Αρχεία Ημερολογίου για Φεβρουάριος 2020

Φεβρουάριος 03, 2020

January 2020 Vermont Atlas of Life Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Madison Alderman for winning the January 2020 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of a Short-tailed Weasel (Mustela erminea) cloaked in white and peering from a hole in a tree in Rutland, Vermont garnered the most votes.

The Short-tailed Weasel is the second smallest member of the weasel family. Like the long- tailed weasel and its other relatives, the Short-tailed Weasel, also known as the ermine, is a predator. Weasels will burrow, or build, a nest in rock or wood piles, in a hollow tree, or under a building. Often, rather than building their own nest site, they will simply take over one of their prey's. The Short-tailed Weasel hunts voles, shrews, cottontail rabbits, rats, chipmunks and nesting birds. Males normally take larger prey items than the females. Short-tailed weasels will also store, or cache, extra food for later use. In summer, they also eat fruit and berries.

It is the changing day length, not the drop in temperatures, which initiates the color shift from brown to white in the fur in the winter. The waning hours of daylight trigger a response in the hypothalamus, commonly referred to as the “master gland”, and cause animals to undergo many changes that help them survive the winter, including changes in coat color and thickness.

With nearly 1,400 photo-observations submitted by 158 observers this month, it was very competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 03, 2020 0646 ΜΜ by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Φεβρουάριος 04, 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Improving Photographs

Happy February everyone! Although it may not feel like it, February marks an important turning point in winter. The days are longer and species that were absent all winter will slowly begin to reappear. Keep your eyes out for some early migrants, such as Turkey Vultures and Red-winged Blackbirds. If you’re wondering what else you might see this month, check out the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ Field Guide to February.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

How do iNaturalist observations start? If your first guess is “deciding to go for an outdoor adventure” or “looking out your window”, then you’re correct. However, looking at a shorter time scale, I would say that most observations start with a photo. When scrolling through observations, it’s rare that I come across an observation without one, although you can and should upload observations without a photo if you see something really cool and can’t get a picture before it disappears. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to getting others to help you make a correct identification, the more words you can use to describe what you saw, the better. By providing detailed, carefully selected photos, you will make it easier for other naturalists to correctly identify your observation.

How do you ensure that your photos speak volumes and provide the right details that will help other users? That’s what I will share with you today. Below, you will find tips on how to improve the photos and information associated with your observations.

1. More is better. Take multiple photos capturing different views and parts of your subject. Sometimes small details necessary for making an identification are not visible from a single angle. Try taking pictures of leaves, bark, stems, flowers, and other plant parts, or photograph an animal or fungi from multiple angles, such as above, to the side, and underneath.

2. Write it out. Sometimes, you’re unable to take multiple photos because your subject escapes midway through your photoshoot. Or, you can’t get your camera to focus well enough to capture a particular detail. In these cases, use the “Notes/Comments” section when uploading your observations to record extra details that are necessary for making a correct identification. Examples include physical characteristics (color, pattern, shape), behavior (eating, grooming, movement), location details (elevation, proximity to water, surrounding plant composition), and anything else that seems important.

3. Put a lid on it. Catch jars can be a useful tool for getting pictures of insects, especially from all sides. Just make sure not to leave the insect in the jar for more than a minute or two if it’s unventilated, keep them out of prolonged bright sunlight or temperature extremes, and release them promptly when done.

4. Get up close and personal. The more of your subject that fills the frame, the better detail your picture will have (assuming it’s not blurry). Use macro lenses or shooting modes (often signified by a small flower icon on digital cameras) for small subjects, get close to a plant or fungi, or zoom in on wildlife. Make sure to use common sense when deciding whether or not to approach an animal. If you have any doubts, don’t approach it. I recommend checking out this article from the International League of Conservation Photographers for starters.

5. Measure it. In many cases, providing a size reference will help confirm an identification. Size references are especially useful for tracks, since many tracks can look similar in photos and it can be challenging to judge size based on the track alone. A size reference uses any object that most people know the approximate size of, such as a coin, glove, ruler, or hiking pole. You can also describe size in the comments section if necessary.

6. Think like a biologist. If someone asked you to help identify this observation, what information would you want to see? Try to get in this mindset and photograph or make note of features that would help another user or a professional biologist understand what you’re seeing.

7. Record the noise. Did you know that you can upload sounds to iNaturalist? This is helpful when identifying a vocal species or one that is often differentiated from others by sound. Some users find this especially helpful with birds.

8. Take your time. If you can, slow down and take some time to really look at your subject. Spend a few minutes with it if possible to figure out the best angles to photograph it from and get a good look at its details.

At this point, you may be wondering how best to apply these tips to different groups. Here are a couple examples:

Plants: Take multiple photos (leaves, stems/trunks and bark, fruits, seeds, flowers, buds, branching pattern), record any relevant details about location (elevation, what’s nearby)

Insects: Use a catch jar if needed, take multiple photos (top, underside, side view, straight on from the front), describe any details you can’t photograph, include a size reference, record a noise if it happens to make one

Birds: Multiple photos from as many sides as possible, record notes (behavior, location, physical characteristics if it flies away too soon), record a sound if it’s calling, estimate size if possible (ex: tennis ball sized)

Finally, I want to leave you all with two examples. In the first one, the user got a nice close up of the tree’s bark, however it’s difficult for other users to offer concurring identifications without other photographs or descriptions. On the other hand, this observation provides more photos which help other users agree with the suggested identification.

TTT Task of the Week

Now it’s time to put some of these tips into action! Next time you go to iNat something, keep these tips in mind. I challenge you to find three different species to photograph using at least two of the tips mentioned above. Bonus points for those who use at least four different tips in total.

That’s all for this week! Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 04, 2020 0805 ΜΜ by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 2σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Φεβρουάριος 11, 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Understanding Licensing

Nature is full of surprises. This past week I’ve been amazed with all the wildlife that I saw out and about despite the bouts of snow and bone-chilling cold. Just the other evening on my drive home from work, I saw a muskrat skittering across the road. Although they don’t hibernate in the winter, they mostly remain in their shelters unless disturbance or winter conditions require them to move. It makes me wonder what inspired this one to cross a road high up on a hillside instead of staying indoors. This experience was a great reminder to me that you can have interesting wildlife encounters at any point in your day, even when you’re not exactly expecting it. As always, be sure to record your neat sightings on iNaturalist so that they can help others develop a clearer picture of wildlife in your area!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Most of us who add observations to iNaturalist do so in the hopes of contributing valuable information to biodiversity research and conservation. Research grade data is made accessible to scientists through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Organizations and other users will often use iNaturalist photos for articles, publications, and personal projects.

However, what many don’t realize is that iNaturalist has different copyright licensing options available that get applied to observation data, photos, and sound recordings. These licensing options generally fall under two broad categories: “all rights reserved” copyright and creative commons. “All rights reserved” copyright is what most people are familiar with - it restricts you from freely copying someone else’s work without permission or credit. What we’re going to talk about today is creative commons (CC), a form of copyright that allows the creator (licensor) to give permission for others to use their work in certain ways without asking permission first. This allows others to use creative products more easily while ensuring that the licensor gets credited for their work.

There are six different CC licenses available, each with slightly different conditions. The licensing that you choose to apply to your observations, photos, and sound recordings affect whether or not GBIF and others can use your uploaded information. Below I will walk you through how to find your personal copyright settings, what they mean, and how they affect the feature they’re applied to.

Finding your copyright settings:

Before I explain what the different license options are on iNaturalist, it’s important to know where to find them. To access your copyright settings, go to your profile photo’s dropdown menu in the top-right corner and click on “Profile Settings”. This will take you to a page that says “Edit Account and Profile”. Once on this page, scroll towards the bottom until you find the section that says “Licensing”. You will see three different categories: observation, photo, and sound. They each contain the same list of possible licenses. Take a moment to look at your current settings and know that we will return here in a couple paragraphs.

What they mean:

CC0 - No Copyright - You waive your rights to these observations, photos, or sounds. Anyone can use them without crediting you. Others can create new material based on your work.

CC-BY - Attribution - Anyone can use your observations, photos, or sounds as long as they credit you. Others can create new material based on your work.

CC-BY-NC - Attribution-NonCommercial - Anyone can use your observation, photo, or sound, and create new material based on it, however they can’t make a profit off of the new material.

CC-BY-SA - Attribution-ShareAlike - Anyone can use your observations, photos, or sounds, however any new creations based on your work needs to be credited the same as the original.

CC-BY-ND - Attribution-NoDerivs - Anyone can use your observations, photos, and sounds, however they can’t alter your work to create new materials.

CC-BY-NC-SA - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike - Anyone can use your work, so long as they don’t profit off it and use identical credits for new creations.

CC-BY-NC-ND - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs - Anyone can use your work, however they can’t profit off it or change it.

Things to consider when selecting a license:

Observations: Not all research grade observations end up in GBIF and this is often due to licensing. GBIF can’t use observations licensed as CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-ND due to the way that the data gets processed. Any observations licensed in these ways (even high-quality research grade observations) are excluded from GBIF’s database, rendering them useless to the scientific community. If you want your observations to serve as data points to researchers, you need to choose either CC0, CC-BY, or CC-BY-NC.

Photos: Photos are more flexible when it comes to licensing. They aren’t subject to the same restrictions as observations, meaning that a photo licensed as CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-ND can still end up in GBIF, so long as the observation is licensed correctly. Also, as long as your photo receives some kind of CC designation, others can use it within the parameters described above.

Sounds: Sound recordings follow the same rules as photos. Any research grade sound recording with a CC license is shared to GBIF and can be used by others in their reports and projects.

Changing your license settings:

If after reading through all of this you want to change your observation, photo, or sound licensing, here’s how to do it. If you left your settings page, return to it following the steps described in the first section. Once at the licensing section, select the new license you want to use. Under each category (observation, photo, sound), there is a box that when checked will apply these changes to all existing observations. This allows for easy updating. If you only want your licensing changes to affect observations going forward (none that are already uploaded), then leave that box unchecked.

Want to learn about CC licensing? You can check out their website for more in-depth descriptions of the six different licenses.

TTT Task of the Week

This week I want you to follow the steps outlined above to find and, if desired, change your license settings. If your current observation license is set to one of the unusable forms, I encourage you to choose a different setting.

That’s all for this week! Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 11, 2020 0651 ΜΜ by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 3σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Φεβρουάριος 18, 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Using URLs

It’s reaching that point in the season where I’m starting to dream of my summer garden. Every day I look out the window to see the usually vibrant, green patch covered in snow. And I know I’m not the only one. Last summer a whole host of wildlife came by for an easy snack: deer, groundhogs, squirrels, and even a couple of bold raccoons. Now, the garden is barren and the animals are busy scavenging the last winter morsels in the woods before new spring growth brings some much-needed variety to the menu.

When I went out for a walk this weekend, I saw evidence of foraging everywhere. Here and there, tree branches and other woody stems showed traces of browse and nibbles from smaller critters. Most noticeable were patches of ground scraped nearly bare of snow and leaves. Only the size of the patches and the nearby tracks indicated what might have left them: deer, turkeys, and the occasional squirrel.

What’s been foraging near your home or along your favorite trail? Next time you head out, keep on the lookout for signs of snacking and make sure to add them to iNaturalist!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Picture your favorite animal. For some of us it’s easy, however if you’re like me you may have multiple favorite animals. Sometimes when exploring the biodiversity around us, we run into similar dilemmas where we want to investigate more than one species at a time. Often when looking for patterns in the natural world, we need to look beyond a single species.

In using iNaturalist’s “Explore” tool, you’ve probably noticed that you can only select one species at a time to investigate. What happens if you need to see the observations for two or more species – is it impossible? Good news – it’s not. Today I’ll explain a neat (and relatively simple) trick that will help you create more specific searches. Sounds pretty neat, right? Let’s get started!

There are two main ways you can search for observations in Explore. The first is the one that most people use – you fill out the search fields and filter your results to find what you’re looking for. But what if the options you’re looking for aren’t included, like wanting to view two different species’ observations side-by-side? To do this, you use the second search option – changing the search page’s URL.

First, go to Explore and fill out search information (I searched for Seven-spotted Lady Beetles without any other restrictions), and then look at the web address. It will look something like this: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=grid&taxon_id=51702. At first glance, this may look like a random jumble of information, however by picking it apart you will realize that it is actually quite detailed.

The first section “https://www.inaturalist.org/observations” notes the page that I’m on. This is the URL for the Explore page. The question mark then shows that I’m starting to look at the search query components. “place_id=any” means that I searched without a location restriction, so it’s returning observations for all places. The “&” means that we’re moving to a new search component. “subview=grid” means that I’m viewing my results in the grid view option. When I switch to the list view option, that section of the URL changes to “subview=table”.

Finally, on to the part that we’re talking about today. You will notice that unlike the first two components, “taxon_id=51702” contains numbers. These numbers correspond to the species I searched for. Every species has a taxon id number. You can find this by visiting the species’ Taxa Info page (from a previous TTT). Once on its page, this number is located in the URL. For example, the URL for the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle’s Taxa Info page is https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/51702-Coccinella-septempunctata. The number is the taxa id and the text is its scientific name.

Armed with that information, you can use this section of the URL to expand your search query to more than one species. Let’s say I want to see the observations for both Seven-spotted Lady Beetles and Fourteen-spotted Lady Beetles. To do this from my current search, I go to the Fourteen-spotted Lady Beetle’s Taxa Info page and copy its taxa id number from the URL.

Back on my original search page, I go up to the web address and click in the URL at the end of the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle’s taxon id number. I add a comma (you always separate multiple components of the same search field with a comma, versus separating different distinct search fields with an “&”) and paste in the Fourteen-spotted Lady Beetle’s taxon id number. Before hitting enter, make sure to click on where it says “id” in the URL and change it to “ids”. If you forget to do this, your URL will take you to a blank page. I spent several confused minutes troubleshooting before realizing I was missing that one small, important “s”.

