Tag Archives: iNaturalist

Adding Plant Observations to Calflora

One of the best on-line resources for finding information about plants and places of botanical interest in California is Calflora (https://www.calflora.org/). Calflora can help you discover what species occur in a particular area, learn about the ecology and horticultural potential of species, and much more.

Among the many features in Calflora are tools for individuals to add location-specific observations and photos of plants seen in California. A recent email from Calflora on this topic is HERE. Observations can be added by uploading the information and photos directly to Calflora or by assimilating observations previously added to iNaturalist.

Photos added directly to Calflora will be available as reference photos on the “Taxon Report” pages, whereas images imported from iNaturalist will not, and they will appear in the search results on the “Observation Search” page only if you check “iNaturalist” under “Other Sources.”

On the other hand, observations posted first in iNaturalist will be:
– confirmed by at least one other person to become “research grade” before it is eligible for assimilation into the Calflora database, and
– assimilated into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), which is another aggregator of biodiversity data.
On the iNaturalist site, search areas can cross state and national boundaries and can include other organisms besides plants.

Instructions for how to import your observations from iNaturalist to Calflora are HERE. The “Add Records from iNaturalist” feature is HERE (you will need to register as a contributor to Calflora first). Basically, an application running within the Calflora web site will look at your iNaturalist account, search for observations matching Calflora’s required criteria and any other date or taxon filters you wish to add, and display a list of your qualifying observations and photos.

These search results will include:
– Research Grade records of wild plants made in California (thus excluding “casual” and “needs ID” observations, non-plant organisms, and observations outside California).
– Records with a Creative Commons (CC) license on both the photo and the observation (allowing them to be used by others for non-commercial purposes).
The search results will not include:
– Records of rare plants (those with obscured locations).
– Records already assimilated into Calflora.

Once this table is displayed, you simply click on each “ID” number, then click “add to Calflora” in the fly-out menu (as in the screenshot below). Calflora imports the taxon name, location, your photographs, and some other details, including a link back to your iNaturalist observation.

My search found about 460 iNaturalist observations meeting these criteria, which I then added to Calflora. It took only a few minutes. This can be done a few times a year—as you post new observations to iNaturalist and as more observations have their IDs confirmed so that they become “research grade”.

Once you have finished the import, your observations will be included on the results page of a “What Grows Here” search along with data from other individuals, herbarium databases, and other sources (be sure to click “display” for each of the icons under “Points”). Here’s an example, using the “Simple” display format (plant names only, no photos):

Calflora is a rich resource with an abundance of maps, lists, localized data, and external links for learning about California’s plants and places to see them. Features in Calflora (or accessible through external links) that differ from what iNaturalist provides include:
– mapped locations of georeferenced collections held in California herbaria,
– species range maps,
– ecological and horticultural information (including the suitability of any species for planting in any location),
– links to a wider variety of external sources,
… and probably much more.

Check it out, spend some time exploring its many features, and import your iNaturalist observations to Calflora.

Lupinus breweri var. bryoides, on a hill south of Bodie


Copyright © Tim Messick 2021. All rights reserved.

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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