10 de diciembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Editing Profiles

Today doesn’t feel as much like “walking in a winter wonderland” as it does “slogging through an early mud season”. If you live outside the Upper Valley on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, I hope you’ve had better luck maintaining snow cover. I realize that I often begin a post by commenting on the weather. Monitoring patterns in the natural world, including paying attention to factors such as precipitation and temperature, are important because they drive a species’ ability to persist in an area. As weather patterns get increasingly erratic, plants, animals, and fungi that we’ve long accepted as common in our area may shift farther north in an attempt to keep pace with cooler temperatures or disappear completely. By paying attention to the weather and monitoring biodiversity, we are staying connected with the rhythms of nature and alert to potential problems.

As humans, we are wired for connection, both to other humans and our surrounding environment. Today, these connections help us tackle some of the biggest threats facing our species and our planet. They allow us to identify what’s normal and what isn’t, and come together as a community to learn and problem-solve. Nowadays, there are countless ways for people to connect with each other. While this is a double-edged sword in some ways, many examples of technology improving connections exist.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

iNaturalist is one such example of how modern technology can help us connect to nature and each other. While there are many ways to connect through iNaturalist, today we’re talking about profiles. I know, profiles may not seem like the most pressing issue to address when it comes it iNaturalist use, however they are surprisingly important. Besides individual observations, your profile is how you will make a first impression on other users. Ultimately, iNaturalist is a social media site – it’s a way to connect and communicate with other nature-enthusiasts. Your profile is how you can display your skills and interests to others so that they know who is sharing observations and who is providing identifications.

I realize that profiles are very personal, so feel free to take whatever tips resonate with you and leave others behind.

1. Your name. There’s a space where you can add your real name (not just your username). I recommend doing this because it makes it easier for others to cite your photographs (if your copyright settings allow) and makes your profile feel more personal.

2. Profile picture. Similar to providing your real name, having a profile picture makes your account seem more personal. It puts a face to the observations and identifications. It’s also a great excuse to show off one of your fantastic naturalist adventures.

3. Provide context. One of the most important components is providing some information about who you are and why you use iNaturalist. This could include what you do/did professionally, how you got started on iNaturalist, what you like most about using it, etc. In general, these are any details that illustrate you as a naturalist.

4. Talk about taxa. It’s always good to list what taxa most interest you and/or which one(s) you would consider yourself proficient in identifying. This is helpful for those who like to identify other’s observations because knowing that you’re well-versed in the taxon you’re identifying will help other users gain confidence in your identifications. A fun bonus is adding a “Favorite Taxa” list to your profile. To add “Favorite Taxa”, go to your lists (found in dropdown menu under profile icon in the top right corner) and create a new list titled “Favorite Taxa”. Whatever taxa you add to that list will automatically appear on your profile.

5. Add resources. It’s also great to list resources that you find helpful when identifying plants, animals, and fungi. These could be the names of books, online guides, or any other source that is accurate and informative. If you have other naturalist resources that are not specifically for identification but that you find helpful for better understanding the natural world, definitely include those as well!

6. Professional links. Besides the resources listed above, your profile is also a great place to provide links to your nature photography website, the nature-focused organizations you work for, projects that you’re involved with, or important publications you authored. However, your profile shouldn’t be your CV, so just pick links that you feel are most important for others to check out.

7. Keep your profile nature focused and professional. Really, you can provide whatever information you want in your profile, however providing details that are relevant to your experiences as a naturalist will help you make the best connections with other users.

If you’re curious about what some example profiles that follow these guidelines might look like, check out these iNaturalist users:

Greg Lasley
Cedric Lee
Denis Doucet
Jason Michael Crockwell

At this point, you might be thinking “This is all great, but how do I even edit my profile?”. The good news is that it’s quite simple. Go to the dropdown menu under profile icon in the top right corner and click on “Profile”. Once on that page, click on “Edit Account Settings & Profile” under your picture. Once you are on the “Edit” page, you can change many different parts of your profile. For today, I recommend sticking with your name, profile icon, and the “Tell everyone a little about yourself” textbox, but feel free to explore other possible settings.

TTT Task of the Week

Start out by exploring the profiles listed above. Think about what you like and may want to incorporate in your own profile. Then go edit your own profile, including at least one of the suggestions made above. Take a look at the other areas you can edit, but for now focus on your name, picture, and description.

As always, thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Ingresado el 10 de diciembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de diciembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Exporting Observations

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty excited for our recent snow storm, even though I knew that it meant more shoveling. From my weather app (ah, the wonders of modern technology), I knew that the storm would begin around 4pm, so I set out for my favorite hillside at 3:15pm to watch it approach. I love how still the air gets as a storm draws near – so calm, it’s almost as if the whole world is holding its breath. As I stood under the nearly naked limbs of an old oak, I watched as the mountains were slowly erased, merging with the pale grey sky. Suddenly, I felt the air change on my face, plunging from frosty yet mild to damp and chilly. Within a few minutes, there was an exhale and the last oak leaves above me began gently stirring. When I finally turned to leave, the mountains were gone and snow was beginning to drift from the sky.

I love watching the weather like this and believe that it’s truly a hidden joy. With all of our apps, we need not look at the sky nor pay attention to the air to know that the weather is about to shift. However, there’s something very grounding about sensing the change – an ancient knowledge forgotten among touch screens and keyboards. I find that if I watch closely, I can also tell when a storm is coming based on the behavior of wildlife. There’s often a burst of activity followed by stillness as the storm gets closer. I clearly remember walking in the woods right before a big snow storm during my sophomore year of college and watching a shrew scurrying about unconcerned with my presence, chewing on some ice remnants. Next time a big storm is predicted, I suggest stepping outside to see what animals around you are preparing for the inclement weather.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

If you prefer to watch the snow fall from a comfortable window seat, there are still plenty of ways to learn about the wildlife beyond your front door. If you love using data as a tool to better understand the natural world, than this week’s TTT is for you! Although many people may think that the data produced by iNaturalist is exclusively for scientists and other conservation professionals, it’s actually accessible to anyone. In a couple of simple steps, you can export observation data and begin using it to explore.

There are two ways you can get to the “Export Observations” page. The first way is to go to the “Explore” page and select “Filters”. In the “Filters” box, you will see a button that says “Download” in the bottom right corner. Click on that. This will set you up to export data from anywhere in iNaturalist. By following these same steps, except from your personal observations’ page, you can export data from your own observations.

The other way is to visit the Vermont Atlas of Life project page and scroll down to the “Members” box to the right of the map. The fourth option down is “Export Observations” – click on that. This method prepares you to export data from the Vermont Atlas of Life project. If you want to export data from a wider area, simply delete “Vermont Atlas of Life” from any textbox you see it in. You can also do this as you walk through the next steps.

Regardless of which method you use, you should now be on the “Export Observations” page. If you want, you can delete the text in the box at the top of step 1 – this will get filled in as you walk through the options below. Please note, you don’t have to fill in the information for all of the steps below. Only fill in the information you want to see in your exported data.

1. Find a specific species or place. This is one way to input a particular species, place, or other field you’re interested in. To figure out what you can search, click the dropdown menu at the end of the search bar. You can test out this feature by searching for a species, place, tag, or anything else described there. There are other ways to input this information later on as well. You can also leave this blank.

2. Filters. Here, you can add filters to specify the type of observations you want. Maybe you only want observations with sound or ones that are not marked “captive/cultivated”. Selecting these options will narrow the range of observations you receive.

3. Show only. The next line allows you to select the groups you want displayed. For example, if you only want to export insect observations, then select “Insects” and leave all other boxes unchecked. This is best if you want all the species for a particular group. This step is not necessary if you are interested in a specific species. Hover over each option with your cursor to see what they are. Notice that there is a category for “unknown” observations.

4. Taxon and Observed on. These are pretty straight forward. “Taxon” asks you to select which species or group of species you’re most interested in (if you did not do so in step 1). “Observed on” allows you to select observations made on a specific date.

5. Rank. In this next line, you can specify the taxonomic rank you’re interested in. For example, maybe you only want observations that have been identified to the Genus level. If this is the case, you would select “Genus” out of the dropdown list under “Exact Rank”. If you want any observations with a “genus” identification and higher rankings, then you would select “Genus” under the dropdown list for “Lowest Rank”. If you want anything with a “genus” identification and lower rankings (i.e. species, subspecies), then you select “Genus” under the “Highest Rank” dropdown menu.

6. User, Project ID, Taxon IDs, Date Range, Created on. These are areas where you can add additional information. Under “User”, you can provide a specific user’s name or their ID number to export only their observations or all of your own. For “Project ID”, you enter the project ID number or URL slug (appears at the end of the web address) for the project you want to export data from. For example, the URL slug for the Vermont Atlas of Life is vermont-atlas-of-life. “Taxon IDs” are the number associated with the taxon on iNaturalist. You can enter multiple numbers if you’re interested in multiple species. You can find this number by going to the taxon’s page (see TTT #7) and selecting the “id” number in its URL. “Date Range” allows you to select the range of dates you want observations from and “created on” let’s you choose observations that were created (not observed) on a specific date.

7. Step 2. This section shows you a preview of what your data will look like. Take a glance at this to make sure that the data displays the information you need. If it doesn’t look correct, return to the steps above and make the necessary changes.

8. Step 3, Basic. This section allows you to choose all of the columns you want to export. Look this over carefully and decide what information is most meaningful to you. You can leave all options selected, however this will create a huge file that may be difficult to sift through, so it’s best to stick with the necessary information. Some good choices when looking to gather basic data could be: id, observed_on, user_id, image_url, description, and out_of_range. Ultimately, it just depends on what is important to you.

9. Step 3, Geo. Similar to above, this is where you can select what location columns you want. Latitude and longitude are some good basic ones. This is another instance where unchecking columns that you’re not interested in is helpful, otherwise you could end up with an enormous datasheet. Once again, it’s all about what’s important to you.

