Katja Schulz Curator

Joined: Nov 23, 2011 Last Active: Jul 18, 2024 iNaturalist Monthly Supporter since December 2018

“The study of living things is not only something to pursue because it is important ... It is also a great deal of fun. To a person attuned to smaller creatures … there is no corner of nature not full of excitement, not rich in unsolved problems.”
– Howard Ensign Evans (Life on a Little-known Planet)

I am an entomologist by training, but I am interested in just about anything that's alive. I really like small things. The smaller the better. If I could choose just one superpower for myself, it would be macro-zoom vision. I'm also obsessed with trees and the critters that depend on them. My favorite pastimes include staring at tree trunks in search of interesting surface fauna and flora, taking a peek under loose bark, surveying slime fluxes, and exploring dead wood biodiversity by digging into snags and downed logs.

Before moving to Washington, DC more than 10 years ago, I roamed the gorgeous deserts & mountains of SE Arizona for almost two decades. I really miss the large open spaces of the Southwest. But temperate broadleaf forests are my native habitat, and the lush, swampy woodlands in the DC area remind me of the magical forest of my childhood in southwest Germany. I now get my critterfix and a canopy of green leaves swaying above my head on my weekly excursions to Rock Creek Park. I've been exploring the park for several years now, and I've gotten to know its creepy crawlies really well, but I still get life list firsts on just about every trip. I'm continuously amazed at the wild & wonderful things I find in this crowded metropolitan area within walking distance of my house. I also get a chance to chase bugs in other parts of the world when I visit my family in Spain once or twice a year and while traveling for my job.

I'm a data nerd, so I really like tables, lists & collections:

My iNat Years In Review: 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

I really appreciate the ID help I get from all the great naturalists here. Please don't be offended if I don't agree with the IDs you have provided for my observations. Ever since the separation of the taxon ID from the community ID (a welcome change), I generally only agree to IDs after doing my own research. I think there's too much uninformed agreeing going on around here, leading to a lot of misidentified research grade observations. I don't want to contribute to that problem. If you want to be part of the solution, check out the Computer vision clean-up - wiki.

You're welcome to send me a private message if you have an inquiry or want to start a conversation, but please don't use private messages to send me ID requests or ask questions about specific observations. It's much better to use @ mentions on observations instead, i.e., add @treegrow in a comment. I will try to help if I have time and if your pictures provide enough detail for identification. But be forewarned that I get @ mentioned a lot by people I don't know and mostly for things that I don't know much about. There's no way for me to keep up with all these requests. So if you're tagging me on every single fly you see or tag 5 other people on the same observation, I will probably start ignoring your requests. Also, please don't bother @ mentioning me if you are opting out of community ID or if your images are not released under a Creative Commons License. I prefer to focus my ID efforts on resources that are shared freely with others in the biodiversity community.

My images are released under the Creative Commons Attribution License to support redistribution and reuse by others. There's no need to ask permission if you want to use them for your own projects. But I always appreciate hearing about cool things you may have done with them, and I love getting free copies of books that use my pictures (hint, hint).

All of my animal photos are of wild individuals in their natural habitat unless otherwise indicated. I generally don't catch or confine animals, but I do admit to relentless pursuit and mild harassment of reluctant subjects. Most of my macro shots are lit with a diffused flash mounted on the camera hot shoe or on an off camera bracket. After many happy years with my trusty Canon bridge camera (PowerShot SX40 HS ❤️), I recently "upgraded" to an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time getting good macro shots with this camera, especially for the really tiny things I love so much. I have the 60 mm 1:1 macro lens, but my lighting set-up doesn't work very well with the very short working distance of that lens, especially when I add the Raynox 250 macro lens to get better magnification for things below 5 mm. Lately, I have been experimenting with the Raynox on the 14-150 mm zoom lens and it does give me much better results for most subjects. I'll keep trying to optimize the Olympus set-up a little longer, but I'm definitely considering throwing in the towel and going back to a superzoom bridge camera, at least for macro work.

I sometimes get inquiries about collecting specimens for scientific research. I'll be happy to help out if I can. However, most of the sites I visit regularly are on National Park Service land, and you would have to get a NPS permit before I can collect anything for you.

Since I ID a lot of Diptera, people often ask me about good resources for fly identification. Unfortunately, there are way too many to list. Diptera are incredibly diverse, and there are few hard and fast rules to narrow things down because there are so many exceptions. I find the best way to learn Diptera identification is to look at a lot of identified Diptera, so you learn all the exceptions as well as the easy to ID things.

For an overview of major fly groups see ID Guide for Higher-level Diptera Groups by Even Dankowicz

For a very basic introduction to fly families try these:
Field/Photo ID for Flies
How to Identify Flies
DIPTERA - Description of Order and Families in British Columbia

The best comprehensive resource for North American Diptera is available online, for free, yeah!

Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 1
Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 2
Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 3

There's also one for Central American Diptera, but as far as I know it is only available in bits and pieces:
Manual of Central American Diptera Volume 1
Manual of Central American Diptera Volume 2
A Manual of Central American Diptera: Key to Diptera families (adults)

The Manual of Afrotropical Diptera is a great, well illustrated resource to learn about flies in general. You can also download it for free.

For Diptera nomenclature check Systema Dipterorum

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