July 24, 2019

The hunt for 5,000 taxa before 20,000 observations

This is a bit frivolous and arbitrary, but having recently crossed the 19,000 observation threshold, I am trying to observe 5,000 identified taxa before I hit 20,000 observations. If I understand correctly how iNaturalist counts taxa, I am currently (as of 7/23/19) sitting at 19,018 verifiable observations and 4,644 identified taxa above the subspecies level (of which, 4,032 have been identified as species). That means that for my next 1,000 or so observations, I need to observe and identify ~350 taxa that I haven't before, or about 1 new taxa for every 3 observations. That will be difficult for me!

Recent new-to-me taxa (clockwise from top left): Banded Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus investigator), Salmon Louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), Ixodes angustus, Dark Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma citrata).

I am generally someone who enjoys (and believes in the community value of) documenting the same species multiple times. I have been known to encourage others to "observe everything!" (cc @judygva) When I first joined iNat, it was obviously the easiest to record a new-to-me species, and it *generally* becomes more challenging to observe new taxa after finding the most conspicuous, charismatic, and camera-friendly species at a site. In 2011 and before, I was observing and identifying a new taxa every 1.66 observations. From 2012-2015, I averaged a new taxa about every 5 observations. From 2016 to now, I become a bit more selective, traveled to several new areas, and averaged a new taxa about every 4 observations. If I want to achieve my goal of identifying 5,000 taxa before I cross the 20,000 observation threshold, I am going to need to step up my identification game, practice more restraint in observing previously documented taxa, stop neglecting other taxa, and visit some new habitats and sites.

Recent new-to-me taxa (clockwise from top left): Rusty Tussock Moth (Orgyia antiqua), Falsehorn Flies (Genus Temnostoma), Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), Northern Red-banded Yellowjacket (Vespula intermedia).

Here's my plan to strive for quality over quantity:
-- Spend a couple days tide pooling in Seldovia. Goal: 30-40 new taxa.
-- I don't know this is true, but my sense is that passively, I gain a net of about 1-4 new taxa per week from the iNat community reviewing my old observations. So over the next couple months or so, I would estimate a net gain of ~20-30 new taxa.
-- Identify ~100 new taxa reviewing my old observations and adding new observations from my photo archive.
-- Pick up ~200 new taxa in S Texas in <500 observations. cc @finatic @sambiology @treegrow so that they can keep me on point.

Posted on July 24, 2019 04:16 by muir muir | 5 comments | Leave a comment

July 10, 2019

What's the world's most observed insect genus? and more thoughts on iNat observability

What is the world's most observed insect genus? On iNat at least, I think the answer is Bombus, the bumble bee. Globally, 22,000+ iNat observers have recorded over 72,000 verifiable Bombus observations (1.34% of all insect observations), followed by Common Swallowtails (Genus Papilio, 26k+ observers, 68k+ observations, 1.27% of insect observations), Tiger Milkweed Butterflies (Genus Danaus, 20k+ observers, 63k+ observations, 1.18% of insect observations), Ladies and Related Admiral Butterflies (Genus Vanessa, 19k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.06% of insect observations), Honey Bees (Genus Apis, 25k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.05% of insect observations), and King Skimmers (Genus Libellula, 8k+ observers, 39k+ observations, 0.74% of insect observations). If iNat was more popular in African and Asian countries and not so biased to North American observers, you might see genera like Orthetrum, another dragonfly (2k+ observers, 11k+ observations), among that list.

What affects the observability of a genus or other taxon? Whether on iNat or in general, I think the most important factor is habitat accessibility. If a taxon doesn't occur on the road system, occurs in a habitat away from human population centers, and/or can't be easily observed from dry land, then I suspect that the taxon is unlikely to ever be among the most observed on iNat. Aside from accessibility, I think you probably need at least two of the following four factors, and the more the better, to boost both detectability and observability:

Common: the degree to which a taxon is present and abundant.

Charismatic: the degree to which a taxon appeals to people. Charisma is obviously somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but broadly, it appears to be a detectable influence on what humans care about in nature (e.g., paper: Human preferences for species conservation: Animal charisma trumps endangered status).