10. Step 3, Taxon extras. These usually appear unchecked by default. They’re useful if you’re interested in looking for patterns in larger taxonomic groups, but otherwise they’re not really necessary for most basic functions.

Helpful tip: if you’re confused about what any of these checkable items mean, you can hover over them with your cursor and they will offer a brief explanation.

11. Step 4. Yay, you’re done! Hit “Export” under step 4. A green box with a “Download” button should appear at the top of your screen shortly. Sometimes larger file sizes take longer to export, so don’t panic if it doesn’t immediately appear. You can also choose to have iNaturalist email you when the export is complete if it’s taking a really long time.

12. Download. Once you hit download, click on the new file that appears. It should display the file in your computer’s “Downloads” folder. From here, you can drag it to move it to your desktop or a different folder on your computer.

13. Open file. Go ahead and open the file. It should open in Excel (at least it does on my computer) and from there you can begin exploring the data or move it to a preferred data processing platform.

One final note: this tool is best used for data that you don’t intend to publish. If you’re looking for data that you can publish, it’s better to export directly from the geoprivacy preferences set either for specific species or by specific users.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to export data, it’s time to give it a try! Think about what aspect of iNaturalist you may want to explore for patterns and start filling out the “Export Observations” page. If you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Ingresado el 03 de diciembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de diciembre de 2019

November 2019 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the November 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of a 'eastern or red' Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) in Waterbury, Vermont garnered the most votes. With nearly 2,000 photo-observations submitted by 246 observers this month, it was very competitive.

Late each fall, and then again in spring, Fox Sparrows visit our backyards here in Vermont. Most field guides and general references depict Fox Sparrows as a bird that nests only in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska and the high mountains of western North America. The eastern subspecies of Fox Sparrow—the Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca)—has traditionally been considered a passage migrant through New England, stopping off briefly in late fall and early spring as it travels to and from its breeding grounds in eastern Canada. But that has recently changed.

A species never known to nest in New England prior to the 1980s, Fox Sparrows have expanded their breeding range south by about 400 km in a span of less than 30 years, and seem to be on track to continue this remarkable journey. If past trends are any indicator of the future, they will likely become at least occasional nesters in suitable habitat in Vermont and New York (and indeed, may already be). If you find any next summer, make sure you add your observations to Vermont eBird or the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist!

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the  ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Ingresado el 02 de diciembre de 2019 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de noviembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Exploring Taxa Info

The holiday season is approaching. Well, maybe barreling down on us is a more accurate term. Regardless of which holidays you observe during this time (if you celebrate any), this period from late November to the New Year often feels exhausting. Beyond all the planning and inundation of marketing, the actual events themselves carry with them joy, sadness, chaos, and so many other emotions that one often starts the new year feeling drained. Or maybe that’s just me.

Personally, I retreat to the woods whenever I need space from holiday stress. Like many people, I have always felt most grounded when closely surrounded by nature. When I need time to think and reflect, I lace up my boots and find solace among gnarled branches, woven trunks, and soft whispers of interlaced limbs. If I really need an escape, I bring my camera. I find that nothing pulls my mind out of its rabbit hole of worry faster than finding the perfect shots to capture the beauty surrounding me. There’s something meditative about it. This year, I look forward to adding an extra element by uploading some of my photos to iNaturalist. Not only will it help me contribute valuable data, but it will also give me some great conversation starters.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

If you’re looking to boost your repertoire of talking points this holiday season, then this week’s TTT is for you! Today, we’re talking about Taxa Info – a super handy, but often underutilized feature on iNaturalist that helps you develop a deeper understanding of the species around you. “Taxa Info” exists for every species and provides a whole suite of information to absorb and share.

Below I will describe many different features found on a Taxa Info page. However, first you need to know how to get there. To access Taxa Info, go to the dropdown menu under “More” at the top of your screen. “Taxa Info” is the first option – click on it. From there, you can explore any species that interests you. You can also get to a specific species’ Taxa Info by clicking on its name on an observation page.

The first thing you should do once you get to a Taxa Info page is check your “place” setting in the top-right corner. If you’re in the United States, this will appear as your default setting. You can leave it there or you can change it by clicking on the default and typing in a new place. For example, for local species I will often set “place” to “Vermont”.

Once you’re happy with the place setting, it’s time to explore!

Graphs

When you first open a Taxa Info page, you will notice a set of graphs on the right-hand side of your screen. The first one displayed is “Seasonality”. This shows the total number of observations made for that species in each month of the year. This graph is useful for getting an idea of how common a species might be at a particular time of year.

Clicking on the next tab will give you a graph of the species’ “History”. This graph shows you the total number of observations each month over the number of years that the species was recorded on iNaturalist. Although not perfect for discerning overall population trends, this graph does help you visualize how number of observations has changed over a longer time period.

The third and fourth graphs differ between animal and plant species. For plants, the third graph is “Sex”. This graph shows the number of male and female plants observed each month. Yes, some species of plants do have distinct male and female individuals. These species are considered “dioecious” as opposed to “monecious” which refers to species where each individual contains both male and female parts. Finally, the fourth graph is “Plant Phenology”. On this graph, several different colored lines show numbers of flowering, fruiting, and budding plants observed in any given month. This can help you better understand a particular plant species’ life cycle and know when it’s the best time of year to look for flowers or berries.

And now to animals. The third graph shows an animal species’ “Life Stage”. Looking at this graph can help you get an idea of when you’re more likely to see juveniles or adults. It’s particularly useful for animals with more complex life stages, such as butterflies. Finally, the fourth graph is “Sex”. Similar to plants, it shows a breakdown of observed males and females each month.

A final note about graphs: This is why updating your observation’s annotations is so important. By recording whether your observation has any of the information described above, you will help contribute valuable data points to these graphs. For a refresher on adding annotations, check out TTT #1.

Maps

Once you scroll below the graphs, you will notice a new set of tabs. The first one shows a map of the species’ observation distribution. By using this map, you can see all of the places in the world where people have previously observed this species. But wait, there’s more! You can also see all records for that species stored in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) by adding a new layer to your map. This will allow you to see information about a species’ presence beyond iNaturalist observations.

To add the GBIF layer, click on the “layers” button in the top right corner of the species’ map. This button looks like three sheets of paper stacked on top of each other. You will see several options with checkable boxes in front of them. The bottom option says “GBIF Network”. Once you select it, you should see magenta dots appear on the map. These dots show all existing GBIF records for that species. Although you can’t click on them to learn more, you can get a clearer picture of where people have seen this species. This is a great tool to use if you’re wondering whether your observation is really Vermont’s first.

About

The “About” tab is just what it sounds like – it provides information about the species fed from Wikipedia and other sources. The amount of information may vary depending on how common or well understood it is, however, it's a good place to start if you want to learn more. For example, the page for Monarch Butterflies includes everything from life cycle to genome to threats.

Taxonomy

The third tab shows you a breakdown of the species’ taxonomy. You can use this feature to see how your species relates to others that may interest you.

Status

This tab shows you a species’ conservation status – i.e. whether it’s listed as endangered or threatened in any region. The Vermont Atlas of Life team is responsible for keeping these listings up to date in Vermont, including a species’ s-rank and state endangered species status. Below conservation status is a list showing how the species became established in a particular area. “Introduced” means that human activity facilitated its arrival, while “native” means that it arrived without human help. This tab can help you understand how your species arrived in an area and whether its persistence is uncertain in a particular region.

Ranking
Species ranking from VT Fish & Wildlife Dept.

Similar species

Sometimes you may come across a species with one or more doppelgangers. By using this tab, you can see a list of other species considered visually similar or who are frequently confused with the species you’re exploring.

Trends

“Trends” can help you figure out which species were seen in your area most recently. This feature does not exist on a species-level Taxa Info page. It’s only accessible through a higher taxonomic order because it examines a range of species. For example, one could use this feature to see which butterfly species were recently seen nearby.

To access “Trends”, return to the “Taxonomy” tab on the species’ Taxa Info page. Click on a higher, broader taxonomic level. For example, if on the page for Monarch butterflies, click on the taxonomic level that just says “Butterflies”. Once iNaturalist brings you to the “Butterfly” page, scroll down to where the map is located. There is a tab that says “Trends” to the right of “Map”. When you click on “Trends” it should display all species seen in that area over the last month. This is great to use when figuring out what plants and animals are active in your area.

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I realize that this is a lot of information, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need help navigating any of these features. Once you get comfortable using it, Taxa Info is a great way to learn more about species. If you are a student or a teacher, it is also a great way to gather information for projects.

TTT Task of the Week

This week I encourage you to spend some time exploring the Taxa Info for a particular species. Maybe it’s one that you see in your backyard all the time or maybe it’s just one that has always interested you. The choice is yours! Bonus: find some cool facts to share with others during the upcoming holidays. I always find that some well-placed shark trivia really livens up discussion and can help defuse tense moments.

One final announcement: I’m very grateful for all of the wonderful feedback TTT has received so far! In an effort to continue ensuring that TTT stays relevant to your interests, I want to invite you to submit topic suggestions if you have burning questions you want answered. Just send me a message!

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Ingresado el 26 de noviembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de noviembre de 2019

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the November Winner!

Cast your votes and be counted! You can 'fav' any observation that you like to vote for the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. Located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fav'ed an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which photo-observation has the most favs and crown them the monthly winner. Check out awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you. Vote early and often!

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's photo-observations.

Ingresado el 24 de noviembre de 2019 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de noviembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Improving Observation Quality

“Rain, rain, go away” is not a song I anticipated singing the week before Thanksgiving, yet here we are. I guess at this point, I shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t speak to how this weather compares to historic Vermont early-winters, but I know that winters are no longer normal. They say that anyone born during the past few decades has never experienced a true Vermont winter and I believe it. Even within the past few years this season has felt increasingly erratic. Just over the last two weeks I’ve seen single digits, mid-forties, pouring rain, and snow that clogged I-89 for miles. Although there is still some uncertainty surrounding the magnitude of climate change’s effects on Vermont, there’s little question in my mind that it’s disrupting winter’s “business as usual”.

Despite the indecisive weather, there’s still plenty to see! The new ground cover has increased my awareness of the diversity of life that I share the land with. Every morning a new row of deer tracks crisscross my yard and the delicate skips of mice are often seen tracing their way to and from my wood pile. I now know not only which animals are present, but also what areas they frequent most regularly. Although the November rain makes it tempting to stay indoors, I do encourage you to venture outdoors when the showers cease.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

In the meantime, this dreary weather makes the perfect backdrop for indoor activities, such as iNaturalist housekeeping. Today I will go over a couple of basic tips for improving the quality of your iNaturalist observations. Quality is important when it comes to iNaturalist observations. Although the app’s goal is to collect data for scientists and others, only the research grade observations get stored where scientists can access them. This data storage program is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Once an observation achieves research grade status, it gets sent to GBIF where it is stored with data from other programs. GBIF then provides open access to this data, making it available to anyone who needs it.

In order to help your observations achieve research grade and provide scientists with an accurate data point, I’ve outlined a couple tips to keep in mind when creating new observations and reviewing previously recorded ones.

Tip # 1: Make sure that your photo has a focus. I’m sure that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love a good landscape shot. However, your gorgeous photo of a forested hillside can prove tricky for iNaturalist. When your photo contains multiple species, both iNaturalist and other users can struggle to figure out which species you wanted identified. If you post a photo of a clump of trees and don’t specify which species you’re interested in, other users will struggle to help you make an identification. The easiest way to clearly indicate your focal species is by zooming in on it in your photo. If this is not possible, then provide an explanation in your observation’s comments section to help guide others towards the species of interest.

Tip #2: Make sure that your observation contains photos of only one species. While there are plenty of websites that encourage you to group photos of many different things, iNaturalist is not one of them. iNaturalist bases its identifications off of the first picture you upload. Therefore, if your first photo is of a grey squirrel and your second is of a mallard, the grey squirrel will get identified and cataloged while the mallard will remain hidden and unaccounted for. In order to ensure that the species you see are accurately represented, make sure that a new observation is made for each individual species. It is ok to reuse the same image and tag a different species. For more information on this, see TTT #2.

Tip #3: Try your best to provide an identification for your observation. Even if all you know is that you’re looking at a plant, animal, or fungi, write that down! If you identify something as unknown, others who might otherwise be able to assist may have a hard time finding it. “Unknown” observations are more likely to get lost in limbo waiting for someone to identify them. If you want help identifying your observation, labeling it as a “plant” will allow others to find it more easily.

Tip #4: Make sure that you mark captive animals and cultivated plants accordingly. There are few who scowl at a good pet picture. Personally, I’m usually a sucker for the artfully arranged garden as well. However, animals and plants that are raised and/or controlled by humans aren’t usually considered iNaturalist’s targeted biodiversity demographic. Discerning which animals and plants are considered captive and cultivated can be tricky at times. Thankfully, iNaturalist explains what they mean by “captive” or “cultivated”. If you do snap a photo of a captive animal or cultivated plant, make sure to select the “Captive/Cultivated” box below the date and location when adding your observation.

Tip #5: Make sure that your observation’s date is the date you observed it, not the date you uploaded it. Most of the time, iNaturalist will use the date that your phone stamped on the photo. However, if you’re using a photo that you took on a different device or that function is turned off on your fancy camera, you will have to input the date manually. Whenever you’re creating a new observation, check to make sure that the date is set to the day that you saw the animal/plant/fungi. If the date is wrong it will either make your photo “casual” grade or, if not caught, will provide inaccurate data to those who may use it in the future.

Tip #6: Make sure that your observations’ locations are correct. An easy way to do this is by going to your calendar (located in your profile icon’s drop down menu in the top right corner of your screen) for a specific day and click on the observations present. Once on the observations page, you can select “map” view and it will show you your observations’ locations for that day. If you notice any outliers, go directly to the questionable observation’s page for further evaluation. You can edit the location if needed to restore its accuracy.

TTT Task of the Week

For those who like to use these extra-wintery days for hunkering down and tackling indoor projects, this week’s task is for you! Revisit older observations you’ve made and check that all of the information in them is accurate and follows the tips outlined above. If you have hundreds or thousands of observations and understandably don’t want to go through all of them, then focus on ones that have yet to receive identifications. Use the observation map to double check that your observations show up in the correct location. I know that these housekeeping tasks can be tedious, however performing them from time to time ensures that your observations are contributing high quality data so that scientists like those with the Vermont Atlas of Life can use them to further conservation projects in Vermont.

If you would rather spend your time outside wandering the slushy landscape, then iNat your way around while practicing these tips.

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Ingresado el 19 de noviembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de noviembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Creating Lists

Brrrrr I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t quite ready for winter to start this week. The morning after the first snowfall is always the toughest as you acclimate to all of the steps needed to get out the door and into the world. No matter how many years I spend bundling up with hat and gloves, scraping ice off the windshield of my car, and driving a little slower to navigate icy roads, these extra steps always come as a surprise. In the days leading up to the snow, my property was a flurry of activity as my partner and I tried to finish up last minute pre-snow activities. And we weren’t alone. I always notice a burst of wildlife right before a storm hits. As I stacked firewood and finished putting the garden to rest, I noticed many birds and small rodents gathering seeds in preparation for the coming snow.

Although I can’t say that I’m quite ready for prolonged freezing temperatures, I am excited for all the new opportunities winter presents in the world of observing. The first snowfall always seems like the final transition between summer and winter. In the summer, everything is camouflaged and smothered under layers of foliage. Although wildlife is more abundant, their signs are sometimes harder to read. On the other hand, the first snowfall is a clean slate waiting for the species who have stayed to brave the cold months to write their narratives on its surface. Without the rustling of leaves, the landscape is quiet, save for the knocking of tree branches in the breeze. When the air is still in the winter, it seems like the whole world is holding its breath.

I love the stillness of winter and how easy it is to see little dramas play out all over the woods. I dare say that winter is actually one of my favorite seasons to go outside. This winter, I look forward to expanding my collection of observed tracks on iNaturalist and I hope that you will join me!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Since I expect to expand my personal database of tracks, I know that I will want an easy way to compile and view them. Thankfully, iNaturalist has a feature that allows you to do just that: lists! Lists are a great tool for organizing your observations and keeping track of what you’ve seen. iNaturalist allows you to make a couple different types of lists, however today I will walk you through how to make a basic list and a life list. By going to the iNaturalist help page, you can learn more about some other types of lists.

Before we get started, a quick disclaimer: some users do find that the list feature is a bit clunky. In some cases, it won’t always keep pace with adding observations to lists that are supposed to update automatically. As of 2018, iNaturalist is exploring other options for similar features and is no longer devoting as much energy to updating the “List” function. However, it is still a useful tool despite the occasional challenges.

To start, click on the dropdown menu under the circle containing your profile picture in the top right corner of your screen. Click on “Lists” under the possible options. Once you arrive at the “Lists” page you should see your “Life List”. iNaturalist automatically generates this first list for you. It contains all verified species that you have observed thus far.

If you want to see what an active list looks like, click on it and explore around. Notice how it offers several filter options on the right-hand side under “Stats”. Up along the top, you will also see a couple of other options. “Edit” allows you to edit the list’s title, description, and filter settings. “Edit Taxa” allows you to batch edit all of the species found in that list. There are also several different options for viewing your observations. When you first open a list, it will automatically display your observations by photo. However, you can also view them in lists organized by class and taxonomic clusters.

Once you’ve had a chance to explore this page, go back to your main list page. To create a new list, click on “New List” in the top left corner. Once on this page, you can give your list a title and a description. You will also see a list of options on the right-hand side of the page. The first question to answer is whether or not you want to create a life list. A life list differs from a basic list in that it (usually) gets updated automatically. Life lists also allow you to choose a taxa to focus on. For example, you could create a life list for all of the birds that you see or a life list for all of the hawks and eagles (family Accipitridae) that you see. All observations that fall into these groups will automatically get added to this list.

Once you’ve decided whether or not you want to create a life list, you can move on to the other possible options. The first option allows you to restrict the taxonomic rank accepted. For example, if you select “Species”, you can only add observations identified to the species level. If you select “Any”, it will accept any observation regardless of whether or not it’s identified to the species level. The second option lets you choose the picture you want displayed with your observation. You can choose either the observation’s photo or the photo that is already in iNaturalist for that taxon.

Once you have your title, description, and settings the way you want them, hit “Save”. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Remember the edit button we saw on the active life list earlier? By clicking there on your new completed list, you can edit everything except for its life list status at any point.

Now that you’ve created your list, it’s time to add observations to it! If you created a life list, iNaturalist likely already completed this step for you. However, if you are missing any observations or created a basic list, you need to add observations manually. To add a species from another existing list (including your iNaturalist generated life list), you can select the list in box that says “Compare one of your lists” in the top right corner. This will first show you a list of observations that exist in your new list (if any are there) and then the observations in the comparison list. By using the “add” buttons you can add observations to either lists. It will also indicate which observations you have in common. If you want to add a species that you don’t have an observation for, but that you know you’ve seen, you can click the “Add to your list” option on your list’s homepage and type in the species.

Note: you do have to add observations manually after they are recorded in iNaturalist. Unfortunately there isn’t an option for adding them while creating an observation.

Bonus: You can make a “Favorites” list for recording your favorite taxa. This list will automatically display on your profile. To make a “Favorites” list, create a list as described above and title it “Favorites”. Next, add taxa that you like to it. These do not necessarily need to be ones that you’ve observed. Finally, click save. Go to your profile to make sure that it worked properly. Click on a taxon. If you have previously recorded observations for it, iNaturalist will display your observations for that taxon when you follow the link.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to create lists, it’s time to start using them to organize your observations! Choose a group of observations that really interests you and make a list to track them. For example, I’m going to make a list for animal tracks since I plan on finding a lot of those this winter. Other examples include life lists of birds and observations made around your property. Once the list is made, go through and add any observations that you’ve already recorded to the list. But don’t stop there! Keep this list active by going out to explore the world around you, searching for specimens to add to your list. See how many you can record by the new year!

That’s all for this week folks. Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s web of life and happy observing!

Ingresado el 12 de noviembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de noviembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Searching "Places"

Vermont is undeniably a place of astounding natural beauty. Even in the cold, grey clutches of early winter, the landscape remains enchanting. These past few mornings the sun has risen on fields encased in a delicate layer of frost. On many occasions I’ve seen deer tracks crisscrossing the silver-laced blades, indicating early morning foraging along wooded edges. Now the nights are cold and crisp, tinged with wood smoke and the promise of future snow. We Vermonters may be poor in nightclubs and pulsing city centers, however here we thrive on a different kind of night life. Give me the raucous singing of coyotes over midnight traffic any day.

When we live in a place we love long enough, we develop a deep hunger to learn as much about it as possible. We feel immensely curious about the hidden mysteries of the town we live in, the woods where we hike, and the fields we pass by on our morning commute. Because Vermont is a state that prides itself on its natural environment, we often want to know more about the plants and animals who also make their home here. Thankfully, through projects like the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist, we can become acquainted with our non-human neighbors and feel even more connected to this patchwork landscape.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

The concept of place is important in our lives and coincidentally it is also a very useful tool on iNaturalist. When I say “place” in the context of iNaturalist, I do not mean an observation’s “location”. In iNaturalist, location and place are two different subjects. “Location” relies on towns and street names from Google Maps and is often used by naming a broad area in the “location” search bar under the explore tab. While filtering your results by location is useful when simply looking for observations in a certain town, state, or country, this function is limited because it relies on areas recognized by Google Maps.

On the other hand, filtering by place is the way to go when exploring observations or species found in a more specific area. For example, when I search for the Green Mountain National Forest under "Places", it provides me with the observations made there, a list of species seen and people who have contributed observations, and a map showing all observations. The observation map is especially useful because it allows you to see the distribution of observations. This way you know which areas need more observations and which are fairly well-covered.

Ultimately, place is an incredibly valuable tool for all iNaturalist users, but especially for regional planners, land managers, and others who work on land use and conservation projects in specific areas. For these individuals, exploring a place can provide detailed data on species presence that could help guide planning and decisions.

The best way to explore by place is by going to the “more” tab at the top of your page and clicking the drop down menu. From there, select “Places”. Once you get to the page, you can search for a specific place. As an example, I chose the Green Mountain National Forest, however you can search for your own town or local area of interest if you want. Thanks to VCE’s Kent McFarland, you can find all Vermont towns under places.

What if your favorite park, lake, or forest isn’t already in iNaturalist? If you have made 50 or more verifiable observations, you can create your own place. To do this, go to “Places” as described above and click “add a new place” in the lower right-hand corner. From there, select “manually create new place” and then either draw a boundary around the area on the map or upload a KML file (a KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth). After that, you’re all set to begin filling out your place’s information.

And that’s it! This useful feature is not difficult to access once you’re aware of it. Many people don’t think to use it because it’s tucked away from the usual search feature. However, for those who want to learn more about the species found in a particular spot, “Places” is invaluable.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to search for places in iNaturalist, it’s time to explore! Pick a place in Vermont where you enjoy exploring the outdoors and look it up under “Places”. Explore the different tabs, checking out what people have seen for species in the area. Take a look at the map for the place. Do you see any clusters of observations? Do you see big gaps with few observations? If you see big gaps, make note of where they are. If the place is easily accessible, I encourage you to go and add observations into those gaps next time you are out observing.

Do you have a favorite place that isn’t listed in iNaturalist yet? Then create it! Places provide valuable data to biologists, regional planners, and others who may use the information to pursue conservation projects in that particular area. Who knows, by adding your favorite place, you could create a new pool of valuable, easily accessible data.

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s web of life and happy observing!

Ingresado el 05 de noviembre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de noviembre de 2019

October 2019 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Kyle Tansley for winning the October 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of Barred Owl feeding on a snake along the Burlington bike path garnered the most votes.

A few days early, Kyle noted that he spent nearly six hours watching this owl. "It ate four snakes: one huge one and three smaller ones. It was 4/7 in hunting tries (4 successes, 3 tries came up empty handed). It was mostly hunting from 11:40 to around 4pm, and then napped from around 4pm to 5:30pm. At 5:30 it stretched and preened and flew off deeper into the woods, at which time I ceased birding.Throughout the day, many people stopped to observe the bird."

