May 14, 2021

Giving a Zoom talk to the Marine Biological Association of the UK

A couple weeks ago while I was on vacation in Sanibel, Florida I was asked if I could give a Zoom talk about iNaturalist to the Marine Biological Association of the UK, on the morning of Thursday May 6th. The meeting was at 11 am British time, which means it was at 6 am Eastern Standard time. The meeting was called "Marine Biology Live; Citizen Scientist Special".

It meant I had to get up at 4:45 am to be ready. Also the WiFi reception in our hotel cottage was really terrible, but fortunately the weekday manager of the hotel lent me the office key, so I could do the talk from the office, where the reception was plenty good enough. But during the talk, my husband Ed had to put the office lovebird out on the porch, as she kept squawking rather loudly.

At first I had intended to extemporize the talk, which was supposed to be only 10 or 15 minutes in length, but in the end I wrote it out. The MBA is very prestigious, so I wanted to make sure I did a good job, even though I did not have much time. It would be easier to talk about iNat for an hour than to talk about it for only 10 minutes!

My little talk went OK in the end, although I sounded a bit trashed from having to get up so early. The MBA filmed the whole meeting and put it up on their YouTube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvATd6Qo0UY

Posted on May 14, 2021 21:19 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 24 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Sanibel nature is wonderful!

I just spent three weeks on the Gulf Coast barrier island of Sanibel, near Fort Myers, in Lee County, Florida. Sanibel is 65% nature preserve, and the island has many legal restrictions that make it wild-life-friendly.

This was my 10th visit to the island, which I heard about in childhood thanks to a National Geographic article about it. The island is very famous for its shells, but in reality it is wonderful for almost every aspect of nature. And during this visit I saw a lot of species that I had never seen before, as well as several others that I had seen before, but not very often.

Here are a few highlights. I will add others to this list as they occur to me.

MAMMALS
My favorite sighting of all was eight manatees at Jensens Twin Palm Marina on Captiva. They were all but one clustered in an overlapping row right by the seawall where a freshwater spring runs into the saltwater of the back bay. They like to gather there to drink the freshwater, and as a result of that, you can see them quite close-up. They are really enormous, and very sweet-seeming; truly they are gentle giants.

REPTILES
Finally got a great view of an alligator. I also got a photo of a live Black Racer, saw one dead, run-over Florida Rat Snake and the shed skin of another one. Saw a couple of Iguanas from a distance and a freshwater turtle from a great distance (too far away to determine the species) as well as a juvenile Gopher Tortoise who has moved into the hotel grounds where we were staying.

BIRDS
The birds are always great on Sanibel, especially the various waterbirds, lots of egrets and herons and a nice Anhinga drying off. I also saw something that I think may have been a Clapper Rail.

BUTTERFLIES
Zebra Longwing, Gulf Fritilliary, Great Southern White, Barred White, White Peacock, Monarch.

SCORPIONS
Slender Brown Scorpions via UV flashlight, thanks to @jaykeller -- so cool

CRABS
Squareback Marsh Crab
Mangrove Tree Crab
Atlantic Sand Fiddler Crab

BEETLES
Headlight Beetle, also thanks to @jaykeller and his mothing set-up.
Coastal Tiger Beetle, I think.

"LOWER PLANTS"
Shoelace Fern --looks like an armful of green spaghetti nailed to a tree trunk
Lots of cool lichens TBD

"HIGHER PLANTS"
Florida Butterfly Orchid -- native and epiphytic
Chinese Crown Orchid -- ground-dwelling, introduced and invasive

For anyone who loves nature, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Sanibel.

Posted on May 14, 2021 14:21 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 6 comments | Leave a comment

March 17, 2021

Finding the land snail Triodopsis hopetenensis, the Magnolia Threetooth, in NYC

On Friday March 12, my iNat friend @steven-cyclist drove us to Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, at the north end of Jamaica Bay.

To my surprise I found a lot of empty shells and live individuals of the polygyrid species Triodopsis hopetonensis, identified for me by Harry G. Lee of Jacksonville, Florida.

Cool!

This species has apparently never been recorded before from New York State, so I am writing an article about this discovery for American Conchologist magazine.

The first four images here are of dead empty shells from grassland. The other five images are of live snails that were sheltering under small rocks beside a gravel pathway in the State Park.

Posted on March 17, 2021 20:00 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 8 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 08, 2021

Giving a Zoom talk for the Philadelphia Academy on iNat and Shells

In case anyone is interested, on Thursday evening, January 21st, at 7:30 PM, via a Zoom meeting, I will be giving a talk on "iNaturalist and Shells" as part of a virtual meeting of the Philadelphia Shell Club, which is virtually hosted by the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.

My talk is entitled: “iNaturalist: The easy way to record, learn, and communicate with others about the shells you find.”

To learn more about me, or iNaturalist, before the meeting, you can check out my profile page: https://www.inaturalist.org/people/susanhewitt; or my ResearchGate page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Susan_Hewitt.

The talk will not simply be about shells, as the principles are of course the same for any group of organisms.

A link to the Zoom meeting can be found here: https://drexel.zoom.us/j/83453412766

You can also join to hear audio of the meeting by dialing: +12678310333,,83453412766#

Posted on January 08, 2021 20:21 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 24 observations | 8 comments | Leave a comment

December 31, 2020

On the global leaderboards for December 2020

As was the case last year, in December 2020 my husband Ed and I went to stay in Sanibel Island, Lee County, Florida for almost three weeks. Here is the journal post about last year's trip:

https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/susanhewitt/29786-on-the-global-leaderboards-for-december-2019?

During my Sanibel trip this year, I was able to make observations of a lot of species that I had never seen (or in some cases never noticed or paid attention to) before. In fact, during the month of December I was happy to see that I recorded 92 "Newly Added" species:

https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/2020/susanhewitt

We were fortunate in that our trip overlapped for two days with a trip to Sanibel by our friends @ginsengandsoon and @maxcavitch, so we were able to go out iNatting with them twice, once to a nature preserve, and once to a good beach with lots of shells.

A substantial number of the "Newly Added" species that I found during this trip were thanks to an excellent, extremely helpful iNat meet-up outing with local (Fort Myers) botany professor @jayhorn.

I also met, and got to go out shelling with, iNatter @lukemiller17, who lives on Sanibel Island, and who works on the front desk three days a week at the wonderful Shell Museum on Sanibel. We went to Lighthouse Beach, and also to West Gulf Drive, beach access #7, which is the beach next to the cottages where Ed and I stay, and that beach was very rich in shells this year.

But I was somewhat surprised to see that this year I am once again currently on the global leaderboards (one of the top 5 observers) for the most observations in December 2020 (number 3), and also on the leaderboard for the greatest number of species observed in December 2020 (number 5). And I was even more surprised to see that I was also on the iNat global leaderboard (number 4) for the most observations overall in the year 2020.

https://www.inaturalist.org/people

2020 certainly felt like a productive year for me on iNat. And the three weeks on Sanibel felt like the best part of the year. When I went to Nevis, West Indies, back in March, the country of St Kitts & Nevis shut down suddenly, and we were forced to leave after eight days instead of the planned 28 days, plus we were not allowed to go anywhere off of the hotel grounds during those eight days, so I did not record nearly as many new organisms as I would normally have done during four weeks on that lovely island.

In late December, I had 8 days of being back again in NYC after the Sanibel trip. During that time, as was the case last year, I made a conscious effort to add more species to my December 2020 total, by observing as many species as I could here in NYC that do not occur on Sanibel.

Making those extra observations was not easy this year, as for the first six days of being back in NYC, we were in very strict traveler's quarantine for Covid, having come back from Florida to NY State. I could not set foot outside my apartment at all, except to go get a second Covid test. So for the first few days back, I had to keep my iNat streak alive by photographing wild organisms out of our back windows, and there is not too much biodiversity visible that way!

But once we got all our Covid test results and knew they were all negative, I was able to go out locally and find things to observe during the final 2.5 days of December.

Some people seem to think that leaderboards are a bad idea, because they can (supposedly) encourage mindless competitiveness. But I think that Streaks and Leaderboards help encourage people's involvement with iNat, and help record their remarkable levels of commitment.

Note: The first 42 images here are from Sanibel, starting on December 3rd. The last ten images here, from "Goldenrod Rust" onward, are from NYC, starting on December 29th.

Posted on December 31, 2020 16:44 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 52 observations | 8 comments | Leave a comment

December 25, 2020

An article of mine about iNat and Randall's Island, NYC

When I arrived back in NYC after nearly three weeks in Florida, I was delighted to see that two copies of the new issue of Senior Hiker Magazine (Issue Ten 2020) had come in the mail. Senior Hiker is a small (in terms of circulation) but very classy magazine published out of Maine. It prides itself on beautiful writing and beautiful photos.

Early this year I was asked to write a piece for the magazine about using iNaturalist, and I had decided to write about my experiences iNatting in Randall's Island Park, which is part of an island in the East River not far from where I live. Randall's Island is my favorite nature destination within the borough of Manhattan.

Writing the piece was my first paid writing gig ever. I also ended up co-writing a second complimentary piece about using iNat to track alpine plants, and I was paid for that too.

My piece is:

"An Urban iNaturalist -- Exploring the biodiversity of Randall's Island, NewYork", by Susan Hewitt, pages 52 to 57.

Page 57 mainly consists of an eight-paragraph sidebar which is all "About iNaturalist". Page 56 displays the official map of Randall's Island.

There are 12 really great photos in the article. The majority of the images were taken by three local iNatters who are also very good friends of mine. Chris Girgenti (the Natural Areas Manager of Randall's Island Park Alliance) has three landscape images, Matt Parr has five images of organisms, and Steven Bodzin has two images. of organisms. There are also two images of mine in the piece.

The second, complimentary article in the issue about using iNat, which I co-wrote, is on pages 58 to 62: "An Alpine iNaturalist -- Studying climate change through the flowering of alpine plants" by Georgia Murray with Susan Hewitt.

Posted on December 25, 2020 15:44 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 11 comments | Leave a comment

December 10, 2020

Marine Mollusks of the Eastern Seaboard, dead or alive, please folks!

There is a new project on iNat called "Eastern Seaboard Mollusks". This is part of a huge new overall project that is funded by the National Science Foundation of the US Government. Here is the iNat part of it:

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/eastern-seaboard-mollusks

If you have any interest in marine mollusks of the Eastern Seaboard, please consider joining this Project so you get updates and news.

The function of the overall project is accumulate and refine vast amounts of data about marine mollusks (shelled or shell-less, dead or alive) from the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America. The data is coming frrom museum collections and from iNat too of course.

Please note that the phrase "Eastern Seaboard" does not just imply what we call the East Coast, but also includes all of the coast of the State of Florida and all of the US part of the Gulf of Mexico.

I would request that everyone and anyone who has made iNat marine mollusk observations from anywhere in that geographical area, or who looks at observations from those areas made by other people, to please go through all the relevant observations and add the annotation "dead" or "alive". Once you have done that, those obs will be automatically be included in this vast, important, and very valuable project. But without that annotation, the obs will not be included.

And please, do this not only for your own observation, but also if you come across or notice any other observations from anyone else that are observations of marine mollusks from the Eastern Seaboard, if those observations do not have the dead or alive annotation, would you please take a moment to add that to those too?

Many malacologists will be grateful, as will fisheries specialists and many others.

Thanks,

Susan

Posted on December 10, 2020 00:02 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 16 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

November 11, 2020

Marine Life on Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, NYC

I was very fortunate that an iNat friend of mine was kind enough to drive myself and my husband on an iNat outing this Sunday. We stopped at three places, but our main destination was Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, off of the Belt Parkway. Plumb Beach is named after the Beach Plums which used to grow profusely there. Plumb Beach faces across the water to the eastern end of the Rockaway Peninsula.