Conspicuous: the degree to which a taxon is notice-able and visible. For example, a taxon that is diurnal, brightly colored or highly contrasted, large-bodied, and/or perches in the open is more observable than a nocturnal, dull-colored, microscopic thing that resides in the soil or thick vegetation.

Camera-friendly: the degree to which a taxon is photograph-able. I'm not quite sure if/how this might differ from a taxon being conspicuous, but something about taxon staying still in well-lit situations. To the extent that iNat observations are increasingly made via the app, this factor increasingly means smartphone camera-friendly.

In many areas (outside of Africa and Australia) and for many people, I think bumble bees probably hit all four, and are a top candidate to be the world's most accessible/common/charismatic/conspicuous/camera-friendly and thus observed insect genus.

Tagging some of the most frequent Bombus observers and identifiers: @alexis_amphibian @erikamitchell @dleaon1 @tony_wills @jenniferf4 @tmarkolivier @beeboy @czbgbuzztroop @johnascher @rustybee @mdwarriner @hadel @pfau_tarleton @heatherholm @malisaspring @haukekoch @rjm2 and more general insect iNat'rs @borisb @nlblock @edanko @brandonwoo @maractwin @greglasley @sambiology @treegrow @judygva @treichard @vicfazio3 @finatic @loarie @carrieseltzer @tiwane who likely have additional thoughts on what affects the observability of an insect taxon. Image #1: a fuzzy-horned bumble bee (B mixtus) in Whittier Alaska, Image #2: a global snapshot of iNat Bombus observations, Image #3: a possible Fernald's cuckoo bumblee bee (B fernaldae) in Kenai Alaska.

PS What is the world's most observed genus overall on iNat? Hint #1: it's in the birds. Hint #2: it's among these candidates: Dabbling Ducks (Anas) vs Great Herons (Ardea) vs Typical Thrushes (Turdus) vs True Sparrows (Passer) vs Buteo hawks (Buteo). Without looking, leave your guess in the comments below.

Posted on July 10, 2019 20:04 by muir muir | 7 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2019

May 18 - Idylwild WMA field trip

Calling all DC-area (and Delmarva-area) iNaturalists --

After previously meeting up in suburban Maryland (see @carrieseltzer 's journal post), Rock Creek Park (see @treegrow 's journal post), Meadowood Recreation Area (see my journal post), and the Suitland Bog Natural Area (see @mellis's journal post), I am proposing a trip farther afield near the MD-DE border: Idylwild Wildlife Management Area on May 18 (Saturday) 2019. I first heard of Idylwild from @mike_moore Michael Moore's excellent website, which describes the 3,800 acre area as "an abandoned sand mining operation in sandy pine woods next to the Marshyhope River with a wide diversity of pond, stream, bog and river habitats" and "by far the premier site for odonates on the Delamarva." You can read more about Idylwild and find a helpful map on Mike's webpage for "Where to find Odonates" (scroll down), and see what has been observed and posted to iNat from this area in the past.

The plan is to park in the parking area off of Noble Rd (Google map location). I will try to arrive around 8am, and plan to wander up the trail and nearby fields, for those arriving later. Again, I recommend you look at the Idylwild map on Mike's website (remember to scroll down to get to a section dedicated to Idylwild), particularly if you're coming on your own or joining later. Please add a comment below if you need a ride, or can provide a ride, and folks can try to organize amongst themselves to carpool to the extent possible. It's a 2+ hr drive from DC. I will likely be renting a car, and departing DC on May 17 (Friday), after dinnertime to give the traffic a chance to relax, and stay at a chain hotel in Easton or Seaford. I would expect a full day -- potentially also visiting a second site in the afternoon, and maybe gathering for dinner at a restaurant somewhere along the route back to DC. I usually bring an extra set of clothes because there are some marshy and creek bits where my enthusiasm carries me into the wet. ;) Be aware that there are no restroom or other facilities at this site.

If you haven't attended one of these gatherings before, you are most welcome! They are loosely organized and fun, very informal, and people can come and go as they please. The group usually spreads out and moves at a naturalist's pace. Impromptu picnics are known to occur. *I don't think* any of us are axe-murderers.

Here is the iNat project created to compile observations from these DC-area field trips.

Tagging recently active users & participants from previous field trips, apologies if you consider this spam. Please tag and invite others freely.
@treegrow @carrieseltzer @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @briangratwicke @judygva @botanygirl @belyykit @ashley_bradford @elliotgreiner @mellis @achang @jgingold @krosenthal @tminatbe @mmn_noriko @mdnaturalist @treichard @kestrelsparverius @gwh @lorax32 @lynnparsons @tkirk304 @lucareptile @jacobogre @kellykrechmer @annagypsy @kisaacson @etotin @yogagalen @eglaeser @mkoenig @nicocampalans @klthomasart @ecologyelise @lookandsee and a few folks who have posted observations from Caroline County MD: @cammie @naturelady @hholbrook @mikemq41

May 19 (Sunday) is the reschedule date if weather is very poor the day before.

Posted on April 05, 2019 21:35 by muir muir | 2 comments | Leave a comment

January 09, 2019

muir's 2018 iNat Year(s) in Review

A very on-brand observation of the Centaurus Beetle (Augosoma centaurus), Congo.

I wrote a "Year in Review" in 2016, that sort of felt like my Christmas card to the iNat community, and really enjoyed reflecting on where I went, what I saw, and who I was with. Partly out of exhaustion (new baby), and partly out of the iNat team stealing my thunder with a very cool "Year in Review" stats page, I didn't write an annual review in 2017. With the current government shutdown, however, I have more time on my hands.


I made an observation every month in 2018, continuing a streak that dates back to February 2011 -- the year I joined iNaturalist. Now that I'm aware of this 94 month streak, I will be more conscious about keeping it up! In total, I posted 1,101 verifiable observations, with 539 taxa currently IDed. That's a big dip in activity and species for me -- I've been averaging about double that since 2012, and am now out of the top 500 of the most prolific iNat'rs. (For comparison's sake, and to note how much the iNat community continues to grow, you needed to post at least 1,640 observations in 2018 to crack the list of the top 500 observers. In contrast, 1,640 observations in 2011 would make you iNat's fifth most frequent observer.)


I changed home ranges in April 2018, relocating from Washington DC to Anchorage, Alaska. I was born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, but don't know the Anchorage area well, so it's been a pleasure to explore new trails and places. Westchester Lagoon replaces Huntley Meadows as my go-to nature place, but the Coastal Trail & Kincaid Park, Glen Alps trailhead, and Portage Pass in Whittier have become fast and convenient favorites.

About 80% of my observations and species were recorded in the United States. I made only one work trip internationally, to a park I've been to before (Nouabale Ndoki) in Congo Brazzaville, and mostly stayed close to home. In 2017, I traveled much farther afield, including Asia for the first time. I traveled to two Indonesian national parks in the southern tip of Sumatra, Way Kambas and Bukit Barisan Selatan, as well as the Bogor Botanical Gardens south of Jakarta, and a layover in Narita, Japan (which I wrote an iNat journal post about).

My other big trip of 2017 was joining the iNat-athon in SE Arizona. A big thank you again to BJ, Jay and others who helped set the itinerary through a series of spectacular places in and around the Sky Islands.


In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species photos that I took in 2017/18:

A forest elephant in Mbeli Bai, Congo, observed for more than two hours in its natural state. A real treat as I spend most of my work life reading about dead poached elephants.

An Appalachian salamander (Plethodon jordani) and a salamander found creekside in Tuckaleechee Cavern, both observed on an amazing four day trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

A pair of Cobra Clubtails (Gomphurus vastus), overlooking the south fork of the Shenandoah River. I attended the 2017 meeting of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas in Staunton, Virginia, and learned of several sites for gomphids and other Appalachian specialities. I miss seeing those gomphids.

While wading the Rivanna River looking for odes on a very warm day, I caught by chance a longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) leaping. What a cool fish.

