Journal archives for September 2015

17 September, 2015

Presentation on iNaturalist... Having some trouble!

So, I'm giving a presentation on iNaturalist to my chapter of Texas Master Naturalists on Monday... I've probably given like 100 presentations through my career/college days, but I'm having the most difficult time putting this one together! There's SO much I want to say about my new obsession of iNat, but I can't quite find an appropriate way to spit it all out. :)

So, I think rather than giving a "how to use iNat" presentation, I think I'll just focus on what I've gained from using it. I've gained a tremendous amount of knowledge, no doubt about that. I've become interested in more of nature -- not being so narrowly focused towards plants and becoming aware of the entire ecosystem...

But perhaps just as important, I've developed some pretty neat friendships with naturalists. This has truly enriched my life!

I suppose I'll just give some links on where folks can go to learn to use iNat, perhaps I'll give some handouts, and I'll just gush on how cool iNat is... for an hour. :)

Posted on 17 September, 2015 15:37 by sambiology sambiology | 10 comments | Leave a comment

23 September, 2015

My presentation on iNaturalist... Outline. Spoilers for those of you that haven't seen it! ;)

So, the other night I did my presentation for the Cross Timbers Master Naturalists on iNaturalist... Again, I had some trouble putting it together -- there was SO much that I wanted to say. I ended up making it more of a personal "why am I a naturalist?" than a "how to iNat." Anywho, here is the outline. If you want the ppt presentation, here it is:

September 21, 2015

When and where did you see what?!?
iNaturalist – adding data and learning in the process
How to train the next gen of naturalists…

Why are you a naturalist?
Raise your hand if you call yourself a naturalist…
Raise your hand if you like or enjoy nature – if you did this, I would call you a naturalist.
Overall question to be thinking of during this presentation – why are you a naturalist???

Most common question…
Lucky to have a job where I can be a naturalist for a profession! “Lucky bastard” as Andy Keeble calls me.
I lead several nature walks and programs… Had one this morning with 18 homeschool kiddos
Most common question on a nature walk – “what is that?!?”
“The first step in wisdom is to know the things themselves" Carolus Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (1735).

Growing up…
Growing up, my parents nourished this love of being outside, catching bugs, exploring…

Use field guides to address that question – one of my first field guides that I used a BUNCH – Audobon insect, bird guide

What if…
But what if each time when that question was asked, or when you found out what something was, you could share that bit of data with the rest of the world (I’ll get into the “maybe I don’t want to share that…” later on)
- your dot on the map adds to the global understanding of that species

Now is a great time to be a naturalist:
- growth of citizen science…
Josh Tewksbury, university of Washington, professor of natural history, ecology, conservation biology

Social networks…
The rise of the social network – facebook is now part of our vocabulary
- facebook used to be more about relationships, now it’s kinda a sharing viral videos with friends
- Do you have facebook? Even if you don’t, you KNOW what facebook is… Guarantee you know more people that have
facebook accounts than are not on facebook…
Slow down – isn’t that the problem? Aren’t people living too much in a digital reality? Isn’t technology keeping people from going outside?

Nature deficit disorder
Technology and nature – nature deficit disorder – children (and adults) glued to screen
- technology isn’t going anywhere… As naturalists, we need to adapt to the technology!

Technology needs to be the hook
Nature field guides used by the next generation of naturalists will involve changing technology!
- “page turner” being replaced with “page clicker” – field guide will be on smart phone/tablets
- nature education needs to use technology as a hook rather than something to fear…

Enter: iNaturalist
“Documenting biodiversity and distribution of species through time and space with evidence (photo/sound)”
- Similar networks: bugguide, ebird, project noah
History of this network
- 2008 project at UC Berkeley – Ken-ichi Ueda, et al. - went through various changes in appearance
Current status at California Academy of Sciences
- 70,000+ users - 1.5 million+ observations across every continent
- projects, guides, journals, species distribution maps

iNaturalist’s unit is an observation…

It is just like a collection or museum of observations
I was so lucky to be a part of BRIT (herbarium) where I became passionate about “collections.”
Each observation acts like a voucher, shows some organism at some point in time at some place
- what, when, where = data.
- Differences between museum/herbarium specimens and iNaturalist observations…
1. physical specimen can be held in museum/herbarium
2. more accurate measurements in museum/herbarium – ruler and specimen in hand
3. museum/herbarium is not accessible to public… iNaturalist IS!
4. public not really invited in the museum/herbarium… Public necessary in iNat
5. digital collection more conservation-based (no/little harm to organisms being observed)

BRIEF how to join and add observations
show in slides -- 3 or 4
- website is what you should use first – to get comfortable…

- set up profile (username, password, profile)
- add observation, edit time, and location,
- scroll through projects and join projects – add observations to projects
*handout on how to join iNaturalist with more details…
- app – mobile devices – data collection device!
- photos with phones are getting pretty good (and will get better)

Benefits of being a part of iNaturalist


    • I have learned a tremendous amount in the past year just through iNat -- iNaturalist is a training tool.
    • ever wonder what that weird plant is that keeps popping up in the yard? “ID please…”
    • build up your confidence as a naturalist.
  2. Giving others guidance

    • ability to help out others – welcoming them and giving guidance
    • help others with their “ID please’s…”
    • you know more than you think you know!
  3. Live vicariously through adventures

    • observations in New Zealand or Costa Rica
    • enforces the value (intrinsic and real) of biodiversity
    • Show Mark’s deep see dives, show Scott Loarie’s adventures in Madagascar
  4. Interact with experts

    • Greg Lasley, Chuck Sexton, RJ Adams, John Abbott, Susan Hewitt, Jason Singhurst, etc…
  5. Being part of the “big picture”

    • add data to the big picture – we contribute to something bigger than ourselves.
    • your single observation feeds the scientific body – this can change policy or document climate change
  6. We share this planet…

    • Realize we share the planet with LOTS of species…
    • I’m actually seeing this by being a part of iNaturalist… Not just with the species around me, but around others too
    • one of my goals to observe something every day – easy because we interact with nature daily!

Questions/criticisms about iNaturalist

  1. I’m no expert! I don’t want to look like a dummy!

    • saving an observation as “something” or “plant”
    • we all learn as we go – me starting out with dragonflies… Everything was either “dragonfly” or “damselfly.”
  2. Privacy concerns

    • (personal safety) – data is available for all to see… Including STRANGERS!!!
    • observations at your home? or at a park/public place? – plug the park system! Visit a park!!!

    • geoprivacy alleviates all fears…

    • if at home, you can obscure the accuracy of the observation (or change the accuracy circle)

    • if at a park or for a specific project, you may want to be as accurate as possible

    • personal preference – you can modify the accuracy!, although I try to be as accurate as possible

    • Wildlife concerns…

      • Concerns of the well-being of the organisms…
      • consider the biology! consider the population…

      • squirrels or orchids? Johnson grass or rare bird?

      • auto-obscuring endangered or threatened species – whooping cranes, box turtles – species of concern

      • you can obscure it to the county size – still can be useful data

      • My photographs aren’t good enough…

        • practice! Camera technology – point and shoots are gooooood these days
          – a good camera has changed the way I look at nature!

        • issue with bugguide – most of my images were frassed and the data forever lost :(
        • art is not as important as science (although, it is way cool to look at!)
        • ID’s are as good as your photographs – some comments will tell you what to focus on next time (ex: fungi – spores and gills)
      • Wait, what do you call that?

        • common names!!!
        • iNat defaults to a single common name, but it might be one that you’re not familiar with…
        • however, multiple common names can be given to a species – but there is only ONE species name
        • some species don’t even have a common name... (MANY insect species)
      • When is somebody going to ID this?!? Come on!

        • Patience for ID’s…
        • some organisms are ID’ed within the hour – others wait for days/months/years

        • same situation in any collection!
          How much do YOU want to know what it is?

        • If you really don’t know the organism, and want the ID, the impetus is on the observer!

        • Research! Google’ing – field guides, Wikipedia, etc..

        • Verify an identification/verification! The misconception that an “expert” is “perfect.”

        • Reaching out to others… this is the community of iNaturalist!

        • Change, change, change…

          • Updates may change the way the program looks. This is inevitable! Some changes are uncomfortable to begin with, but after using it, we become more comfortable
          • technology works like this…
          • adapt and acclimate if you want to participate
        • Time flies…

          • It takes time to do this…
          • absolutely! It can be a total drain of time… Lots of pictures to scroll through, lots of new information to learn, lots of practice with the website and/or apps… My wife Elizabeth will tell you how much time I spend on iNat
          • well, what is it worth? To me, it’s worthy of the time input

        Why are you a naturalist?
        - I’m a naturalist because I love nature. I love to learn about nature. I love to motivate and encourage others to love nature! I love to know and be with others that love nature.

        How to change the world….

        David Attenborough –Criticism for not being vocal enough about conservation… Instead, with his shows, he would simply show them what amazing organisms are out there… “isn’t this lovely/ isn’t this amazing?”

        Participation is worth it.

        - you get out what you put in – input, process, output, feedback
        - Participation is needed! Participation makes you part of the big picture.

        - Welcome to other nature enthusiasts – give some guidance on organisms that others spot
        - you know more than you think you know!
        - social network for naturalists and nature-enthusiasts

        Next generation of naturalists
        Think of the next generation of naturalists too – they will be using these sorts of tools.
        Picture of nephew EJ with caterpillar…

        We share out knowledge and our interest
        As naturalists, it’s also our responsibility, duty (and privilege) to guide the next generation of naturalists.

        Want to practice?
        - Encourage you to give iNaturalist a try!

        - Chuck Silcox Park October 3
        - Oliver Nature Park BIOBLITZ! October 10, 9 – 11 am
        - snacks and drinks provided
        - bring a camera, smart phone, or iPad

        screenname: sambiology on iNat

        "...we are human in good part because of the particular way we affiliate with other organisms. They are the matrix in which the human mind originated and is permanently rooted, and they offer the challenge and freedom innately sought. To the extent that each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions." E.O. Wilson, Biophilia.

        Posted on 23 September, 2015 13:34 by sambiology sambiology | 6 comments | Leave a comment

        Dragonflies at Oliver Nature Park -- Saturday, September 26, 1- 2 pm

        How do you tell a dragonfly from a damselfly? What do young dragonflies look like? How fast is the fastest dragonfly? If you're curious about these questions and others, come to the program and learn all about the flying predators! Oliver Nature Park has many different species of dragonflies, and we'll even try to catch a few.

        Saturday, September 26, 1 - 2 pm

        Posted on 23 September, 2015 14:41 by sambiology sambiology | 0 comments | Leave a comment

        28 September, 2015

        Catching bugs! Handling bugs! Sweeping.

        Lately, I have been really into the little bugs.

        My camera isn't the best at this macrophotography, but I think it can still take some decent shots. As a point-and-shoot camera with autofocus (Nikon coolpix P530), I can hold an insect in one hand and take a picture with the other. It means that my fingers are in LOTS of shots -- hope this isn't too much of a distraction. I'm not really going for art in my observations -- there are so many others that excel in that. :)

        I have been doing a lot of sweep netting or "sweeping" to catch insects. It's quite amazing how many insects there are just in some tall grass! I use a petri dish with my hand in the background for some scale. I think it's a fairly effective way to observe bugs.

        Now, on some insects, I grab onto their legs. I'm not totally sure, but I don't think this hurts them. At least, they're sure able to walk and fly away after I photograph them -- I'm sure these insects go back to their friends with a crazy story. :)

        Posted on 28 September, 2015 15:22 by sambiology sambiology | 8 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment