Journal archives for November 2020

03 November, 2020

"An Overview of Computer Vision in iNaturalist" - a good watch!

Just as an FYI -- Ken-ichi did a great presentation on some of the finer details of the computer vision of iNat. If you've got an hour of time, check it out:

Posted on 03 November, 2020 22:58 by sambiology sambiology | 3 comments | Leave a comment

18 November, 2020

West TX iNat gathering -- April 16-19, 2021! Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area

So, gathering with fellow iNatters is one of my favorite things to do in life. I love doing a gathering each year too.

Last year was a bit smaller in the Panhandle, and this upcoming one will likely be a bit smaller too. It's important to watch the COVID numbers, especially in Texas:
The entire state may be completely shut down to travel by next April...

In case that it isn't completely shut down, perhaps we could gather over in West TX at Elephant Mountain WMA in April 16-19! Elephant Mountain is 23,000 acres, so there is plenty of area to 'spread out.'
Here's the place on iNat:

I'm calling it a gathering rather than a bioblitz -- the data collection will happen as a by product, no doubt, but the more important aspect of this is the gathering. If you do come to gather, of course, let's mask up if you can't keep distant, especially at the black-lighting.

Alpine is the closest 'city' and there are some hotels there:
No bunk house availability (and I don't want folks to gather inside) -- but camping should work for folks. I'll likely camp most of the days.

Not sure of a specific schedule or anything, but those are the dates that I'm planning on jumping over to west TX to hopefully gather with a few others! Anyways, mark the calendars if you're wanting to come!
April 16-19, 2021 at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area!

Here are a few more details: there's no electricity at the campsite, but we do have electricity at the registration building. We also have electricity at the bunk house (although, it's going to be closed and not for us to use -- except for some outlets outside). Masks will still need to be worn if anyone goes inside any building - just out of kindness to anyone else in the facility.

COVID's still going on, so this gathering needs to acknowledge this. If you're with folks that want you to wear a mask, please wear a mask. Let's try to keep somewhat distanced from each other -- again, this is just smart to do. In the future, we'll hug like crazy, but for this gathering, let's retain some distance. The WMA is open to the public during this time too, so we may not be the only people on the 23k acres.

I know that some folks are staying at hotels in Alpine. It's not too too far from Elephant mountain, although "not too too far" in west TX is still pretty far in reality! I'll be camping each night and will smell quite ripe by the end of this trip!

Also, feel no obligation to stay at Elephant Mountain this whole time! There are SO many great spots out in West TX -- some of them are way far off ("way far off" in West TX is really far in reality!), so Big Bend, Big Bend State Park, Guadalupe Mountains, and I'm sure a whole other places are definitely worth the visit! I'll honestly be focusing my time just there at Elephant Mountain -- only a few thousand acres for us to explore. ;)

If you're able to, meet at the "Registration station" sometime in the evening on April 16th. Here's the map with the star as the spot:
I'll be there by like 5 or so. Maybe we'll toss up some mothing lights and gear there.

Some asked questions....

Can we drive on the WMA?

So, this will be a special gathering, so we should be able to access many of the roads throughout the WMA. Now, there may be some spots that we won't access (big horned sheep area, perhaps).

Can we stay at bunkhouse?

Nope. We'll maybe set up some blacklights around it (and there is electricity there), but we won't stay in the bunkhouse. I don't want to put more than 1 person in a building during COVID. It'll all be outside. :)

Can my friends come?

Sure! Although, I do hope that folks that do come are at least willing/open to doing some iNatting with us all. :) I hope this is a celebration of iNat and the folks that enjoy iNatting -- although, we're a welcoming group, so if someone isn't an iNatter, hopefully he/she/they will be after this event!

Can we collect specimens?

Wellll.... I do have a permit, and specimens can be collected under my permit, but I'd really like to narrow down some physical collection of specimens. There are a few folks that have asked me about this already, and we've discussed it a bit in detail. Ideally, if specimens are collected, we want to make sure to leave a herbarium voucher or specimen voucher at the nearby university (Sul Ross).

Do I have to get a limited use permit to come?

You don't HAVE to (again, I'll be there and it'll be under my permit), buuuut I sure would love it if you do get a $12 limited use permit (or especially a hunting permit)!!! :) It does help the WMA. Even if you don't plan on hunting, it really does help the entire TPWD Wildlife program:

Why aren't you calling this a bioblitz?

Again, I want this mostly to be a gathering of naturalists to engage with nature. Sure, we'll collect some data, but that will be as a side-effect of the gathering. :)

Is this responsible to have a gathering during a pandemic?
I've had a few folks ask this, and it's genuinely a good question that we all need to take to heart. We will be playing this by ear, and I don't want anyone to feel any pressure or obligation to come if they don't feel comfortable to do so. There WILL be more of these in the future, so totally no frets if you can't make this one. I plan on wearing my mask throughout this gathering, and I'll pretty strongly enforce masks especially during the blacklighting when we'll be somewhat close together. I plan on going on quite a few times just by myself so I'll be able to keep a good distance from others. There are 23,000 acres, so hopefully we'll find some ways to keep at least 6 feet apart. :)

All of this to say that this gathering may be cancelled. The state may officially close the WMA entirely, even to outside TPWD folks (permit or not!). If that is the case, yep, we'll cancel this gathering and do it again when it's open and safe.
The pandemic is something that we should treat seriously, and I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

If you do have some concerns about this, please let me know (either here or on a message or whatever). We will do more of these, so if you're not able to make it, we WILL do it again. :)

Posted on 18 November, 2020 04:32 by sambiology sambiology | 152 comments | Leave a comment