ארכיון יומן של מאי 2021

מאי 21, 2021

Goals for Identifying iNaturalist Observations

Identifying observations for iNaturalist has some overall goals, and this ID-athon has some others.

Overall goals:

  • improve iNaturalist data by providing data
  • giving observers names for their organisms
  • having fun (I think identifying is better than computer solitaire and just as addictive.)
  • learn about identification (especially when we're wrong)
  • improve the photos used by the computer that does ID's for Seek and iNaturalist

The May ID-athon that I'm participating in has additional goals:

  • reducing or eliminating the "unknowns" in several selected countries
  • learning more about the iNaturalist identification process


הועלה ב-מאי 21, 2021 06:31 אחה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

Etiquette for Identifiers on iNaturalist

Be polite. Always be polite and supporting. If necessary, mutter a few choice words about an observation or observer, but don't write them. In print, appear polite, supportive, and welcoming. Terse, perhaps, but polite.

What if someone is impolite to you? Realize that in print people sound more harsh than they meant to, and that lots of people are under stresses we don't know about. So respond politely or disengage, or if they're really bad, report them to the curators or help desk.

Most impolite people I meet on iNaturalist are school kids forced to use the program by their teachers. Take them as seriously as they deserve (not at all). There are two other kinds of problems I've learned to avoid. Some serious iNatters upload a whole bunch of observations without identifications and then add names over the next day or two. They tend to get testy if you add names, especially if they're names above the species level. So if you see many very recent "Unknowns" by an observer who already has many observations, skip them. (Apologies are like oil for the social machinery, so apologize if they fuss, even though you're always right to add names. Delete your names if asked to.) Also, there is a very active iNatter in South Africa who has strong ideas about how the identification process should go. If you do things differently he will let you know, tersely at best. For this reason, I avoid ID'ing very recent observations from South Africa unless I can ID them to family or better (which I usually can't).

When I find recent posts by observers with very few observations, I assume they're new and say "Welcome to iNaturalist!"

I generally don't leave comments when making a first or confirming identification unless there's something I really want to say*, but when I disagree I often briefly explain why. What traits did I use? What clues did I not see that I needed?

*I have a file of explanations that I use a lot; why nobody can put a species name on this cultivated, hybrid rose, why this grass is Alopecurus pratensis (Meadow Foxtail), not Phleum pratense (Timothy), etc. I'll post the file later in this series.

I usually don't thank people who make an identification for me, but if they supply extra information I do. Often. Well, sometimes. OK, in those odd moments when I remember to do it. But it is polite. Another way to thank someone is to go ID his or her observations.

הועלה ב-מאי 21, 2021 08:30 אחה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

Taxonomy and iNaturalist

Your goal as an identifier on iNaturalist is to push the identification down the series of ranks, ideally to species or below.

Here are the taxonomic ranks used in biology:

(life; unknown)
Domain (eubacteria, archaea, eukaryotes)
Phylum or division
species (written as Genus species)

There are subclasses, subfamilies, superfamilies, subgenera, etc. Tribes are below subfamilies but above genus. Sections, variable, often are below genusand above species. Within species there are subspecies (or also varieties, in plants). A complex is a group of organisms that are related and look very much alike, e.g. the Complex Hyla versicolor, which includes the gray tree frogs H. versicolor and H. chrysoscelis, both widespread in the Midwest and eastern North America.

iNaturalist will keep track of all this for you. Your task is to apply the lowest (smallest) name you feel confident in applying to the observation.

For plant names, iNaturalist follows POWO, Plants of the World On-line. That means sometimes it fails to use a name your or I prefer. Or it fails to recognize species you and I do. This is just real. I mean, we have to deal with it. We can argue for change and sometimes, if we can point to authority that uses your favorite name, iNaturalist will change. Perhaps you can become a curator and, if other curators agree, bring about the change you want. In the mean time, it's fine to include the name you prefer in the comments of the post. That may be useful if the change you want occurs.

הועלה ב-מאי 21, 2021 08:47 אחה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

מאי 22, 2021

Confidence and Error in Identifying iNaturalist Observations

You should be confident in the name you suggest for an iNaturalist observation. Is 100% certainty necessary? No. Do you feel you could say to a friend, "I think it's a such and such"? Then apply that name. If you can keep your error rate below 5%, you're doing well. Of course there's the problem of how you'd know your error rate, but anyway . . . . If you're somewhat less sure, apply the name but comment, "Maybe," or "It seems to be in this genus, but I'm not sure about the species," or "Tentative identification." If you're significantly unsure, name it to a higher level, genus instead of species, or family instead of genus, etc.