Judy is one of my inspirations in DC, and when she posted a Riley's clearwing moth (Synanthedon rileyana) that I coveted, we organized a field trip to the same area. Incredibly, I observed the same species, which stayed long enough to get a single photo, and then proceeded to hug everyone around me. Ha, what joy!

Westchester Lagoon is one of Anchorage's most popular birding spots, and I'm grateful to now live in the neighborhood. Red-necked grebes (Podiceps grisegena) are present throughout the summer, nesting on floating veg and parenting attentively. These birds were gorging on fish (salmon?) fry, headed out into Cook Inlet. Waterfowl abound when the lagoon is ice-free, and I also found my first Lake Darner (Aeshna eremita), the state's largest dragonfly, there this year.

In Cook Inlet, but just a short walk away from Westchester Lagoon, I spotted a pod of belugas, which is always a special experience. These belugas are one of the few taxa in Alaska listed as Endangered (others with critical habitat in the state include the North Pacific right whale, the Western Steller sea lion, and the Aleutian shield fern. sources: USFWS & NOAA). Since I was born, the Cook Inlet beluga population has decreased by about 75%, and currently number around 330 individuals.

In the backyard, I have moose, snowshoe hares, some charismatic hoverflies, and this Northern Goshawk which landed feet away from me on my deck. I love to live this close to wild life, and have plans to make my yard more insect-friendly in the coming years.

In late August, on the first day of hunting season, I helped my cousin butcher a moose, north of Palmer. The papillae in the mouth, which help move the tough browse that moose consume in the right direction, were incredible to see up close. We eat moose meat a couple times a week now.

Finally, I took a short entomology course from Derek Sikes this summer in Denali, and learned of the existence of Elaphrus marsh ground beetles. Being a tiger beetle admirer (aren't we all?), I was fascinated by a look-alike group that patrols riverbanks to prey on insects caught up in the water. I was proud to find one near Campbell Creek Science Center, a place I'm hoping to spend more time at in 2019.

I have too many favorite observations from Indonesia and Arizona, so I "faved" a bunch of them and you can find them here and here, respectively. One of the less charismatic, but scientifically interesting things I shared on iNat from those trips was a psyllid that Chris Mallory recognized as perhaps the first known photo of the Metatrioza genus, and the first record since the species was originally described out of Tucson in 1944. Even when I'm wrong or ignorant of the significance of what I'm observing (which embarrassingly happens a lot!), iNat continues to be a source of joy that my wanderings in nature can contribute to something bigger than myself, finding and sharing things that pique the interest of friends, taxonomic specialists and land managers. Similar to the psyllid (which Chris returned to the site the following year to re-find), @groverbrown came across one of my turtle observations, and suggested that it may be a new Maryland state record, for a species that is expanding its range during climate change. State biologists and Jug Bay land managers are now on the look out to confirm its presence. I think about that a lot now in Alaska. Not so much about finding state records, but about the potential for each observation to be interesting to science and conservation in the future, particularly as alpine and boreal species shift and disappear and arrive in Alaska over the next 10-20 years plus.


Tagging people I enjoyed being outside with in 2017/18 (and hoping you don't consider this being spammed). DC-area: @judygva @carrieseltzer @treegrow @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @mellis @ashley_bradford @achang @lagin6489 @katzyna @mattluizza @guyfoulks iNatathon: @finatic @jaykeller @berkshirenaturalist @kueda @loarie @dloarie @matthew_salkiewicz @nathantaylor @psyllidhipster @sambiology @silversea_starsong @bogslogger Great Smokey: @reallifeecology DSA: @greglasley @pbedell Indonesia: @stsang @dewichristina. And a big THANK YOU to @borisb @treegrow @psyllidhipster @joshuagsmith @nlblock @johnascher @brucebennett @gwark @edanko @briangooding @jasonrgrant & @wongun for identifying a huge number of my observations over the past couple years. I invite all of you to Anchorage -- our home & Alaskan nature await you.