With over 8,000 photo-observations submitted by 733 observers this month, it was incredibly competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

Barred Owls breed in forests throughout the state and are an opportunistic predator preying on small mammals and rabbits, birds up to the size of grouse, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Small mammals make up the largest portion of their diet overall, but seasonally, amphibians and reptiles can outweigh mammals on the menu.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the  ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Ingresado el 01 de noviembre de 2019 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de octubre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Common Mistakes When Identifying

November is an underappreciated month in Vermont. After the stunning reds and golds of October, November hangs limp and drab, waiting for the first snowfall. Many see winter as a blank canvas, however I believe that November is the true canvas. In “stick season”, the landscape is stripped bare, waiting for the first snowfall to cover it back up again.

As autumn draws its last remaining breaths, the scurrying begins to fade and animals large and small make their final preparations. Some finally embark on their southbound journeys, some disappear underground or into hidden corners of the landscape, and some don their winter wear. The stillness and darkness make it seem as though the world around us is going to sleep, waiting to wake when the days begin to lengthen again.

If you are like me, this season may make you desire deep rest, warm food, and the comfort of soft indoor spaces. However, Vermont’s hills and valleys still have plenty to observe. If you are curious about what you might see at this time of year, check out the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ blog for your Field Guide to November. If you would rather stay inside and live vicariously through others out wandering the barren woods, there are plenty of observations on the Vermont Atlas of Life that need to be identified!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

For those of you opting for the latter, this week I will provide you with tips on how to be a superstar identifier on iNaturalist. For those of you who have never used the identify feature before, this handy tool allows you to confirm, contest, or suggest identifications with ease. When done properly, identifying photo-observations is vital to creating confirmed observations that we can use to monitor species here in Vermont or around the world. When an observation reaches “research grade”, meaning that it has received two or more concurring identifications, it is shared with the Global Biodiversity Research Facility (GBIF) where it becomes part of an enormous international biodiversity network that is free to use by scientists, policymakers, and anyone else who may need it. Through these contributions, folks who use iNaturalist contribute important information that helps support science and conservation everywhere. However, when observations remain unidentified or are not identified correctly, valuable data is left behind.

The good news is that there are always opportunities to improve this data and it is never too late to amend an observation’s identification. For this reason, it is important to add identifications to research grade observations as well as observations below research grade. Misidentifications will sometimes slip by and become research grade. Adding additional identifications to an observation that has already achieved research grade will improve our confidence in that identification and increase the likelihood of catching a misidentification. As we see it, the more IDs an observation has, the better!

Below is a list of common mistakes that people can make when identifying observations on iNaturalist which can lead to misidentification.

1. You feel like you have to identify an observation to the species-level without knowing that it is correct.

iNaturalist is an amazing tool capable of great accuracy when identifying observations. Even if the right species is not listed, the correct genus often is. However, every once in a while it struggles to identify an observation. In these moments, it is tempting to guess or unquestioningly follow all of iNaturalist’s species suggestions when recording your observation. I understand that no one wants to look like they do not know what they are seeing. However, it is perfectly ok if you leave your identification at the genus or even kingdom level. If all you know is that you are looking at a plant, great! The problem is, if you take a guess when identifying something and get it wrong, it is possible that no one will catch it. But, if you just write “plant”, you will likely draw in people who are looking through the plants and trying to make observations more specific. So, when in doubt, stick to what you are positive you know. iNaturalist is a team sport and no reasonable user will put you down for not knowing how to identify something.

2. You never use the suggested id feature.

Some people for one reason or another choose to opt out of letting iNaturalist suggest identifications for them. If you do not know how to use this feature, please shoot me a message and I will happily help! If you know how to use it but are still choosing not to, then I highly encourage you to start. Like I mentioned in tip #1, iNaturalist often offers great suggestions, allowing users to at least confidently identify their observation to the genus level. Unless you are an expert in your field or observed something very common, you will probably benefit from iNaturalist’s suggestions. This feature exists to support you as a naturalist and I highly recommend that everyone use it, regardless of skill level.

3. You identify someone else’s observation to the species level without all of the necessary information.

When identifying other people’s observations, you may feel tempted to make an identification on a species that requires a microscope, elevation data, or a similar tool or piece of information to make a positive identification. In these cases, it is best to identify to the level you can confidently determine without that information. If you are curious, you can also message the observer and see if they can provide you with the information that you need to make a better identification.

4. You go along with someone else’s suggested ID.

Unless you know for a fact that this person is an expert in whatever they are identifying, it is important to think independently instead of just agreeing with their suggestion. This is where a lot of errors occur. Whenever you approach an observation with an existing suggested identification, whether it is your own observation or someone else’s, it is important to do your own investigation. There are plenty of field guides and websites that can help you learn what a particular species looks like. I recommend turning to one of these before hitting the agree button.

These are four basic tips for improving your identification skills, however many more exist. Keep a lookout for more on this topic in the coming months!

TTT Task of the Week

Now that we have talked about some common mistakes when identifying, it is time to go practice! Your task for this week is to find at least 2 non-research grade observations and 1 research grade observation in VAL and suggest an id. Remember to stick to what you know and look up a species in a field guide before hitting ‘agree’. If you need help using the identification tool, there’s a great tutorial that will walk you through it.

As always, thank you for helping us map Vermont’s web of life and happy observing!

Ingresado el 29 de octubre de 2019 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario