October 11, 2019

Happy Autumn

Nothing makes an August post trumpeting "4,000 observations" look older than seeing that the project total has nearly doubled since then! Congratulations, everyone! As of this writing, we've cracked 700 species reported to the ESNPS, including many of our focal bees, flies, beetles, and moths. We've gotten confirmations of rare bumble bees like Bombus borealis, B. citrinus, B. fervidus, B. pensylvanicus, and B. terricola; records of rare flies like the wonderfully named Bare-cheeked Bumble Fly (Criorhina nigriventris); and new observations of the rarely encountered hairy flower scarab beetles (genus Trichiotinus) and the flower moths (genus Schinia). Observations on the more common pollinators are also important, as the distribution of these species in NY has never before been fully documented.

We've also wrapped up our second of three years of statewide sampling, and are busily preparing specimens to identify them to species with the help of experts at Cornell University and SUNY Cobleskill. We realize that collecting insects isn't for everyone, which is one of the reasons we're so glad iNaturalist exists. Still, some species cannot be reliably identified from photographs, and a comparison of confirmed records from iNat and our specimen work will help future projects determine when high-quality photography can substitute for specimen collection. So by contributing to this iNat project, in addition to contributing to our understanding of the distribution of so many insect species in New York, you're also furthering the broader field of community science.

Now's the season for catching up with submitting photos if you fell behind during the warmer months. Or if you have a stash of pollinator photos from NY from previous years that you've been hoping to put to use, load them up here! We can make use of insect records from any time period.

As always, thank you for your contributions. I'll be back in touch this winter with some summaries of our findings to date.

Posted on October 11, 2019 19:41 by mattschles mattschles | 1 comments | Leave a comment

August 13, 2019

4,000 observations!

Thank you, everyone, for your dedication in documenting New York's native pollinators. We recently broke 4,000 observations and 600 species reported in the last two years! The data you are collecting will be invaluable in determining how these insects are doing in our state. We've already learned so much about the distributions of some of our less common species.

If you have expertise in these taxa--our focal bees, flies, beetles, and moths especially--please look through the set of observations, or query for certain species groups, to see if you can help identify any of the species whose observations are not yet at Research Grade. This is a great activity for a rainy day, a slow lunch hour, or any other downtime you may encounter.

And keep those field observations coming! You can expect to find pollinating insects active on any warm, sunny day as late as October, so there's plenty of time left to contribute in this second of three project years.

Posted on August 13, 2019 20:33 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 15, 2019

National Pollinator Week

Next week--June 17 to 23--is National Pollinator Week, and what better way to contribute to pollinator conservation than to document native pollinator species for the ESNPS? You can help determine how New York's native insects, which have co-evolved with native plants for thousands of years, are handling the threats of pesticides, habitat loss, and the climate crisis by contributing your observations here.

There have been some interesting observations rolling in, despite the wet and generally uncooperative spring weather. Many people estimate that Mother Nature is about two weeks behind schedule. Summer seems genuinely around the corner, though, and as temperatures warm and the sun makes multi-day appearances, insect activity should pick up. Grab your camera and be ready for it!

Find registered Pollinator Week events here: https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week.

Posted on June 15, 2019 02:44 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 19, 2019

Year 2 of the ESNPS is here!

And suddenly, there are flowers everywhere. Spring has arrived in full, and despite the lingering snow in some parts of our large state, insects have started emerging in many places on the warmer days. Here in Albany, I'm seeing bees curiously exploring the early-blooming shrubs and I'm ready to get out and start photographing.

I hope you are too! Early spring is a great time for pollinator photography. Some species of hover flies and bees are unique to early spring, and the colder temperatures mean potentially more cooperative subjects. Please help make year 2 of the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey even more successful than the first by contributing your photographs of pollinating bees, hover flies, beetles, and moths to this project. For our complete list of specific focal taxa, see http://www.nynhp.org/pollinators, where you can also find our Participant Handbook and other project materials.

In addition to this iNaturalist project, we are recruiting volunteers to collect specimens opportunistically or by using our full project protocol, which our staff are already deploying around the state. (Some species cannot be identified reliably from photographs because of microscopic characters. Collecting isn't for everyone, but directed research has shown little effect of scientific collection on local insect populations.) We have announced several workshops around the state this spring and summer to train project participants. See https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/2201080/false#/invitation. There you can also register as a project participant or sign up just to stay in the loop.

Happy spring, and happy photographing! Thank you for your participation.

Posted on April 19, 2019 15:30 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 21, 2018

Thank you for a great first year!

Happy Winter Solstice from the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey team! We've now downloaded and played with the project data (so fun!) and have some results to report back. Spoiler alert: It was a great first year.

iNaturalist provides some summary statistics and "leader boards" showing top observers, most commonly observed species, a map of the project's observations. For those of you interested in going a bit deeper, below I report some additional simple summaries of the project data through Dec. 17. They have useful things to tell us about how and where to focus our work in 2019 and 2020.

Notable finds
A highlight of this first year was the observation of the yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola), a species petitioned for federal listing, at two locations. Other bumble bees thought to be rare in NY turned up with some regularity, but it would be premature to infer anything about their status. In future years we hope to be able to highlight additional exciting finds around the state, but such is the early state of our knowledge of many of these species that we're still determining what makes a notable find!

Taxonomy
Nearly two-thirds of the observations were of our "focal taxa"--species groups we are targeting in our systematic surveys and museum work. These include sphinx moths (family Sphingidae), flower moths (genus Schinia), bees (suborder Anthophila), hover flies (family Syrphidae), bee flies in the genus Bombylius, hairy flower scarab beetles (genus Trichiotinus), and flower longhorn beetles (subfamily Lepturinae). Those 1,385 observations broke down among species groups as follows:

  • Coleoptera (beetles): 103 observations of at least 20 species
  • Diptera (flies): 265 observations of at least 31 species
  • Hymenoptera (bees): 831 observations of at least 62 species
  • Lepidoptera (moths): 186 observations of at least 32 species

We are thrilled by all the bee observations coming in, but it would be great to get the numbers up for the other taxa. Do you know anyone with an interest in pollinating flies, beetles, or moths? Please turn them on to this project!

Data Quality
Just over two-thirds of these observations of focal taxa have attained Research Grade, which means they have a date, location, and species-level identification shared by two or more users. That means we all still have some work to do! If you are an expert in any of these groups, or know experts, let's see if we can get identifications made and/or confirmed for these focal taxa. Research Grade observations are far more useful to our project than those of a lower quality rank.

Geography
A glance at the project map on the home page shows that observations came from all over New York. It's gratifying to see observations spread so widely, as our project is statewide. Some areas of the state had far more observations than others, reflecting in part some particularly active observers, and in part the highest densities of people. While any analysis of these data will have to take into account the geographic spread of observer effort, it would be great to even out that effort to the degree possible. For those of you willing to make observations away from home, we are especially interested in obtaining data from (so far) underrepresented areas of New York: much of Long Island; the southwestern Adirondacks, the Adirondack High Peaks, the St. Lawrence Valley, the Southern Tier, and Western New York between Rochester and Buffalo. Good counties to target would be Fulton, Genesee, Lewis, Montgomery, and Orleans (zero observations of focal taxa so far); and Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Nassau, and Tioga (one focal taxon observation each so far). We'll be working to reach local naturalists in these areas too.

Full disclosure: There are observations of the focal taxa in some of those regions on iNaturalist--just not as part of this project. We have another way of gathering other observations, but are happiest when observations are associated with ESNPS.

Thanks again for all the great work in 2018. Have a wonderful holiday season.

- Matt

Posted on December 21, 2018 20:38 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 05, 2018

Help ID ESNPS photos this fall and winter

ESNPS Coordinator Erin White has asked for all data from 2018 to be submitted by November 30, which includes photographs uploaded to iNaturalist. In December I intend to summarize the iNat data we've received so far, as well as other data not specifically associated with our project, to see where we are and what changes we might need to make for year 2. Please do your best to submit observations by the end of the month.

We have many observations that do not meet iNat's "Research Grade" criterion--indicating typically that there is no identification to species or that the identification has not been corroborated by at least one other iNat user. If you are skilled at identifying species within a certain group, you can help by assigning IDs to others' observations in these non-buggy months. Of course, do this only if you are certain of the identification--if you are not certain, tag the observation with the lowest taxonomic level (e.g., family, or genus) of which you are certain. Having observations identified by the community is a feature of iNaturalist that we love, and our project can use as many confirmed identifications as possible. But watch out--you may find it somewhat addictive...

Cheers,
Matt

Posted on November 05, 2018 21:46 by mattschles mattschles | 3 comments | Leave a comment

September 05, 2018

Late summer and fall observations

First of all, THANK YOU to all the volunteer scientists and naturalists making the first season of this project so successful. It's been a pleasure watching observations come in and species get identified. And while beautiful photography is by no means a necessity for species identification--you don't need to be a professional photographer or have expensive gear to take useful photos--many of these images are as much art as science!

Keep in mind that late summer and fall can be productive times for pollinator observations. Some plants are still in bloom (or are in bloom just now) and many of our focal insects may still be active on warm days and nights well into October.

We've got a great set of observations (nearly 1600 specifically for the ESNPS as of this posting) and we'll be exploring the dataset this fall, in combination with other NY observations not tagged to this project. If you have saved your photo uploading for rainy autumn days, your time is approaching! We'll report back to you, the collectors of these valuable data, sometime this winter. Happy observing!

Posted on September 05, 2018 18:52 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 07, 2018

The first 1,000 observations

We've reached a great milestone in the last few days: 1,000 observations posted to our iNaturalist project! Thank you all for the tremendous resource you're providing to help us understand the status of NY's key pollinators. Combined with our systematic statewide survey, and our compilation of museum data, your observations are helping us assemble a rich, unique data source.

Hymenoptera (bees, wasps) have been the most frequently observed taxon: 486 observations of 91 species. Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), with 224 observations of 76 species, is next, followed by Diptera (flies) with 151 observations of 47 species and Coleoptera (beetles) with 141 observations of 50 species. A pretty good haul so far, and we're only halfway through summer!

When you're out and about, we encourage you to pay particular attention to our "focal species groups"--the ones we're primarily interested in--which are noted in the project description. We'd love to see more photos of flower long-horned beetles, sphinx moths, and hover flies. But whatever you choose to focus on, we hope you find it fun and rewarding.

Posted on August 07, 2018 21:01 by mattschles mattschles | 1 comments | Leave a comment

July 18, 2018

Fewer restrictions on submitted photographs

Several participants have informed us that they've had trouble with the taxonomic restrictions imposed on submissions to the project. While we still hope participants submit mainly photographs os insects they at least suspect are within the focal species groups, any photograph of a bee, fly, moth, or beetle will be allowed. The focal species list is now in the project Description, as well as at www.nynhp.org/pollinators.

We hope this change makes it easier for you to submit your observations. Can we get to 800 by the end of July?

Posted on July 18, 2018 16:37 by mattschles mattschles | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 14, 2018

400 observations and counting!

Greetings, pollinator hunters! We're thrilled to see our observation totals hit the 400 mark this week, with 100 of those observations coming in the last week alone. We're getting some great records of the target species--bees, flower longhorns, hairy flower scarabs, hover flies, sphinx moths, and flower moths--all over New York. We're well on our way to making real contributions to understanding the distributions of these important pollinators.

What better way to spend a hot summer day than staring at flowers and seeing who visits for a drink? Keep those observations coming!

Posted on July 14, 2018 12:40 by mattschles mattschles | 8 comments | Leave a comment