יולי 08, 2022

My Take on Taxonomy

Names are a human creation.

Scientific names are a human creation that is meant to link to species, a somewhat concrete way to classify plants which often works and sometimes doesn't work.

Classifying is useful. It's one of the things the human brain is really good at. Some of us (many autistic people as one example) are compulsively driven to classify and categorize and sort things.

Scientific names are meant to represent the evolutionary history and relationships of organisms. The hierarchical nature of scientific names is a very effective tool, though the different levels of classification, such as genus, species, and subspecies, are also somewhat arbitrary. Recently, new sorts of genetic analysis technology has allowed for us to learn even more about how species are related. Most scientists think genetic analysis can be used to track species lineages.

Scientific names - the Linnaean taxonomy system- are also the anchor for iNaturalist, necessary for iNaturalist to work at all.

New ideas about how species are related often appear in scientific literature. Some people on iNaturalist feel that the second any new possible evidence comes out, the scientific names should all be adjusted. These people have been put in charge of the species database of iNaturalist and for whatever reason also given moderator duties. Thus names are changing constantly.

The constantly changing names become less useful as tools, and much harder to use in database used to monitor biodiversity. There is some benefit to acting on new information, but there is a downside too that is always ignored. In fact some taxonomists become quite hostile when asked about it.

It's unfortunate that the people in charge of iNat have decided to go the 'constant taxonomic change' route. The site is meant to 'connect people with nature' and since that is largely done via identifying organisms, when the names don't work, inaturalist doesn't really work.

In the conservation world, there are always limited time and resources. Time and resources needs to be spent dealing with constant taxonomy change. It isn't just an irritation, it is a problem. No doubt thousands of hours of ecologist time has been wasted on excessive name changes, probably resulting in much less ecological inventory and possibly even resulting in species extinctions.

Ways to reduce these issues could consist of limiting the rate of change, limiting the frequency of change (release taxonomic changes only once every few years), limiting 'splitting' (splitting is dividing one species into two or several based on minute and obscure differences) and applying splitting to subspecies instead of species (subspecies are finer units that 'nest' within species). Some of this change could occur within iNaturalist but others are beyond the level of iNaturalist and lie within academia and other such places.

Unfortunately suggesting these things makes many taxonomists Very Angry. The names must always conform to the latest science, even if the latest science isn't settled science at all. Questioning the relative value of splitting and change, or questioning whether it should be applied to iNat, are a good way to get harassed by a lot of people on here. Some people of well established social status are able to 'bend' the iNat guidelines much more than others without consequence, the guidelines are not consistently enforced largely because the majority of people with moderator power are taxonomists or similar and will actively push non-taxonomist curators away. I find it all very frustrating, so instead of continuing to bicker with taxonomists i will make this journal post and link to it.

iNaturalist used to do a better job balancing change with stability, but unfortunately that is not the case any more. Hopefully in the future it will be again. I've changed back to displaying common names instead of scientific names because they are more consistent and useful. That says a lot doesn't it?

פורסם ב יולי 08, 2022 02:05 לפנה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 4 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 21, 2020

"Neurodiversity and iNaturalist"

Hi all, i realized a lot of you aren't on the iNat forums so I wanted to post a link to this post i made on there on the crossover between human brain type neurodiversity (especially autism spectrum and adhd) and iNaturalist. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/neurodiversity-and-inaturalist/17268/2 Tons of us nonstandard brain operating system people on here :)

פורסם ב אוקטובר 21, 2020 12:06 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

פברואר 17, 2018

Juglans nigra in California?

I just noticed there are tons of people entering Juglans nigra in California. Does this actually ever naturalize there, or are people just using the algorithm and not paying attention (and now it will come up as 'seen nearby')? @kueda @silversea_starsong ? Not sure who is a CA plant expert out there who's most active these days

פורסם ב פברואר 17, 2018 06:09 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 3 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

דצמבר 04, 2017

Adding town-level species lists in Vermont

Just a note that I am adding some data to town-level species lists in Vermont. The data originates from wetland plot data and is state collected data (not proprietary on this spatial level), but since it lacks photos, i didn't take the data, and i don't know landowner info, i'm not adding as my own observations. I will skip any species that may have collection pressure even at the town level, but i suspect this will be negligible (a few orchids or ginseng for instance - not adding herp data). I hope others will find this useful, as I very much find it useful in plant IDs to be able to see where it has been seen before on a map. it will display as orange on range maps for species. If you find any that seem in error let me know, make a comment, or just delete them. The data is of good quality, but like any data, could have mistakes.

פורסם ב דצמבר 04, 2017 04:57 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 03, 2017

Holding bin (plant) field index

This field is meant to represent the best ID complex when a plant ID spans multiple taxa. (IE: you know the plant is one of two or three species in a genus, but don't want to identify it only to genus, grouping it with many others). As with my other similar journal entries, i will gradually fill this journal entry with possible entries and links, until iNat has functionality to search and query from existing values.

Caulophyllum thalctroides/gigantea - they intergrade and aren't good species but somehow got split. Anyone surprised?
Lonicera morrowii/tatarica
Parthenocissus quinquefolia/inserta - can't really tell these two apart without tendril cups, or at least I can't.
Pinus ponderosa/jeffreyi - without cones these are difficult/impossible to tell apart in parts of California
Solidago altissima/canadensis - may want to add gigantea too, is the glaucous stem visible all of the growing season?
Polypodium virginianum/appalachianum
Carex vesicariae group - there are several Carex groups between genus and species that haven't been added to iNat, for now I am adding this one which I use often, in the future we may wish to add them more formally to the taxonomy.
Toxicodendron radicans/rydbergii

http://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/7184
(see also, for spiders: http://www.inaturalist.org/journal/arachnojoe/11424-about-the-field-holding-bin-spider)

פורסם ב ספטמבר 03, 2017 03:03 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 15 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוגוסט 27, 2017

Vermont Natural Community Field Link Index

This Journal post is for the Natural Community field per use in Vermont. In this journal post I will slowly accumulate links to all natural communities I add in said form. These are primarily classified using Wetland Woodland Wildland/Heritage Methology. If others use the form I encourage to use these same units so the data gets sorted together. For consistency I am also using this form to track these 'unnatural' habitats: http://www.inaturalist.org/journal/charlie/11257-unnatural-community-tracking-update-and-list

Natural Community index:

Standardized Fields from W.W.W.:

Alder Swamp
Alluvial Shrub Swamp
Alpine Meadow
Beaver Wetland - includes both herb and shrub successional stages as well as open ponds.
Black Spruce Swamp
Black Spruce Woodland Bog
Boreal Outcrop
Boreal Talus Woodland
Buttonbush Basin Swamp
Buttonbush Swamp
Calcareous Red Maple-Tamarack Swamp
Cattail Marsh
Deep Broadleaf Marsh
Deep Bulrush Marsh
Dry Oak Forest
Dry Oak-Hickory-Hophornbeam Forest
Dry Red Oak-White Pine Forest
Dwarf Shrub Bog
Hemlock-Balsam Fir-Black Ash Seepage Swamp
Hemlock Forest
Hemlock-Northern Hardwood Forest
Hemlock-Red Spruce Forest - a variant of Hemlock Forest
Hemlock-Sphagnum Acidic Basin Swamp
High Elevation Seep
High Gradient Floodplain Forest
Int
Intermediate Fen
Lake Sand Beach
Lake Shale Beach
Lake Shale or Cobble Beach
Lakeside Floodplain Forest
Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest
Lowland Spruce-Fir Forest
Mesic Maple-Ash-Hickory-Oak Forest
Mesic Red Oak-Northern Hardwood Forest
Montane Spruce-Fir Forest
Montane Yellow Birch-Red Spruce Forest
Northern Conifer Floodplain Forest
Northern Hardwood Forest
Northern Hardwood Talus Woodland
Northern White Cedar Swamp
Pine-Oak-Heath Sandplain Forest
Pitch Pine-Oak-Heath Rocky Summit
Pitch Pine Woodland Bog
Poor Fen
Red Cedar Woodland
Red Maple-Black Ash Seepage Swamp
Red Maple-Northern White Cedar Swamp
Red Maple-Sphagnum Acidic Basin Swamp
Red or Silver Maple-Green Ash Swamp
Red Pine Forest or Woodland
Red Spruce-Cinnamon Fern Swamp
Red Spruce-Heath Rocky Ridge Forest
Red Spruce-Northern Hardwood Forest
Rich Fen
Rich Northern Hardwood Forest
River Cobble Shore
River Mud Shore
Sand Dune
Sedge Meadow - relationship between this and beaver wetland uncertain. may want to subclassify beaver wetlands.
Seep
Shallow Emergent Marsh
Silver Maple-Ostrich Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest
Silver Maple-Sensitive Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest
Slow Winder Stream
Spruce-Fir-Tamarack Swamp
Sugar Maple-Ostrich Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest
Sweet Gale Shoreline Swamp
Temperate Acidic Outcrop
Temperate Calcareous Cliff
Temperate Calcareous Outcrop
Temperate Hemlock Forest
Transition Hardwood Limestone Forest
Transition Hardwood Limestone Talus Woodland
Vernal Pool
Wet Sand-Over-Clay Forest
White Pine-Northern Hardwood Forest
White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak Forest

Nonstandard Placeholders or Types Not Yet Described:
Types to be described or informal ones I made up as placeholders. Many of these are for shrub swamps that Heritage hasn't classified in detail (yet).

Black Ash Sponge Forest - was used to describe some areas of seepage forest, these will be described in new edition but probably not under this name

Lakeside Mixed Swamp - this is a placeholder... swamp on side of Lake Ninevah with open canopy of red maple, tamarack, balsam fir, black cherry, winterberry holly, alder, some yellow birch, etc. Seems kind of a mix between spruce-fir-tamarack swamp and high-gradient floodplain forest (also not defined). If limited to this lake, should eventually lump into something else. Also consider doing a plot.

Willow Shrub Swamp - shrub swamp with dense willow shrubs instead of alders. Species still TBD in some cases. Not sure if a coherent type. Almost always has bvr dams so could be a form of beaver wetland.

Winterberry Basin Swamp and Winterberry Shrub Swamp - need to standardize these. I think officially they will be merged in with the buttonbush basin swamp but i may want to retain a separate type here for tracking purposes.

Acidic Shrub Swamp - a division of what is currently Alder Swamp, these aren't dominated by alder but have acidic water/soil conditions and aren't quite bogs or fens. May be successional.

Calcareous Shrub Swamp

Floating-Leaf Marsh - being used to describe pond areas too deep for Deep Broadleaf Marsh, usually full of lily pads, eelgrass, potamogeton, etc. These natural communities aren't currently described by NHI

Rich Shrub Fen - Eshqua bog, even richer than 'Calcareous shrub Swamp' but not a typical rich fen.

Red Spruce Swamp - this is similar to Black Spruce Swamp but with red spruce instead.

Red Spruce Woodland Bog* - these are both places where red spruce replaces black spruce - mostly southern Greens.

Seral Floodplain Forest- not sure how best to deal with stuff like this.

A secondary field to categorize other things (currently being used to parse out beaver wetland types.)

פורסם ב אוגוסט 27, 2017 08:47 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 22 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוגוסט 21, 2017

"Unnatural Community" tracking update and list

Hi all!

Because 'unnatural' communities intergrade with natural ones, I was thinking for now we can just use the 'Natural Community' text field to track these for now. Later we can create another field if it seems helpful.

I'm going to start compiling a list of these along with links to the queries. If you use the field to add one, please post a comment or send me a message so I can add it to this list. (I should do the same for 'natural communities' too! but in a different post). I will also edit the description of the field when I figure out how - when they changed the observation page they also seem to have removed the ability to do that? Also does anyone know how to embed a link? A Href seems disabled.

Since I am short on time now I will start with just a few, with more to come. @Jogarton has compiled another list of ones she will be using. See links below. These don't filter by place but you may choose to filter further by a state, or by a taxa (plants only?) etc.

Ditch

Lawn - includes mowed lawns in yards, playgrounds, etc

Indoors - mostly for animals that live or find their way inside like spiers, etc.

Human-Created Open Field

Human-Created Wetland Field - cleared field that is in a wetland

Landscaping/Garden

Plantation

Roadside: Paved

Roadside: Unpaved

Sand or Gravel Pit

Stormwater Pond (used for the sort that are meant to hold water, not rain garden types)

Trail - for plants obviously growing in the trail and influenced more by trail disturbance than surrounding natural communities.

More to come!

Tags: @erikamitchell @srall @jogarton @bouteloua

פורסם ב אוגוסט 21, 2017 04:48 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 4 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוגוסט 19, 2017

What's In The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee Seed Mix?