When done, my URL looks like this: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?61532&place_id=any&subview=grid&taxon_ids=51702,61532. Now when I hit enter to launch the search, I get observations for both Seven-spotted and Fourteen-spotted Lady Beetles.

The nice thing about this URL trick is that it’s not exclusive to species. You can use the same set of steps for locations. If I want to look at observations for Vermont and New Hampshire at the same time, I simply pull up the individual searches for each, copy their place id number, and add them with a comma as you would for species. You will get a URL that looks like this: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=47,41&taxon_ids=51702,61532.

Note: You don’t need to add an “s” to the end of “place_id”. I’m not entirely sure why, however I know that for my computer it returned me to an “any place” search.

Finally, you can also use URLs to show more than one species’ ranges on a map. To do this, you need this URL: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/map?taxa=51702,61532#4/41.902/-75.76. Copy and paste this URL into your web address bar and alter the taxon id numbers to reflect the species you want to map. The numbers at the end relate to the map’s position and will change as you zoom in or out on the map. When you edit the taxon id numbers and hit enter, you should see a map with two or more colored squares showing where your species are found.

Once you get the hang of it, this trick is easy to use and gives you the freedom to search for the exact observations that you want. You can apply this trick to any component of the URL: people, places, dates, etc. You can check out the iNaturalist forum to learn more about editing URLs.

TTT Task of the Week

Editing URLs can seem confusing until you get used to how they’re formatted. Take some time this week to explore different search parameters by editing URLs. See if you can search for multiple species, places, or people.

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

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 18, 2020 0758 ΜΜ by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 5σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Φεβρουάριος 25, 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Using Observation Fields

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I can almost feel spring in the air. These past couple of warm (for Vermont) days have me picturing green shoots poking up through damp soil and long absent bird species fluttering high in the trees. The wild critters in my backyard are slowly spreading their legs and venturing beyond the forest’s edge. I returned last week from a couple days away to find my unplowed driveway and yard splattered with tracks of all sizes. Sadly, with the warm weather most had already melted into indistinguishable blobs.

Although the weather is slowly erasing all of the neat tracks around my house, I’ll take this warm spell. At this time of year, who knows how long it will last!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

When studying the natural world, it’s rare to look at one species in isolation. That’s because biodiversity exists in a vast web, making it difficult to definitively tease apart one species from another. Many types of relationships exist between different species in an ecosystem and understanding how they work can provide valuable clues that can help predict how they might respond to changes in their environment.

Last week I talked about how to search for and map multiple species’ observations at a time. However, sometimes you may want to make connections between species when creating your observation. As I’ve mentioned here many times, iNaturalist is a powerful tool for collecting data on biodiversity. While collecting basic data about one species is useful, the more detailed information you can supply, the better. Given the vast web of relationships that exist, one important piece of information to include in observations is which species your observed subject is associated with.

Like many of iNaturalist’s other tricks, there is a fairly simple way to note associated species: by adding an “associated species” observation field. Maybe you’re already familiar with observation fields. Observation fields allow you to track information that iNaturalist isn’t readily recording. Users create observation fields, then choose whether to gather information in text, date, or numeric format. Anyone can create an observation field, however they are often generated by a project to gather specific details about observations. Once created, the field is available for everyone to use.

Today, I’m going to walk you through using the “associated species” observation field, however I invite you to explore all of the different options. There are many!

To find observation fields, go to an observation (your own or someone else’s) that has a species that is commonly associated with another species (Monarchs on Milkweed is one example). To find “observation field” scroll down below where Projects are listed on the right-hand side of your screen. You will see the heading “Observation Fields”. Click in the blank text box and begin typing in “associated species”. At some point, you will see it pop up in the list below the text box -- click on it.

Once you select the observation field you want to use, you’re now able to type out the name of the associated species. Unfortunately, this won’t auto-fill, so you will need to enter the full name of the plant (or animal or fungi) associated with your observed species. If you don’t know the associate by its species name, you can use genus or family names. Other users will only be able to correct these labels by commenting, not directly editing, so it is best to stick with what you know for certain. Since other users can add observation fields, I also encourage you to ask in the observation’s comments for the name of the associated species if you cannot find them yourself.

Once the associated species’ name is satisfactorily entered, you’re all set to click “Add” to the right of the text box. Now, when others come to look at this observation or export this data, the associated species will be clearly visible.

TTT Task of the Week

Take some time this week to explore the observations field. Add associated species to observations where appropriate. And no need to stop there! Check out some of the other options and see if any apply to your observations. Just remember, when in doubt, stick to what you know for certain and ask for help when you need it.

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

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 25, 2020 0822 ΜΜ by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο