Journal archives for March 2021

March 03, 2021

Keen to be involved more than a participant?

Are you keen to assist with the Challenge?
Leave a comment to this post suggesting how you may help.

We need people to help with:

  • linking other activities with the Challenge: for instance, walking groups, running groups, hiking groups, safety patrols, fairs, beach cleanups, hacks, etc. to combine to regular activities with observing over the duration of the Challenge.
  • organizing hikes and expeditions
  • leading bioblitzes (events at which laypeople and experts meet to discover the fauna and or flora and or fungi of a place and record it) during the event.
  • helping reserve managers and friends groups to prepare, organize, run and make fun events in our reserves during the four days. This can be bringing in schools, recruiting new members, general lay events, bioblitzes and other events.
  • arranging sponsorship for disadvantaged schools and groups to visit our nature reserves.
    .... anything else you can think of

We will put you in touch with the relevant person to realize your dream and make the City Nature Challenge Durban a success

Posted on March 03, 2021 22:00 by suvarna suvarna | 2 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2021

FAQ: Identifications

Q: What happens if my plant/ goggo cannot be identified?
• Observations that cannot be identified to species level won't add to the species tally, but will still count to the number of observations score. But we hope to have experts and enthusiasts who will help us identify as many as possible.

Q: How will my observations be identified?
• We hope to get experts in many groups to help us with identifications. So with luck most of your observations will be identified to species level.

Q: Who will identify my observations?
• We will have teams to help make identifications after the data collection period of the City Nature Challenge. So your observations will be identified over the next few days from 4-9 May 2021.
• However, it will help if your observation contains good closeups of features, such as heads, legs, wings, and bodies of animals, and flowers, bracts, leaves and stems of plants, and views of the gills or undersides of fungi. Several pictures of different parts from different angles will help considerably with making an accurate identification.
• If you can help with identification, it will be appreciated. We need both experts who know all the local species in a group, as well as those who can help to put observations into families or genera. Identifiers can be from all around the world, so please rope in your relatives overseas if they can help!

Q: How many "agree"s are needed for identification?
• Two agreements are needed for "research grade". But for the purposes of the City Nature Challenge, a single identification will suffice. We would like to avoid incorrect Identifications; some will undoubtedly occur but we want to catch them as soon as possible.

Q: Are common names good enough or should an observation be identified to genus or species level?
• For purposes of posting the ID, just add the name that you know (common, vernacular, scientific, pet name). The identification teams will mop up afterwards. Get the observation in the bag, and don’t worry about identification during the four days of the Challenge.
• Our southern African common names are not yet on iNaturalist (we are waiting for the community to be installed before doing this). Otherwise the common name would give you the scientific name automatically (unless there are complications - like several species with the same name but iNat should show you these choose the most similar one).

Q: Who determines whether the plant is correctly identified?
• We do. You and I and everyone else. If you see an incorrectly named observation, provide a correct ID. Even if you don’t know what it is, if you know that it isn’t that, then make an ID to a higher level.
• Note that anyone can help. We will need people to ID plants to families or genera to help the expert teams make species-level IDs.
• An example. Someone posts an ant and uses the Image Recognition System to make an ID. It may happen that our southern African ants are misidentified by this as a North American species. If you notice this, just ID it as "Ant" (iNat will make it Formicidae - Ants: so don't worry about the vloekname), and choose, "I don't know, but it is definitely not North American Ant". The Ant team will then mop these up. If we don't have time during the Challenge, we will work through them more leisurely afterwards.

Q: If I photograph, say, a Daisy that I am not sure about, is it a good idea to take an educated guess as to the species, and which someone can correct if necessary, or to leave the identification as Daisy?
• Firstly, in the field, leave it out. Leave identifications until after all your observations are loaded. Unless you are sure and it does not take much time.
• During the identification period, if in doubt leave it out. It depends how much you are not sure, and how many other choices there are. But “Daisy” is good as it will bring it to the attention of our daisy specialists.

Q: Are there any arrangements being made for the identification stage or are we each just going to do what we can when we have time?
• You are welcome to work on your own. But we will be having ID parties. Courses and details will be made available closer to the time.

Q: When getting the total score for each city, what weight is given to the three criteria: number of species, number of observations, number of observers? Surely the number of species should count much more than the others if they want to find the most biodiverse city?
• The challenge is much more than that. There are three separate criteria, and they are not merged. The winning city is for each category, and if a particular city wins more than one of these, then it is the overall winner.
• There are also other criteria reported on, but not on the challenge per se. These are the proportion and number of observations identified, and identified to species. And obvious additional criterion could be the number of identifiers, but these tend to be worldwide and not specific to the City involved. And then of course there are other possible criteria, like taxa (e.g. birds, mammals, insects, plants (note that it is unlikely to be to families), fungi (ditto). And also marine vs terrestrial. And also wild versus planted. And additional perhaps: identified to research grade,
• And we will probably look at additional criteria in the post-challenge evaluation. But we will summarize these here.
• There will also be subchallenges: for instance: What nature reserves got the most observers or species? Which city in southern Africa did best? & there will be groupings – such cities in the tropics vs deserts.