A while back a mix of 'wildflowers' for bees was given out in mass quantities by Honey Nut Cheerios. Unfortunately most species on the list were non-native in most of the places they were sent to, and some were invasive species. See http://www.cassisaari.com/bringbackthebees-another-misguided-conservation-effort/ , written by @bouteloua . There was also another similar packet i was given that was supposedly from President Obama. That one had a slightly different mix - what came up when we planted it was a lupine, a bee balm, and a few other things.

But anyone who has ever done restoration work also knows you often get things in a seed mix that aren't what is on the label. We'd ordered one of these packets before seeing the problems associated with it, so i tossed it in a big container where I could monitor what came up and yank any invasives. Not scientific, but interesting anyhow.

I've been tracking what came up using the iNat tag 'bringbackthebees' based on the cheerios hashtag. See here: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&q=bringbackthebees&verifiable=any . If anyone else has planted these seeds, can you do the same? (you can obscure the location if it's at your house. Be sure to mark as not naturalized too, since you planted the seeds). So far the mix seems to include at least one or two things not on the list, but it's also possibly my IDs are wrong (if so please correct them!) . For instance, what is that trifolium doing there (or is the ID wrong?). That Phlox sure isn't blue.

(note: Erigeron annuus, which is on that list, grows everywhere in our yard and seeds have gotten into the container from nearby areas, so i have no idea if it was in the seed mix or not. Also, this container has other weeds in it. This is not a scientific study, just an estimate).

פורסם ב אוגוסט 19, 2017 04:27 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

יולי 15, 2017

A new field for sorting observations observed in human-influenced landscapes

Lately I've been tracking observations by natural community type, as defined in Vermont with the book Wetland, Woodland, Wildland. (other states and countries have different classification systems). For instance, see Northern Hardwood Forest, Vermont's most widely distributed natural community: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?field:Natural%20Community=Northern%20Hardwood%20Forest

Note that it ranks the species by number observed. It's not systematic, as i don't record every species every time, but it gives you an idea of what species you will see in each natural community.

After the idea independently coming up in several different places the last few weeks, I've decided we need a field to track different human-influenced habitats as well. Urban nature is a whole other world than natural ecosystems... but every bit as interesting and often not as well studied. Both are worthy of attention, but the nature where people live is the easiest for most people to see from day to day.

To make sure things are standardized, since there's no book to anchor to, i've proposed a bunch of categories. Others are free to propose others. Once we start using them it becomes a bit of a pain to change them with a bulk edit, so I wanted to run them by a few other users first. Here's my current list:

road/railroad/trail right of way
utility right of way
mowed lawn (includes home lawns, sports fields, playgrounds, etc)
Human-created open field (cut every year or two, but not a mowed lawn. Like many fields around homes in VT)
Disturbed wetland (cut over every year or two like open field but is wetland
agricultural area (farms)
Dense Urban Center (parking lots, cracks in sidewalk, etc)
Abandoned Urban Center (vacant buildings etc)
landscaping or garden (where plants are planted, pollinators may appear, weeds, etc)
managed forest or plantation (this one can intergrade with wildland since most areas are managed in some way but thinking of high intensity managed areas)
hedgerow
Invasive Species Infestation
Brownfield
Storm Drain/Channelized Waterway
Artificial Pond
Stormwater pond/sump/catch basin
Indoors (spiders, etc that find their way indoors, birds in airport terminals, etc)

I don't want to create too many but nor do I want to leave too much out. I'm not sure if these would work globally, but they seem good in the northeastern US. Once i get this field set up we can start seeing what species are in each one. Any thoughts? Thanks to @erikamitchell @srall @jogarton for being part of this discussion so far. Not sure who else might be interested. @bouteloua @kueda @kpmcfarland @cullen @sambiology @silversea_starsong perhaps? Feel free to tag others. Also feel free to use the natural community field, but if you're in Vermont let's use Wetland Woodland Wildland.

פורסם ב יולי 15, 2017 12:46 לפנה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 9 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

נובמבר 09, 2016

sending love

just want to send love to you all. please join me in gathering as much data as we can so that once we get through the hard times ahead we have the knowledge to rebuild. And when you are out there talk to people. Build community. It's so important right now.

We'll survive. I didn't feel that way in the depths of the night but today i see that we will.

<3

פורסם ב נובמבר 09, 2016 04:47 אחה"צ על־ידי charlie charlie | 7 תגובות | הוספת תגובה