June 11, 2021

Ethics of sharing geotagged and time-stamped wildlife pictures.

As someone who has seen large growth and deterioration of my home town, been overrun by population growth and wealth inequality, and seen my home exploited for monetary gain, I am conflicted about sharing more “Lake Tahoe” online.
Nevada is often ranked the fastest growing region in the USA over the past few decades. The covid pandemic has accelerated this process immensely. This is putting more pressure on the sensitive high desert ecosystems (among other things) .

Here is a list that I am working on of the pros and cons regarding INaturalist.


  1. Documenting/data collection to keep an eye on temporal and spatial biological changes.
    a. There is a growing number of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species introduced by people coming here. (e.g. https://carsonnow.org/story/10/12/2017/nevada-forestry-white-satin-moth-outbreak-infests-226-acres?page=3 )

  2. Educating people that there is more life out there than they ever imagined.
  3. Making it easier to learn taxonomy and appreciate nature.
  4. Discovering and mapping sensitive and rare species to protect them from development or forest treatments. Also instituting seed banks for reforestation after catastrophic events.
  5. Geospatial data on organisms can be used to define and refine species ranges and habitat associations. These data are very useful in Species Distribution Models, which identify potential habitat distributions and ecological relationships (see Hass and Dragoo. 2017. Competition and coexistence in sympatric skunks. In: Biology and Conservation of the Musteloids, U. Oxford Press).
  6. Photos help distinguish among species, and identify different morphs within species (see Hass. 2020. Nosey Beast. Natural History of the Coatis. Wild Mountain Echoes).
  1. Opening the door to easily showing everyone where all trails and cool spots are, which makes them more trafficked and often trampled faster than nature can recover.
    a. Higher demand leads to even more trail creation both planned and unplanned. This leads to to “fishbone effect” trails and disturbance. http://encyclopedia.uia.org/en/problem/156567
    b. Each reviled location might not be the posting observer’s favorite spot, but it might be someone else’s favorite spot that you are opening up to more people.

  2. Encouraging some people to go off trail to get selfie-shots.
  3. Opening up nature to the wrong kind of harassing people as described in this thread. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/encountering-and-dealing-with-unfriendly-people-while-inatting/22348/14
  4. Issues with who is hosting the data and possibility of it falling into corporate hands and licensing for profit.
  5. Someday leading to genocide of a species. Consider that when reading things like this. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01253-y
  6. Some regions of the world have cultures which poach certain species for sport, their dubious mythical powers, or their real or misconstrued to be real medicinal properties.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics)

I understand everyone has their own opinions on this. Please consider all pros, cons, ethics, and context (geographic region) before you post a comment. As always, also feel free to send me a private message.

Posted on June 11, 2021 17:28 by ipomopsis ipomopsis | 0 comments | Leave a comment