Posted on March 06, 2021 09:20 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 01, 2021

FAQ - Observations

Q: Do planted/captive organisms (excluding pets) count?
• The focus of the challenge is on wild and natural organisms, including aliens. Any observations made in gardens (= planted or captive) must be marked accordingly. These do count: separate tallies are kept of wild, planted and total observations.

Q: Do the insects in my garden count to the totals?
• Most definitely. As do the plants and other animals that they are feeding on or associated with. So do animals and fungi in your house: the ants, moths and other visitors also count. Please record them all. If you know that your garden or street trees are planted, please mark them as such.

Q: What kind of photos make a good observation?
• It is important though to take several pictures of different features from different angles, with some close-ups of features, such as heads, legs, wings, and bodies of animals, and flowers, bracts, leaves and stems of plants, and views of the gills or undersides of fungi. This will help considerably with making an accurate identification.

Q: I would like to photograph small things. How do I get good photographs?
• It helps to zoom in. Enlarge the image on your screen before taking the photograph. If you desire, you can use a magnifying glass in front of your smartphone lens. One can also buy magnifying accessories at many smartphone stores, that clip onto your phone and can make minute ants look huge. if you can get hold of one and focus on our really small life, it would be really cool!

Q: I hope to do a 20Nm day trip to sea (weather permitting). Will the data be included within the City?
• Strictly we are using a 2Nm buffer to the city: so about 25km out to sea. If you plan a more serious pelagic trip, tell us and we will request an adjustment to our boundaries to include. any Pelagic trips targeting marine birds, fish and mammals during the City Nature Challenge.

Q: By when must observations made during the 4 days be uploaded?
• After the four days (30 April – 03 May 2021) there are a few days grace (until 9 May) to upload. However, we do need to identify the organisms, so upload as soon as is possible please.

Q: Can several people take pictures of the same plant? Will it be useful if they did, or rather a waste of time?
• It will add to the total observations, but not the total number of species observed. It is better if they don’t. Rather send the team or bioblitzers to find other plants. Of course, it will happen that several observers may photograph the same species on your excursion. If they are more than a few hundred metres away then the distribution information is useful. If they are less, then it is still useful information. But please discourage an entire class photographing the same bush. Inevitably it will happen that a really special plant/ goggo/ bird/ etc. is found. And everyone wants to record it to add to their life list. These things happen, and should not be discouraged. Not only will everyone want to photograph it, but some will want to come back and photograph it again. That is also OK, as it contributes to the phenology data - growth, flowering, fruiting, even flowering times during the day (or night): they data are always useful.

Q: If I photograph a plant and then see another of the same species nearby, should I photograph it? How far away should these be to qualify as different observations? (1m, or 5m, or 20m,..?)
• If you are going to photograph each species every 1m, then after 5 hours you will have crawled 50m and be exhausted. A rule of thumb is to think population-wise: try and get every population. So for some trees it will be 5km away. For some rare post-fire herbs, every 50m should be adequate. If it is rare, record every clump. if it is common, select a few places along your route.

Q: If I photograph a plant non-indigenous to our area (i.e. planted), how should this be labelled? A thumbs-down to "Organism is wild"?
• Yes, this is the correct thing to do. On the app, just click not wild. Note that if it is a special plant and you want confirmation of the ID, it might be wise to hold back marking it as planted until you get confirmation of the ID, because observations marked "not wild" go out of the "Needs ID" queue. For the CNC, this does not matter as one ID is enough for our purposes.
• Don’t confuse "not wild" with "not indigenous": lots of alien and near-alien species are very wild! Not wild is for those plants that you know were planted, and those animals still captive. Escaped plants and weeds are “wild”.

Q: How does the counting work? If I see a chameleon, sunbird, skink, whatever each of the 4 days in my own garden and post an observation thereof each day. How would that count/work? Or for that matter an ibis on the side walk each day!
• That would strictly be cheating. The same chameleon (or even another) in your garden over a few days should count as one observation. But those in your aunt's, or niece's gardens would count as different observations. Similarly, if you saw the Ibis in a different block or park or suburb, then those are definitely different observations and should be posted.
• Within a nature reserve a few hundred meters would suffice: unless you were monitoring "clumps", in which case each clump would be acceptable. Use your discretion - distances to a new observation will be much smaller for a millipede than an eagle.

Q: Hidden localities! How will we record species listed as threatened on the Red List or susceptible to being poached e.g. cycads. If iNat obscures these, then they won’t show up and count to the city, and that will put us at a considerable disadvantage? What should we do?
• iNaturalist automatically obscures species that are sensitive. There is no need to obscure any species manually as a rule.

• Obscured species will be included in the City, province and country totals, but they won’t show up in the City’s Nature Reserve Projects to help protect them.

Q: How do I add descriptions to support my observation?
I would maybe add something on how to add a “note” - many people may want to make a comment and it should be explained how to do it.

Posted on March 01, 2021 14:31 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 14, 2021

Arranging a Bioblitz

To keep track of activities and to ensure safety in the event of another COVID wave, we propose that bioblitzes are cleared with reserve manager if appropriate.
Engage with us should you be keen by leaving a comment and we shall share the bioblitz activity form we drafted.
The event must be shared widely on the Facebook event and each “open space” is welcome to have as many events as the organiser like on each of the four days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday).
Remember to restrict numbers or participation to ensure your safety.

Posted on March 14, 2021 19:57 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment