Tag Archives: iNaturalist

California Biodiversity Day Bioblitz for Mono

Users of iNaturalist in or near the Mono Basin might like to join (and thereby automatically contribute to) the “California Biodiversity Day 2020” Bioblitz for the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. The project actually runs for a week, September 5 through 13, 2020. Details are on iNaturalist HERE.

I may not get over to Mono myself during this period, but I’ll be helping to identify observations that others make. Here’s a map showing the area in which observations will be added to the project (orange shading):

Map of the project area

Keep cool and hydrated out there — it’s going to be hot and a bit smoky the next few days.


UPDATE 9/6/2020: Oh well, never mind. Too much smoke from the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7147/). Air quality is “hazardous” in Lee Vining, with the index over 350. (Up to 460 in Mammoth!) Shelter from the smoke!

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning (https://www.monolake.org/today/lvcam)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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iNaturalist in the Bodie Hills

Behr's Hairstreak butterfly on Spineless Horsebrush

Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium behrii) on Spineless Horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens)
at Masonic Mountain in the Bodie Hills

Botany in the time of Covid-19 is a mostly virtual endeavor, for now. My plans to spend more time in the Bodie Hills and Beyond this spring and summer are postponed. The counties and states I am so eager to visit (all a 3 to 6 hour drive from home) are discouraging tourism.

Fortunately, there is iNaturalist. “iNat” is a citizen-science portal where bio-nerds, outdoor enthusiasts, curious beginners, and research pros can all post photos of things they’ve seen (ideally showing all the characters needed for accurate identification), mark their locations, provide other info, suggest an ID, or ask others for help in identifying observations. It’s a great place to find out what others are seeing in one’s places of interest, test one’s skill at identifying observations that “Need ID”, and learn to recognize unfamiliar species.

Trichodes ornatus on Perideridia

Ornate checkered beetle (Trichodes ornatus) on Bolander’s yampah (Perideridia bolanderi) near Masonic Mountain

Worldwide, as of today, there are more than 33 million observations in iNaturalist. A very modest 1,418 of those are mine (I strive for quality over quantity). Here are some stats for iNaruralist observations in the Bodie Hills, as of late March 2020:

iNaturalist stats in the Bodie Hills

View the observations and check the current numbers HERE.

I especially enjoy exploring the maps in iNaturalist. Here’s a map of the 1,962 observations listed above, with the orange outline being my boundary for the Bodie Hills:

Map of observations in the Bodie Hills

Most observations occur along well-traveled roads. Large gaps invite the curious explorer of public lands in between these areas:

A closer view of the map

Of the 1,962 observations to date, 554 observations (including 237 of plants and 266 of invertebrates) are still in need of IDs or confirmations to become “Research Grade.” Observations are designated “Research Grade” when 2 or more people agree on an identification at the level of species or below. Sometimes the original observer will “second” or “like” another person’s suggested ID by clicking the “Agree” button, but without having really learned and understood the basis for the ID, which means that the ID is effectively based on only one person’s informed opinion or educated guess—which is sometimes not correct.

Many species of vascular plants, vertebrates, and fungi commonly achieve “Research grade” because there are many avid and knowledgeable observers and—with good photos, reliable taxonomy, and reference materials—many are readily identifiable. Unfortunately, many nonvascular plants, invertebrates, and “lower” or very small organisms rarely achieve “Research grade” because they are harder to identify from photos, identification to species may be technically difficult, and references for identification may be largely buried or scattered through the scientific literature.

In spite of some limitations, iNaturalist is a great way to explore and learn about biodiversity any time, but especially when field visits are impractical — be that due to seasonal weather and road conditions, or global pandemics.

So, as we all practice “social distancing” and heed orders to stay near home, if your home is near a place where you can safely observe and photograph plants, animals, fungi or whatever, please share what you see on iNaturalist!

iNaturalist home page

iNaturalist home page banner (https://www.inaturalist.org/)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Fun with iNaturalist

I’ve started uploading some observations of plants and occasional other critters to iNaturalist.org. iNaturalist is a project of the California Academy of Sciences that serves as an on-line place “where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world”.

For me, iNaturalist is one more place (aside from the Consortium of California Herbaria, Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network, and CalFlora) where I can see what others are finding in the Bodie Hills, Hot Springs Valley, and other places I like to visit. It’s also a way to get acquainted with some invertebrates and other organisms that I don’t have the training to identify easily myself. You can also help other people identify what they’ve observed, ask for help identifying some of your observations, create “Places” (like the Bodie Hills) as geographic filters for lists of observations, and follow or communicate with other observers. There’s also an app that lets you record observations in the field.

There are a few drawbacks — photos don’t always capture the characters needed for accurate identification, and an observation may get labeled “research grade” even if two people agree on the same identification that happens to be incorrect. On the whole, though, the community of observers (a mix of amateurs and professionals) seems to get things right, providing a useful and user-friendly addition to the knowledge-base on biodiversity.

The project is still young and it will be interesting to watch it grow in the years ahead. iNaturalist began as a student’s final project in the UC Berkeley School of Information in 2008. It was acquired by Cal Academy in 2014 and has a small staff supporting the project. Do you have photos of identifiable biota in Mono County or anywhere else in the world? Share them on iNaturalist!

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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