2019 Goals

-- Visit west of Cook Inlet
-- More tide-pooling
-- Mystery Creek road
-- Harvest a caribou
-- 500 AK species
-- Plan for Peru in 2020
-- Revisit my interest in predicting species occurrence and observations on iNat
-- Go outside with some AK iNat'rs, including @connietaylor @awenninger @mbowser @mckittre @gwark @brucebennett @jasonrgrant @paul_norwood @camwebb @jrfulkerson @dssikes @troydeclan some of whom I've met, and some I hope to in 2019

From my family to yours, Happy New Year everybody.

Posted on January 09, 2019 23:52 by muir muir | 15 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2018

DC Metro iNat data: 2017 and observations per new species


I made some predictions in a July 2017 journal post about how many observations, species and new species would be added to iNat from July to December for the DC metro area:

In previous years, the first half's observations accounted for about 49% of the year's final total, and 58% of the species. Extrapolating that to 2017 would mean 22,632 second-half observations, or 44,639 total 2017 observations (range: 39,729 - 50,888), and 4,183 species (range: 3,890 - 4,602), or about a 150% and 120% increase from 2016, respectively. How many of those species would be new records for the DC Metro area? A rough estimate is that, based on 2011-2016 trends, a new species for the DC Metro is recorded about every 30 observations. So, if I estimate 22,632 observations will be added in the second half of 2017, that would suggest 700 new species will be added (range: 550 - 890).

How'd my predictions fare? Some good, some not so good! As of today, iNaturalist shows approximately 54,000 total 2017 observations, which is about 10k higher than my estimate. I did better with the total number of species: iNat shows 4,174 species, an undercount of just 9 species compared to my prediction. I also predicted 700 new species would be added in the second half of 2017, and I did pretty well there too, as iNat shows a difference of 717 species from July 1 to December 31, 2017.

It was another year of growth for the DC-area iNaturalist community. Total 2017 observations (n=53,997) exceeded all observations made prior to 2017 (n=53,024 obs). High watermarks were posted for number of species, observers, and identifiers. Six people broke the previous record for a single species count in the DC metro, including @krosenthal @mellis @peggyo @treegrow @ashley_bradford and the current record-holder @judygva at 1,035 species. Go Judy go!

While the overall effort (observers and identifiers) is increasing, it's becoming more and more challenging for new species to be identified in DC on iNaturalist. For example, out of a total 600 observations in 2011, about 174 species were new to iNaturalist. That means, on average, a new species was added for the DC metro every 3 observations or so. The number of observations needed to "find" a new species has climbed every year. In 2012, a new species was added every 5 observations. 2013, 8 observations. 2014, 9 observations. 2015, 13 observations. 2016, 23 observations. In 2017, we needed 43 observations on average to identify at least one species that had never been recorded in the DC area on iNaturalist. In fact, 2017 was the first year in which we recorded fewer number of *new* species than the year previous (~1255 new species in 2017 vs ~1326 new species in 2016).

The quantity of effort required to record a new species *really* varies across taxonomic groups. Here's some examples (based on stats downloaded Feb 2018), in order of decreasing effort required:
-- Amphibians (1 new species in 2017) = 920 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Birds (16 new species recorded for DC area in 2017) = 327 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Reptiles (5 new species in 2017) = 256 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Mammals (6 new species in 2017) = 212 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Ferns (7 new species in 2017) = 95 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Arachnids (32 new species in 2017) = 43 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Flowering plants (547 new species in 2017) = 40 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Insects (413 new species in 2017) = 34 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Ray-finned fish (13 new species in 2017) = 28 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Protozoa (3 new species in 2017) = 27 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Molluscs (18 new species in 2017) = 24 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Fungi (146 new species in 2017) = 20 observations to record 1 new Sp
-- Mosses (13 new species in 2017) = 18 observations to record 1 new Sp

So if you want to record some new-to-iNat species for the DC metro area (say, for example, for the upcoming City Nature Challenge cc @carrieseltzer) AND you want to be lazy and/or strategic about your observation effort, my advice: get low and get wet and ignore terrestrial things with backbones. Mosses, fungi, molluscs, protozoans, and ray-finned fish would all be great targets for focused monitoring effort to find species that have never been recorded before on iNat in the DC Metro area. There appear to be hundreds of flowering plant and insect species to still identify, so keep looking at those things too. (And someone should get a microscope and start identifying the unicellular stuff!)

What are my 2018 predictions for DC metro iNat? Assuming observations and species grow at a similar rate compared to recent years, and new species become similarly challenging to find and identify, I predict:
-- 85,000 total observations (range: 75,000-95,000)
-- 5,000 total species
-- including 1,000 species that were previously unrecorded on iNat for this area

Now go outside and prove me wrong!

Posted on April 26, 2018 09:38 by muir muir | 13 comments | Leave a comment

July 16, 2017

DC-area meet-up: Sunday July 23 @ Meadowood

Group photo (names in no particular order): Amy, Jen, Matt, Carrie, Ashley, Judy, Michael, Lee, Natalie, Marshall, Holden


Calling all DC-area iNaturalists -- it is time for a mid-summer gathering.

After previously meeting up in suburban Maryland (see @carrieseltzer 's journal post) and Rock Creek Park (see @treegrow 's journal post), let's try Northern Virginia. Near Woodbridge, Meadowood Recreation Area is one of few Bureau of Land Management lands east of the Mississippi, and houses an adoption program for a few wild horses and burros moved from public rangelands in the West. It also has a great mix of habitats and trails with over 450 species recorded so far by the iNat community (over half by @judygva alone!).


The plan is to meet at the Hidden Pond Trailhead parking area on Belmont Blvd. In the trail map linked above, it is near the bottom in the middle. I will try to arrive around 9am, and will wander to the pond and in the immediate vicinity, including the milkweed Judy references in the comments, for those arriving later. Please add a comment below if you need a ride, or can provide a ride, and we will try to carpool to the extent possible.

If you haven't attended one of these gatherings before, you are welcome! They are loosely organized and fun, very informal, and people can come and go as they please. The group usually spreads out and moves at a naturalist's pace. Impromptu picnics are known to occur. *I don't think* any of us are axe-murderers.

Here is the iNat project created to compile observations from these DC-area field trips.

Tagging recently active users & participants from previous field trips. Please tag and invite others freely.
@treegrow @carrieseltzer @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @briangratwicke @judygva @botanygirl @belyykit @ashley_bradford @elliotgreiner @mellis @achang @jgingold @krosenthal @tminatbe @mmn_noriko @mdnaturalist @treichard @kestrelsparverius @gwh @lorax32 @lynnparsons @tkirk304 @lucareptile @jacobogre @kellykrechmer @annagypsy @kisaacson @etotin @yogagalen @eglaeser @mkoenig @nicocampalans @klthomasart @ecologyelise

Posted on July 16, 2017 02:24 by muir muir | 63 comments | Leave a comment

July 02, 2017

5000+ species in DC Metro

Around the same time the whole site hit 5M observations, DC-area iNaturalists reached their own milestone last week as the 5000th species was recorded and IDed within the Washington Metropolitan Area. The community crossed the 5k threshold on 26-June-17, and currently sits at 5,024. (Note that here and elsewhere, I am referring to verifiable observations of non-captive species.) This overall count can fluctuate independent of new additions as species identifications are corrected/changed.

A few iNat stats from our area:

Annual iNat observations and taxa have increased every year since 2011, with the biggest jumps (~5-fold increase in observations) from 2011 to 2012, and 2015 to 2016. From 2012 to 2015, the number of observations steadily increased by about a third each year.

Overall, @treichard has recorded the most observations (n=3,697) within the DC metro, and @peggyo the most species (n=889). In terms of most species recorded in 12 months (= Big Year, all species version), @krosenthal IDed 430 species in 2016, but incredibly @judygva, in only the first six months of 2017, has smashed that previous high with 519 species so far. Compare the leaderboards below, and you can see that judygva is not the only newcomer having a big impact: 80% of the top five spots, for both species and observations, have turned-over from 2011-2016 to 2017.

Observation Leaderboard 2011-2016
(1) treichard [3,215 obs]; (2) muir [2,921]; (3) @calopteryx [2,629]; (4) @treegrow [2,608]; (5) rosenthal [2,383]
Species Leaderboard 2011-2016
(1) calopteryx [845 spp]; (2) treegrow [736]; (3) @drkilmer [731]; (4) treichard [704]; (5) krosenthal [698]

Observation Leaderboard 2017 (up to 1-July)
(1) @belyykit [1,289 obs]; (2) @elliotgreiner [1,168]; (3) @mellis [972]; (4) judygva [775]; (5) treegrow [666]
Species Leaderboard 2017
(1) judygva [519 spp]; (2) mellis [427]; (3) peggyo [325]; (4) krosenthal [257]; (5) elliotgreiner [242]

A couple more musings:

(1) In the context of iNat activity, the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, might suggest that 80% of iNat observations should be expected to come from 20% of the observers. Since 2012, the DC-area iNat community has been even more imbalanced, averaging 10% of observers contributing 80% of annual observations. I don't know how that compares to other places, or what it might indicate.

(2) We're at the year's halfway mark, so allow me to try to predict what happens in the second half of 2017 in the DC-area:

In previous years, the first half's observations accounted for about 49% of the year's final total, and 58% of the species. Extrapolating that to 2017 would mean 22,632 second-half observations, or 44,639 total 2017 observations (range: 39,729 - 50,888), and 4,183 species (range: 3,890 - 4,602), or about a 150% and 120% increase from 2016, respectively. How many of those species would be new records for the DC Metro area? A rough estimate is that, based on 2011-2016 trends, a new species for the DC Metro is recorded about every 30 observations. So, if I estimate 22,632 observations will be added in the second half of 2017, that would suggest 700 new species will be added (range: 550 - 890).

Posted on July 02, 2017 03:35 by muir muir | 10 comments | Leave a comment

May 05, 2017

Layover (mostly) birding in Narita, Japan

If you have an overnight layover in Narita, Japan, you should do two things to prepare:

Step 1 read the The Naturalest Naturalist: Birding Narita, Japan: When life gives you layovers, make liferades...
Step 2 read 10,000 Birds: Nice, Nice Birding in Narita

I found a lot of good info in Jeremy Gatten and Mike Bergin's posts, and can recommend the same hotel that they did: the International Garden Hotel Narita. I arrived at ~3:30pm from Jakarta, so after a free airport shuttle ride, I quickly dumped my luggage in the room, and headed straight outside for the Nekono River channel to catch the day's remaining light. That afternoon river route is generally highlighted in red below. There was a paved, then dirt, pathway that follows the channel as far as I had time to walk north. That route also had a nice endpoint--the Aeon Mall--with a food court and grocery store to stuff myself with Japanese food for dinner. Non-snack highlights (and all lifers) were spot-billed ducks, meadow buntings, and Japanese wagtails. You can find all my day's observations here and a link to the route here.

The next morning, I woke up for first light at ~5am and generally followed the yellow route mapped above, with lots of deviations within that loop into rice paddies and poking around residential roads. I generally stayed in the open paddies and fields early in the morning, and entered the forest patch later when there was more light. Other folks, who can bird by ear or are less concerned about photographing their targets, might feel less constrained. I did find a good messy patch at my most southern point, between a highway and train overpass, where I had a long beautiful look at a green pheasant pair. Other highlights included a mating pair of green tree frogs, three tits in a tree (Japanese, long-tailed, & varied), a buzzard, and multiple better looks of bull-headed shrikes compared to the day before. All of the day's observations can be found here, including a couple that still need ID confirmation.

I was somewhat disappointed to see so few waterbirds in the rice paddies, and no odonates. In the forest directly behind the hotel, I passed by an interesting shrine and cemetery in a clearing, encountering some butterfly species and a jack-in-the-pulpit type plant that I did not find elsewhere. Overall, in about 5 hours of daylight over 2 days, I posted almost 50 iNaturalist observations, including 32+ species, 2 two new-to-me amphibian species, and at least 12 lifer birds.

I took the 8:30am shuttle back to the airport, having left my packed bags at the front desk so I could squeeze every last minute outside. The bus schedules (as of April 2017) from and to the airport are posted below. My experience was ~45 minutes to travel from the airport to the hotel (the Garden Hotel is the 3rd hotel stop), and a somewhat quicker return trip to the airport.

The biggest difference between my route and Jeremy and Mike's above was that I missed the Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple and its grounds. That was mostly a time/light management issue -- the open river made for a pleasant walk in the waning light, and in the morning, I preferred to stay closer to the hotel so I could maximize time outside before hustling back to the airport shuttle. Next time!

Tagging a few others (@c_michael_hogan @carrieseltzer @tstrauch) who appear to have also made Narita layovers to see if they have advice/comments to add, and a local (@harumkoh).

Posted on May 05, 2017 18:05 by muir muir | 47 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 28, 2017

Predicting species observations on iNat

One of my 2017 goals is to learn a new way to contribute to iNat. I don't know if this venture will achieve that aim, but I would like to try.

I do iNaturalist entirely for fun, but I'm an ecologist by training and work in wildlife conservation, so my orientation is to think about when and where species occur, and how that information could be applied or converted into useful metrics. I'm weird that way! Here's some wonky questions that I think about:

-- How could you calculate the probability that an iNat observation will be recorded for a particular species during a visit to a particular place? During a particular month?
-- What predictive value might an observation probability have? How could you define predictive value?
-- How might the predictive value differ along a gradient of common to rarely observed species? Along a gradient of frequently to rarely visited places?
-- What is the minimum number of iNat observations necessary to calculate a probability with sufficient predictive value? The minimum number of iNat users?
-- How does species presence relate to species detection relate to species iNat observation?
-- How does the profile of an individual iNat user's activity change the observation probability? What are some of the reasons why an iNat user might detect a species but not make an iNat observation?
-- How could you calculate the probability of an iNat observation in a place where a species has not been observed yet?
-- How could existing range maps improve the calculation of species probabilities? Maps of habitat, ecosystem, and other bio-physical and human footprint features?
-- How could you generate a range map based on iNat observations and observation probabilities?
-- How could you use probability of species observations to incentivize iNat users to go outside? To incentivize visits to particular places? To look for particular species at particular times?
-- So what? Outside of iNat, how might this information actually be used by people interested in nature, science, philanthropy, and conservation?

If history is any guide, Scott @loarie or someone else will gently tell me that this feature is already under development, or some other group or entire discipline of scientists is already pursuing these questions. And at least in the latter case, that's absolutely correct! There is a LOT of literature and experts on species detection probabilities, species distribution models, and using Bayesian probability statistics to map where species occur. (Experts that include our very own Scott and probably several others on here!) So, acknowledging up front that I'm out of my depth and at high risk of looking foolish, I am putting my belief out there for your scrutiny that pursuing these questions in the context of iNaturalist would add substantial value to existing iNat activity and has the potential to make a novel contribution.

So, is anyone else curious about this stuff?

[images: Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) and Rabid Wolf Spider (Rabidosa rabida) observed in McKinney Roughs Nature Park, TX; Locust Borer Beetle (Megacyllene robiniae) in Sky Meadows State Park, VA]

Posted on January 28, 2017 02:22 by muir muir | 4 comments | Leave a comment

January 19, 2017

Dragonfly Society of the Americas 2017 Annual Meeting 9 - 11 June 2017

Is anyone else interested in going? Meeting will be held in Staunton VA with field trips to a sinkhole complex at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and sites within the George Washington National Forest. There's also a 2-day pre-meeting trip from Richmond to Staunton, and a post-meeting trip to higher ground near the WV border. I believe @pbedell is one of the organizers.

I've never been to a DSA meeting before, so I don't really know what to expect, but I'm interested in the talks and field trips before and during meeting (I'm less likely able to participate in the post-meeting field trip). I will likely have seats available in the car if people are interested in carpooling from DC area.


Posted on January 19, 2017 13:50 by muir muir | 17 comments | Leave a comment