The beach was very rich in beach drift of all kinds of marine organisms, including 19 species of marine mollusks, but also several species of crabs, as well as other invertebrates, and I even made observations of a few birds and salt-tolerant plants.

I found one shell of a Dove Snail which almost never occurs this far west on Long Island, so that was thrilling.

I also found one valve of a species of Venus Clam which supposedly does not occur at all on the East Coast. -- the Japanese Littleneck, aka the Manilla Clam. I suppose that valve was probably just a remnant of someone's seafood dinner or lunch.

Posted on November 11, 2020 21:17 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 69 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Who out there would like to learn about the seashells of the northeast?

If anyone reading this lives in the Tri-State area, in or not too far from NYC, and has some interest, I would be perfectly happy to train someone so that they could learn what they need to know about shells in order to really get into the subject.

I know one local sheller on Long Island, NY, Steven Rosenthal, who is very good indeed, and extremely knowledgeable. He is not as old as I am, but he is no spring chicken. He and I were both saying that it would be great to have some younger people with a serious interest in the local shells. Both Long Island and NYC used to have their own, very active shell clubs, but not any more.

Please let me know (drop me a message) if I can help you learn about the local shells of our area, assuming you have some degree of interest.

Posted on November 11, 2020 20:58 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 16 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

October 16, 2020

Marine Life on Orchard Beach, NYC

A dear old friend of mine drove me to Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park (which is in the Bronx, on Long Island Sound) yesterday afternoon for two or three hours. I spent most of the time on the beach itself, looking for marine life. I did pretty well considering. I found two seaweeds that were new to me, at least new since I have been on iNat, although I had actually seen them before in my life before I signed up with iNat.

I would like to visit this beach again after a storm that blows in from the east, when I imagine a lot more good stuff would be thrown up. I would also like to investigate further the salt marsh areas beyond the extreme north end of the beach -- there are rocks there too, and even a few small tide pools. It would also be great to walk the foot paths of Twin Islands and Hunters Island.

The beach dates from the 1930s, and it was a Robert Moses project. Millions of cubic yards of sand from Sandy Hook and the Rockaways were brought in to create it. It is an impressively huge curving beach, and the views across the Sound are lovely.

People call Orchard Beach the "Bronx Riviera", and I can certainly see why.

Here is what I found.

Chelicerates:

Atlantic Horseshoe crab

Crustaceans:

Asian Shore Crab
Northern Acorn Barnacle

Polychaete worms:

Trumpet worms, the funnel-shaped sand casings
And the "chimneys" and egg masses of a large burrowing species

Bryozoa:

Kelp Lace Bryozoan

Mollusks:

Bivalves

Atlantic Ribbed Mussel
Blue Mussel
Common Jingle
Eastern Oyster
Chestnut Astarte
Atlantic Surfclam
Atlantic Jacknife Clam
Baltic Macoma
Northern Dwarf-Tellin
Softshell Clam

Gastropods

Flat Periwinkle
Convex Slippersnail
Common Atlantic Slippersnail
Shark Eye
Spotted Moonsnail -- new to iNat
Northern Moon Snail
Atlantic Oyster Drill
Knobbed Whelk
Eastern Mudsnail
Three-lined mudsnail

Seaweeds

Brown Algae:

Rockweed
Bladder Wrack
Knotted Wrack -- new to me on iNat

Red Algae:

Red puff balls
Several other species

Green Algae:

Dead men's fingers (Codium) -- new to me on iNat
Gutweed
Broadleaf Sea Lettuce
And others, including a possible Ulvaria obscura?

I photographed a dead fish which is an Atlantic Menhaden. I also photographed Ringed-bill Gulls -- no surprise there.

My best terrestrial finds were a nice big Bess Beetle (a Horned Passalus Beetle), and a plant of Black Swallow-Wort. Both were new to me.

Posted on October 16, 2020 13:19 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 42 observations | 11 comments | Leave a comment