You will make mistakes. Even if you know what you mean, you will make mistakes. I recently labeled a large waterfowl as Canada Gooseberry and a common hybrid seagull of the Seattle area as an Olympic Grasshopper. After visiting Alder Creek Falls, I posted photos of a fly and labeled it Alder. Sigh.

Those mistakes are just silly, but I've made more substantial errors, confusing species of periwinkle (Vinca) and oaks, for example. People corrected me. For a while I didn't identify periwinkles, though now I have learned. I learned about the problem pair of oaks, too. (Note: Most oaks are bigger problems and I don't even begin to try on them.) I can't seem to get Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk straight, though, and now I leave them to people who know them better, or at least exhibit more confidence than I have. I can't distinguish sawfly larvae from butterfly / moth caterpillars either, but I continue to identify them as Lepidoptera, consoling myself that I'm giving the people who correct me a pleasant moment of superiority; we all need such moments.

What to do when someone suggests a different name than yours? First, evaluate the new name. Is it accurate? Were you accurate? If you figure you're wrong (or if you're just too tired to cope with it right now) withdraw the name you suggested. Use the little downward carat at the upper right of your name to expose the "withdraw" option. If you're convinced the other name is correct, agree with it. If you want, write something like, "Oops!" or "You're right," or "Of course; I should have realized that!" or "I'm sorry." (Apologies are the oil of social machinery; you don't have to be especially sorry to offer one.) If you're not sure, or if you want to avoid the problem in the future, ask how the other identifier made his decision. You and/or he may learn something.

What if you decide you're right? Explain why you think you're right. Remember to be polite. This isn't a battle. Treat this as a friendly talk between two people working together.

Most important, don't let mistakes or worry about making mistakes stop you. iNaturalist has literally millions of unidentified photos. As long as you're making more correct identifications than not, you're providing a useful service.

הועלה ב-מאי 22, 2021 04:09 לפנה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | 2 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

Identifying "Unknown" Observations

The suggestion has been made for this ID-athon that we concentrate on "unknowns" from certain countries. Actually, you can identify anything you want, but if you are looking for something to work on, consider unknowns in Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Eswatini, Fiji, Georgia, Greece, Guam, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

To get "unknown" observations to ID, start with "Identify" on the banner at the top of the page. Select the last of the little pictures, the one like a dotted leaf outline around a question mark. Wait a moment and the observations you want should appear.

Most "unknown" observations lack a name because the person posting them didn't post a name and nobody else has since. The problem is, an identifier who is good at, says, spiders isn't going to search through the millions of "needs ID" records looking for spider photos. If he searches on "spider" he'll find more than enough observations to fill up his time. When you identify unknowns, your job is to make the observation available to more specialized identifiers by narrowing down the identification somewhat. The identifying can go very fast. Green and leafy? Plant. Apparently a bird? Bird. And so forth. You can, of course, study the observation carefully to narrow it down further if you want. Maybe that bird observation can easily be labeled Perching Bird or Waterfowl, or even to species. Any name you can apply, from species to kingdom, is a help.

Not long ago, I labeled an unknown as "Spiders" and the observer was annoyed. He knew it was a spider, he wanted to know what KIND of spider. To head off this sort of protest, I often write, "I put the general name "butterflies and moths" on your observation so that people who know them well can find it and perhaps give you a more precise name." Obviously, I substitute "spiders" or "flowering plants" or whatever for "butterflies and moths," as appropriate.

An observation can get an "unknown" rank, or more specifically a "state of matter, Life" rank, if two suggested names belong to different kingdoms. For example, earlier this summer I posted some coastal organisms are Brown Algae, but somebody else named them as Red Algae. They spent time as "Life" until I withdrew my identification. If you can "vote" for one of the names, do. Otherwise, move on.

Some unknowns are probably impossible to ID, even to kingdom. Is that scum bacterial or fungal? I have no idea. Is that plant disease caused by a virus or a fungus? Clueless. If you know it, name it; otherwise, move on.

One odd problem with identification of unknowns is that some serious iNatters upload a whole bunch of observations without identifications and then add names over the next day or two. They tend to get testy if you add names, especially if they're names above the species level. So if you see many very recent "Unknowns" by an observer who already has many observations, skip them. One way to minimize these interactions is to go to click on Identify, then on Filters, and set the Sort By to "Random." Then you'll get old and new posts mixed and probably won't deal with more than one or two of the unknowns that were posted this way. Or choose a range of dates with the most recent a month or two ago.

הועלה ב-מאי 22, 2021 07:53 אחה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

מאי 23, 2021

Random Possibly Useful Ideas for Identifying

In no particular order . . . .

X. If you identify an observation, it automatically becomes "reviewed," which means you won't see it when identifying, unless you set the filters to search for observations you've reviewed. You can also mark observations as reviewed individually or page by page as you go through. This can be handy, for example if you're checking observations for one person or project or place and you want to see only new ones if you come back later. On the other hand, you may not care.

X. Develop a list of statements you often paste into comments, including explanations for common misidentifications. I'll write a journal post on some quotes I often use.

X. If you work on plants, especially if you use floras, you should get Harris & Harris's book Plant Identification Terminology. It's illustrated and thorough.

X. It is useful to join the iNaturalist projects Found Feathers and Galls of North America. Then you can add observations of feathers or galls to those projects. The people associated with them seem to provide identifications within a day or two.

To join a projects, click on the Community tab at the top of the page, then Projects. Write in the project name, get there, join. To add an observation to a project from "Identify," click on View, which will open the observation. On the right side is "Projects," which can bring up a list of your projects; click on the one you want to add the observation.

X. You know you should provide identifications at lower levels (e.g. genus if the plant is ID'd to family). You know confirming a species ID is good. Should you confirm a higher ID, like a family? I usually don't, because that means more identifications total are needed to get the observation to Research Grade. (RG require more than 2/3 of the observations to vote for the same name.) However, sometimes confirming a name can encourage the observer. Use your own judgement.

X. Sometimes you'll see an observation with half a dozen identifications, all agreeing, but it stays in "Needs ID" instead of going to "Research Grade." Why? The observer has opted out of community identification. There's nothing much you can do.

X. Another way to get observations out of "Needs ID" (without IDing it): Mark cultivated plants, pet animals, farm animals, and creatures in zoos as "Not Wild" or "Captive/cultivated." They become Casual. However, if you do that, they are less likely to get identified and the people who post them want names. So I say, mark them only if they have at least one identification at the species or genus level, or if the observation is old. (iNaturalist would disagree.)

X. Yet another way to get observations out of "Needs ID" (without IDing it): Under Quality Assessment, there's a question, "Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?" If you mark it "No, it's as good as it can be" and at least one other person has ID'd it to that taxonomic level, it will go away. If it is ID'd at the genus level, it will become Research Grade. If it's ID'd to a higher level, it will become Casual. I recommend not doing this for recent observations, since somebody else may be able to ID it even if you can't. With older ones, though, you can be ruthless. I use it for cases where I know the necessary trait just isn't visible. Also for Empidonax flycathers or members of the Gray Tree Frog complex, which all look alike. And for the frustrating 10-pixel-wide bird on a wire that is so often posted.

What if you find an observation that has been dismissed like this but you disagree? Then answer the question "Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?" as "Yes."

X. What if you have nothing to say about an observation but you want to know what it is? If you're working in "Identify," you can click "Follow" and any future identifications or comments will show up among your notifications.

X. Let's say you see an observation of a large hawk. First identification is Swainson's Hawk. You have reservations, so you type in "Buteo," its genus. A box will appear, giving you alternatives. The upper, green alternative means, "I know it's a Buteo but I can't say whether it's a Swainson's Hawk or not." The lower, orange or yellowish alternative means, "This is NOT a Swainson's Hawk. I know it's a Buteo but can't say which species of Buteo it is."

הועלה ב-מאי 23, 2021 01:54 לפנה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | 3 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

Statements to Paste into Observations as You Identify

Here are a few of the statements I keep to post into observations as I identify them. iNaturalist has some good statements written up. They can be found at https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/responses (Thanks @sambiology for that link!)

GENERAL NAMES: I put the general name "butterflies and moths" on your observation so that people who know them well can find it and perhaps give you a more precise name. (Obviously, substitute in Spiders or Birds or whatever, as appropriate.)

