A sad view of the U.S.

I was looking at the map of observations of the Virginia Opossum and noticed a large gap centered around Mississippi. At first I thought why there were no opossum's in Mississippi. Then I started looking at the maps of observations of other common mammals...and then birds...and then insects...and they all had that same gap. And I noticed that the gap was a swath from Mississippi to Georgia (excluding the coastal areas). Here's some links to see this gap in observations:

I'm sure the explanation is socioeconomic, as this area is well-populated. There's a book there waiting to be written--or perhaps it's already been written.

Posted by pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton, May 09, 2017 20:06


I lived in rural MS for a few months with family, and spent many holidays and summers there growing up. I could be completely short-sighted in my view, but they people have a different way of life that doesn't lend to taking pics of nature. They work the farms, raise animals, plow fields, hunt as a way of life, and drive 30 minutes for groceries. Taking pics of birds and flowers is rare, even. (I'm over simplifying of course, and certainly not intending to offend anyone.) Tourists will go to Vicksburg or other Civil War locations, but the coast is definitely the draw for the state. I can't speak for the urban areas like Jackson. The college towns might have more iNat potential. Alabama is about the same. Atlanta makes Georgia a little more progressive. I would have expected TN to be similar, but with the Smokies and popular tourist destinations (Memphis, Nashville) they have more nationwide appeal. It's an interesting point you bring up. I'll ask my aunt who is a HS teacher that was born there for her input, too.

Posted by kimberlietx about 5 years ago (Flag)

It may be the lack of a current iNat presence too -- eBird has quite a few records around MS:

There may be gaps in the natural history record because of this lack of documentation though -- I wonder about museum/herbarium vouchers... When I was at BRIT, I remember seeing some specimens from MS, but I can't honestly put any percentage of how many there were compared to other regions.

As iNat becomes more and more popular, I would expect these regions to get more observations.

Until then, road trip to MS! :)

Posted by sambiology about 5 years ago (Flag)

I would have thought the Mississippi State University Moth Photographers Group would have instilled interest in lepidoptera, at least. I saw the same blanks on the Butterflies and Moths of North America (Bamona) sightings map--which gave me some incentive to photograph and submit records for Alabama.

There are a number of Alabama counties where economic conditions are worse than many "third-world" countries. Few people have the luxury of time to photograph and document nature--much less the electronic equipment necessary.

Posted by a43560 almost 5 years ago (Flag)

a43560, you're making a great contribution toward filling the hole. I started following you and a few others who are "in the hole" to help with IDs whenever I can.

Posted by pfau_tarleton almost 5 years ago (Flag)

All those factors have contributed to that information gap (which is real). It is historic as well as contemporary. Museum collections and herbarium collections here like elsewhere centered on universities, but Mississippi historically hasn't had that many. iNaturalist is for people with cameras, smartphones and computers, and believe it or not, not everybody has those devices. However, Mississippi has a lively and growing community of naturalists. eBird is widely used and we have a competition going at the moment to fill in counties that are under-reported. Master Naturalist programs are strong, and I just taught a session on iNat in one of them. Wait five years and look again. And meanwhile, visit Mississippi and make some observations in our salt marshes, pine savanna or river swamps. It's beautiful here.

Posted by janetwright over 4 years ago (Flag)

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