Tech Tip Tuesday: Identification Resources

Happy spring everyone! Oh wait…

Just kidding, but you could have fooled me. Sunday was almost t-shirt weather. And I’m not the only one who felt spring in the air. This weekend, I noticed a flurry of insect activity both inside my house and beyond. Many insects who usually hunker down in the cracks of my house decided to take advantage of the warm weather to forage and stretch their wings.

While some of us may enjoy a break from winter’s icy grip, unusual warm spells can cause problems for wildlife. In some cases, unusually warm weather can cause species that rely on temperature cues to emerge too soon, leaving them vulnerable to starvation and freezing if temperatures plummet. In other instances, phenological mismatch can occur when temperature-dependent food sources emerge before daylight-dependent species become active.

As weather and temperature patterns become increasingly erratic, the consequences to different species will become more pronounced. However, tools like iNaturalist are a real game changer. By tapping into iNaturalist’s vast network of citizen scientists, professionals tackling these issues can monitor how species respond and develop conservation plans to support species as their surrounding environment changes.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Besides monitoring species, iNaturalist is also well known for its role in helping people learn how to identify the life around them. However, we can all use a little outside help from time to time. Maybe there’s a particular species of fern that has the automatic identification stumped. Or maybe you want to confirm that someone’s suggested identification is correct. Regardless of your needs, there are plenty of resources to help you identify the plants, animals, and fungi you encounter in your travels.

Below is a sample of the Vermont Atlas of Life team’s go-to resources.

Sibley Guides and Apps
Merlin Bird ID
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – The Feather Atlas

The Sibley Guide to Trees

Moth Photographers Group
Flower Fly genera
Lady Beetles
Bee genera

Introduced Species:
USGS Nonindigenous Invasive Species
iMap Invasives

Discover Life

TTT Task of the Week

Take some time this week to explore any of the unfamiliar resources listed above. See if you can find some new favorites. I also invite you to comment down below or email me directly with your own favorite resources. Let’s see if we can get a big list going that people can turn to when they need help!

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Posted by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2, January 14, 2020 20:14



Thanks for sharing these resources!

First my question - what are good resources for learning grasses, sedges and rushes in Vermont?

And now, a couple of my favorite resources:
For learning to identify trees year round:
A Beginner's Guide to Recognizing Trees of the Northeast by Mark Mikolas
Bark by Michael Wojtech
For ferns, I have found the - Peterson Field Guide for Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America - helpful.
For wildflowers, Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.
For Vermont Invasives,

And a top favorite for learning about natural communities in Vermont.
Wetland, Woodand, Wildland by Thompson, Sorenson and Zaino

:-) W.B.

Posted by wendelyns 3 days ago (Flag)

Here is a sedge resource:
I haven't played with it yet, but it looks great!

Posted by beeboy 2 days ago (Flag)

@wendelyns I don't know of any grass, rush, or sedge resources for Vermont, but the recently published guide to Grasses and Rushes of Maine ( is extremely thorough and there is likely a good amount of species overlap between the two states. There is also a very nice Sedge guide for Maine (

Posted by nsharp 2 days ago (Flag)

@wendelyns, I’m a Plant Conservation Volunteer for Native Plant Trust so it’s worth my while to own more references than most, and have chosen to attempt to learn the sedges, too. I went so far as to take Tony Reznicek’s Sedge Course at Eagle Hill. He’s a world class sedge expert. His advice was to pick a key you want to work with and keep IDing/learning with it. Sedges of Maine book (great photos for each species but VT has enough additional sedges that it can be inadequate for some) with its photos is super helpful. Art Gilman’s New Flora of VT’s strength is it is limited to VT species but heavier to carry into the field. Flora Novae Angliae, the printed version of the GoBotany key, is the lightest, most thorough to carry into the field, but it has ALL of New England’s sedges. No perfect book. And Jerry Jenkins, as mentioned by @beeboy, has some new “anti-key” approaches in his printed books and online work which cover most of the common sedges and if you are open to a different approach, his photos and diagrams are awesome. Good luck! It’s practice, practice, practice. Carex is our most populated species, not to mention it’s amazing cousins. Re: Grasses, try the Grasses and Rushes of Maine book (again, it’s got photos for all species). Also there is Dennis Magee’s Grasses of the Northeast, but I haven’t invested time yet in either.

Posted by kkruesi 2 days ago (Flag)

@beeboy @nsharp @kkruesi Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I look forward to trying them out next summer. (Pretty amazing photos at, a new site for me.)

Posted by wendelyns 2 days ago (Flag)

Thanks everyone for wonderful comments and discussion. I was thinking that perhaps we should make a web page on the VAL web site where we could keep all this with links and more and keep updating it. Then we could have a link on the VAL iNat project front page to it. We all could keep adding resources to it as we encounter them. Good idea?

Posted by kpmcfarland about 20 hours ago (Flag)

Great idea!

Posted by nsharp about 20 hours ago (Flag)

Yes, that would be very helpful!

Posted by wendelyns about 18 hours ago (Flag)


Posted by kkruesi about 3 hours ago (Flag)

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