MULTIPLE SPECIES: You have posted photos of several species in this one observation. Please post these species separately, so each one can get its own name. Here’s a tutorial about how to do it: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-to-fix-your-observation-with-photos-of-multiple-species/15096/ . Near the "Edit" button in the upper right corner of the observation you'll see a little arrow; click that and get a short list. Choose "Duplicate." Then delete the extra photo from each copy.

ROSES: This is a cultivated, hybrid rose. It has complicated ancestry and no scientific species name at the species level. For more information, please see je9h's discussion of hybrid roses and iNaturalist at: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37151178. If you want to know the name of this rose cultivar, it's better to consult one of the websites or Facebook pages devoted to cultivated roses.

GEOPRIVACY: When you choose the geoprivacy setting "private," we identifiers don't even know what continent the observation is from. That can make identification difficult. If you want to keep the location hidden, please either change the geoprivacy setting to "obscured," which will smear the possible location out over a few square miles, or add a comment telling us the continent and general region where this organism was observed.

BLACKBERRIES along the Pacific Coast: This is either Rubus armeniacus or R. bifrons. The problem isn't plant identification -- this is the Blackberry That Ate the Pacific Northwest -- but taxonomic philosophy. If we consider the minor differences supposedly distinguishing R. armeniacus from R. bifrons to be trivial, these blackberries are all R. bifrons. If we consider them two different species, ours are R. armeniacus. People firmly disagree.

TAMARIX: Tamarisks introduced to North America are hybridizing themselves into one big interbreeding group. They are "despeciating" and Tamarix is really enough of an identification at this time.

RAPHANUS: Raphanus sativus and R. raphanistrum hybridize so extensively on the west coast that they are "despeciating" and are no longer two species, if they ever were.

EARTHWORMS. Maybe Lumbricus terrestris, maybe not. Identifying earthworms to species is really difficult. The best name for this observation is Lumbricidae, the earthworm family. Occasionally an earthworm specialist comes along along and identifies what he can.

BOUGAINVILLEA: Bougainvillea is a South American genus that contains 18 species. Many of the cultivated bougainvilleas are the result of crosses among just three of the species recognized by botanists: B. spectabilis, B. glabra, & B. peruviana. There are more than 300 culivars of Bougainvillea in the world. Because many of the hybrids have been crossed with other hybrids, it is difficult to identify their respective origins. In addition, similar natural mutations seem to have arisen in different parts of the world; this as resulted in many names for the same cultivar and has contributed to the confusion about the names of the hybrids within this genus. At this point, it is impossible to assign a valid scientific name or cultivar name to any given Bougainvillea. (fide Alexiz)

USNEA LONGISSIMA: This is not Usnea longissima, which consists of long, unbranched or rarely branched main cords with short side branches about perpendicular to the main cord. Unfortunately, the computer that gives identification suggestions labels most Usnea as U. longissima.

הועלה ב-מאי 23, 2021 02:08 לפנה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

Something completely different: Personal Bioblitz 2021

Originally posted May 11, 2021:

Should I participate in iNaturalist's Personal Bioblitz next year? Maybe the cost of the many separate incidents isn't quite too high. My rib is apparently just bruised, not broken. My slightly swollen knee is a lot less painful than you'd think, looking at the extensive bruise. The Poison Oak rash is almost all dried up. True, my camera is in photographic intensive care, not expected to survive, but there is some hope. The computer doesn't have a virus. And the car is still drivable.

How did this all happen? Several different incidents, all involving trying to photo and post more organisms for the Personal Bioblitz 2021. I fell on rocks at the coast (twice) and in a salt marsh. Poison Oak, well, that's everywhere around Corvallis. My camera was broken by the fall on the salt marsh. The computer was overwhelmed by the large number of photos on top of 6 gigabytes of "temporary" internet files. I drove the car into a concrete ledge when picking up dinner at a fast food place during a plant photographing trip to southwest Oregon.


הועלה ב-מאי 23, 2021 02:18 לפנה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

מאי 25, 2021

FB page on learning how to ID plants!

You may be interested in this. It has some good graphics and other resources. Good to browse through, or search for a group of interest.


הועלה ב-מאי 25, 2021 04:33 אחה"צ על ידי sedgequeen sedgequeen | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה