you’ve created your list, it’s time to add observations to it! If you created a life list, iNaturalist likely already completed this step for you. However, if you are missing any observations or created a basic list, you need to add observations manually. To add a species from another existing list (including your iNaturalist generated life list), you can select the list in box that says “Compare one of your lists” in the top right corner. This will first show you a list of observations that exist in your new list (if any are there) and then the observations in the comparison list. By using the “add” buttons you can add observations to either lists. It will also indicate which observations you have in common. If you want to add a species that you don’t have an observation for, but that you know you’ve seen, you can click the “Add to your list” option on your list’s homepage and type in the species.

Note: you do have to add observations manually after they are recorded in iNaturalist. Unfortunately there isn’t an option for adding them while creating an observation.

Bonus: You can make a “Favorites” list for recording your favorite taxa. This list will automatically display on your profile. To make a “Favorites” list, create a list as described above and title it “Favorites”. Next, add taxa that you like to it. These do not necessarily need to be ones that you’ve observed. Finally, click save. Go to your profile to make sure that it worked properly. Click on a taxon. If you have previously recorded observations for it, iNaturalist will display your observations for that taxon when you follow the link.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to create lists, it’s time to start using them to organize your observations! Choose a group of observations that really interests you and make a list to track them. For example, I’m going to make a list for animal tracks since I plan on finding a lot of those this winter. Other examples include life lists of birds and observations made around your property. Once the list is made, go through and add any observations that you’ve already recorded to the list. But don’t stop there! Keep this list active by going out to explore the world around you, searching for specimens to add to your list. See how many you can record by the new year!

That’s all for this week folks. Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s web of life and happy observing!

Posted by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2, November 12, 2019 16:16

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