Using iNaturalist - Sharing My Introduction and Excitement
One of my Observations
What Is iNaturalist?
This is meant to be just a brief overview of my experience so far with iNaturalist, and not so much a tutorial or anything like that. I am by no means an expert, but I am certainly someone that has enjoyed my experience so far and imagine that I will use iNaturalist for a long time to come.
I work with a lot of scientists and have always loved nature since I was a young girl. There was a poster showing this upcoming challenge for my city and explained how easy it was to sign up and be part of a worldwide adventure for the next several days. It ended just two days ago and I wished I had had more time to invest in the project.
In short, iNaturalist is a site where you can take photos and sounds of living things in your area and record them. You can observe all kinds of organisms and species and you need not know their official names. Part of the beauty of INaturalist whether you are using their app on your phone or device or uploading pictures to your computer, they will give you suggestions of what they think it is. Others in the iNaturalist community can help to verify if they agree with your suggestions or not, and your input can rise up to the level of research grade.
You can imagine just how fascinating and educational this can be. I was totally hooked on the idea because it helps people to learn about the biodiversity in certain regions and cities around the world. This helps scientists and researchers in various ways.
A Potential Capture for the iNaturalist Challenge - Geese in the water
The iNaturalist 2018 Challenge - My Thoughts So Far
We just finished four days of collecting images and uploading them easily to the iNaturalist site. I believe this is the second official year of such a challenge and the first year they had less than 10 cities taking part. This year, there were approximately 68 cities taking part. At least a few of us in our area wished we had known sooner about this event and some never knew about it at all. The time frame happened to fall during a crazy busy time in my life and I was super limited but I somehow made a way to upload about 196 different observations, some of which had more than one photo to try to capture the plant or insect, animal, etc.
For the challenge, you are going for anything that is alive or is evidence of something alive like a nest or footprints, etc. I hadn't realized that second part about the proof of life until after the challenge was over but that was just as well because I probably wouldn't have added too much more than a nest.
You want something that is growing or living in the natural environment, though you can record a critter that came inside where you live. For example, on the final day, I had a wasp that flew into my house while I was working on an important assignment and of course I had to catalog him! Then an ant came by a little bit later. You get the idea.
It turns out that for not being really prepared for this event, I managed to come in fourth in my area for observations. I was so excited about that, as they have leaderboards to see where you rank against others in your area as well as how your region is doing against others. At one point ours was first, and when I first logged onto the site on my computer we were second to Hong Kong, for example. I couldn't believe it. Not being one of the larger regions involved, we didn't hold this ranking for long, and still did really well.
What is left are many amazing observations of what is growing and living at this point in time in your area in a short span of time. The good news is that after the event, you still have a few days to get the identifications in for them to count. Not the observations themselves, but adding in more information on them. Really, I should be spending this time doing that, but I wanted to share my experience with others because the site is just amazing.
Pine Trees In the Park
Moving Forward on iNaturalist After the Challenge is Over
I consider this experience a wonderful way to share my love of nature and photography with the world, and in a way that really makes a difference for various areas of study. In an ever-changing world, this can be critical data that can help moving forward.
It makes me think of invasive species like bush honeysuckle in our area. We have some things that seem to be taking over in certain areas over this last decade and a half alone, that I have observed. The manner in which honeysuckle tends to overwhelm an area makes it so other things cannot grow in their normal fashion. It is all so interconnected and many are concerned. People can get a feel for a challenge like this, of how many people in the area are observing honeysuckle. What would that look like 10 years from now or two years from now?
Besides the website challenges, you can do this ongoing and be part of a greater community of naturalists and scientists and just nature lovers that give feedback, etc. It is something that I am excited to be a part of and continuing to learn about.
So my goal is to share this information with others because I think it is a wonderful thing. If are even remotely interested in it, I hope that you will check out iNaturalist when you get a few minutes. It is free and a lot of fun, and very educational. It really helps to know what is growing, living and spreading in a given area at a particular time. I am so glad to have found it, and thankful for what it offers. When I realized I came in as the fourth of all the observers of all the cities in my region, I was so excited. This is simply pervect for someone like me that already loves to go out and take photos of our beautiful and fascinating world.
© 2018 Paula