10 de septiembre de 2020

A Note on Geoprivacy and Adjusting Your Settings

The Vermont Atlas of Life received dozens of reports of Wood Turtles from across the state in iNaturalist. Due to its designation as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Vermont, Wood Turtle observations submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist are automatically obscured to protect these turtles from being harassed or illegally collected by unscrupulous people. But sometimes conservationists like us can’t see the locations either.

For example, we share observations each year with the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which collects data needed to make informed recommendations regarding the state status, state rank, and conservation priorities of Vermont’s reptiles and amphibians. To do this, the atlas requires exact locations of observations. Unfortunately, if we don’t have access to the locations, they cannot be used for conservation.

iNaturalist also places geoprivacy in your hands. You can make make any of your observations obscured or even completely private, if you so choose. However, if you are uploading obscured or private observations, or are uploading observations of rare or threatened species that are automatically obscured, like the Wood Turtle example, it is likely that your observations are not fully contributing to research and conservation.

The default settings of an iNaturalist project like the Vermont Atlas of Life are such that the coordinates of any obscured or private observations actively shared with the project are visible to our team of biologists, but the coordinates of observations passively gathered by the project (any observations that are made within the state of Vermont but the observer is either not a member of the VAL project or didn’t purposely add the observation to the project) are not visible to VAL curators. This means that the coordinates of many important observations of rare and threatened species are hidden, and conservationists and researchers are unable to fully use them. There is a quick fix for this!

If you would like your obscured sightings of rare species or species of conservation concern to be accessible to professional conservationists, biologists, and researchers that work with VAL, go to our short primer on iNaturalist geoprivacy and learn how you can best set your geoprivacy settings for the Vermont Atlas of Life.

Anotado en septiembre 10, jueves 15:00 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de septiembre de 2020

August 2020 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the August 2020 Photo-observation of the Month! His image of a perched Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi) garnered the most votes. A robust dragonfly up to two and a half inches long, it is named after the striped body and well-developed club at the end of its tail. Thanks to efforts by the Vermont Damselfly and Dragonfly Atlas, this dragonfly is turning out to be more common in Vermont than once believed. Its scattered distribution includes rivers or streams with abundant sandy or silty bottoms.

With over 18,000 photo-observations submitted by 1,576 observers in August, it was extremely 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!

Anotado en septiembre 01, martes 20:14 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

September Bees to Target for Observations

Despite the cool nights and short days, there are still plenty of bees to be found. In recent years we've found male Bombus impatiens and Lasioglossum hanging on until early November. Here are a handful of identifiable bees that should be present in Vermont, though have only a few records, if any.


Andrena parnassiae - A globally rare specialist of Grass of Parnassus that we have had good luck finding in Eastern VT.


Andrena aliciae - A sunflower specialist, and the only andrena where the female has a yellow clypeus. So far unrecorded in VT, but a large dark bee that should be pretty distinctive on perennial sunflowers.


Nomada vincta - Look for this wasp-like bee on and around perennial sunflowers, where its host Andrena helianthi is often found.


Nomada banksi - This is a cleptoparasite of Andrena asteris, which is probably one of the last new species to emerge, preferring asters.


Lasioglossum fuscipenne - One of a small number of identifiable lasioglossum, males of L. fuscipenne have dark wings and orange legs. The only VT record was posted on iNaturalist on October 30th of 2019, in Chittenden County - where the VCE bee team had been searching the whole summer - goes to show how much there is still to find!
Anotado en septiembre 01, martes 18:06 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de agosto de 2020

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the August Winner!

Cast your votes and be counted! You can 'fav' any observation that you like to vote for the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. Located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fav'ed an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which photo-observation has the most favs and crown them the monthly winner. Check out awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you. Vote early and often!

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's photo-observations.

Anotado en agosto 27, jueves 18:49 por nsharp nsharp | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de agosto de 2020

July 2020 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulation to Jo Ann Russo for winning the July 2020 Photo-observation of the Month. Perhaps the American Toad was looking for a moth meal, but instead it was a moth resting pad. The moth species is in the genus Halysidota and is either a Sycamore or Banded Tussock Moth, but one can't be sure without examining it under a microscope.

With almost 30,000 photo-observations submitted by 1,662 observers in July, it was extremely competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

We wondered if perhaps the moths were also licking moisture on the toad's skin. Some insects can be found licking at dung, carrion, wet soil, or even at animal tears and sweat. This behavior is called "puddling" and can be important for obtaining salts and amino acids. Male butterflies and moths can have higher reproductive success when they transfer salts and amino acids to the female with the spermatophore during mating as a nuptial gift, enhancing the survival rate of the eggs.

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!

Anotado en agosto 10, lunes 18:16 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

06 de agosto de 2020

Mission: Find and Share Observations of Squash Bees from Your Garden

Known as the Eastern Cucurbit Bee, Squash Bee or, the Pruinose Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa), is an important pollinator of cultivated crops of squash, pumpkins, and related plants in the genus Cucurbita. Females will only use cucurbit pollen to provision their young. Its range expanded as human agriculture spread throughout North America and squash plants became more abundant and widespread.

Surprisingly, it has only been recorded in five counties in Vermont. We need your help in recording the range of this species throughout the state. Finding and photographing them is easy. Just watch some squash flowers in your garden with camera in hand!

How to Find Them

Activity patterns of the bees are closely tied to the squash flowers, which open near sunrise and close before noon. The male bee spends most all of his time in and around flowers, foraging and mating in the open flowers and sleeping inside the closed flowers after noon. Have a peek inside and your likely to find one. The females live in and around the flowers until nesting season, when they live in and maintain one or more nests. You can find them gathering pollen in the morning inside of the flowers. Females dig a nest in the ground near its host plants, sometimes even in lawns. She will sometimes plug the nest just below the surface, and have a mound of dirt at the entrance. Nest building activity often occurs later in the day when the flowers close to foraging.

Report Your Discoveries to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist

Check as many squash patches as you can in your area and report your photo-observations to our iNaturalist project, and check out all the other observations too!

Anotado en agosto 06, jueves 19:42 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de agosto de 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: A Final Review

And just like that, the final Tech Tip Tuesday is upon us. Well, at least the last TTT that I will write for you. It has been a pleasure writing them every week. I have really appreciated your thoughtful questions and enthusiasm for learning about the species we share Vermont with. While this is good-bye for now, do not worry—I am not going far. You will still be able to find my observations on the Vermont Atlas of Life and I look forward to seeing all the new species you discover!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Since this is the last week, I thought I would give you a final exam. It will be a combination of short-answer and essay questions. And yes, it is closed book.

Just kidding. However, I did think it was time to look back on the past 35 articles and highlight some that drew the most interest.

Our very first TTT was posted on October 15th 2019 and explained duplicating observations. This tool is quite useful for photos that contain multiple species, like a picture of a bee on a flower.

One popular TTT described using “places”. Place is great to use when you are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna in a particular location. Unlike iNaturalist “locations”, places are not predetermined by Google Maps. If you have a favorite park or trail, or love exploring your yard, you can create a place to help keep track of your observations.

Even the most experienced iNaturalist users need help improving their observations at times. I recommend revisiting Improving Your Observation Quality, Observation Basics, and Improving Photographs if you ever need some pointers. In these articles, I walk you through what you should consider when taking photos and some basic boxes to check before submitting.

And remember, iNaturalist is not just for pictures. You can also upload sounds! You can learn more in this TTT article.

If you are looking to learn more about a particular species, then taxa info is the place to go! Species’ taxa info pages contain pictures, resources, and graphs that will help you better understand your organism of interest. You can learn more about using taxa info from this TTT article.

Ever wonder how iNaturalist works? You can learn about the A.I. iNaturalist uses to develop its species identification in this article about computer vision.

The most popular TTT by far was Identification Resources. In this article, I provided a list of different websites and books to check out for learning more about species identification. I invited anyone with a favorite identification resource to suggest its addition to our list and you all stepped up with great ones. The offer still stands—if you have a favorite resource that you do not see on the list, please send the VAL team an email or iNaturalist message.

These articles only represent a handful of the topics I have covered on TTT over the past 10 months. You can find a complete list of all topics on the Vermont Atlas of Life website. You can also access the TTT list and identification resources from the VAL iNaturalist homepage by scrolling below our description on the right-hand side of the page.

Before I go, I will leave you with one final tip. You can access the VAL iNaturalist page on your smartphone by clicking either in the top left corner on the three horizontal lines (Android) or on the three dots at the bottom of your screen (iPhone). Once the menu pops up, click on “Projects”. You will then see a list of the projects you have joined—find the Vermont Atlas of Life. You can look through all the observations shared to VAL or you can see the news—this is where you can find TTT articles. Although the smartphone app is not quite as easy to navigate as the website, I hope this shows that you can still use it to access some of the same features.

TTT Task of the Week

This week, look through the list of old TTT articles and revisit any that jump out at you as topics to explore further. If you have favorite identification resources that are not currently on our list, please let us know. And, as always, make sure to take photos of the species you encounter and share them with the Vermont Atlas of Life.

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

Anotado en agosto 04, martes 19:08 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de julio de 2020

August Bees to Find

While July might have been the best month for bee diversity, August brings the best chance for rare species that can be identified from photos. In addition to the many fall specialists, there are numerous kleptoparasitic species active right now (in the genera Epeolus, Triepeolus, Nomada, and Coelioxys). Look for stout bees with white or yellow bands on the abdomen. Many of the fall composites (sunflowers, goldenrod, asters, etc) are starting to bloom and should be productive through September. There is an abundant and diverse group of goldenrod and aster specialists including members of ColletesAndrena, Pseudopanurgus, Melissodes and Perdita.

Among the most wanted species for the state is Paranthidium jugatorium, an uncommon native sunflower specialist that has been photographed just a few miles over the NY border.

And if you are lucky enough to have a fen near your house, late August is the beginning of the bloom for Fen Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) which is the host plant for another rare bee - Andrena parnassiae.

Finally, here are a few plants from previous months that should still be blooming:

Thistles (especially the large flowered species) - Thistle Long-horned Bee (Melissodes despondus) which is relatively common, at least in the Champlain Valley. Also Osmia texana which is known from only one record (Centennial Woods in 1979).

Native Loosestrifes (primarily Whorled and Fringed) - host to the rare genus of Oil-Collecting Bees (Macropis) found in Williston and Addison last summer (after many hours of searching). So far in 2020 we have added records for West Haven and Springfield.

Pickerelweed - Two specialists in Vermont: Dufourea novaeangliae which is widespread and common, and Melissodes apicatus found last year in the larger marshes of Chittenden County.
Evening Primroses (Oenothera) - Lasioglossum oenotherae a relatively large Lasioglossum with large ocelli for flying at low light when primroses are blooming.

Physalis - Host to two Colletes, 1 Perdita, and 1 Lasioglossum. At least three of these bees have been found on cultivated tomatillos and ground cherries in VT, so might be in your garden!

Anotado en julio 30, jueves 18:33 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de julio de 2020

Join the International Monarch Monitoring Blitz!

Few insects rival the Monarch when it comes to iconic North American pollinators. With their striking colors, widespread distribution, and dramatic migrations, it’s easy to understand why. However, these beloved butterflies may face an uncertain future—eastern migratory populations have declined by more than 80% in the last 20 years. Conserving them requires international cooperation and a better understanding of how populations are distributed within the Monarch’s breeding range.

You can help gather information by joining thousands of volunteers in Canada, Mexico and the United States, from July 24 to August 2, 2020 for the 4th annual International Monarch Monitoring Blitz! With limited ability to do field work due to COVID-19 restrictions, researchers need your observations now more than ever.

To take part in the Blitz, submit your data to Mission Monarch: https://www.mission-monarch.org/

You can learn more on the Vermont Atlas of Life newsfeed: https://val.vtecostudies.org/newsfeed/join-the-international-monarch-monitoring-blitz/

Anotado en julio 27, lunes 19:43 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de julio de 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Joining Projects

And just like that, July is over halfway done. I’ll admit, I’ve lost track of the summer days passing while waiting for each scorching heat wave to end. This summer is less busy than others in past years, providing lots of opportunities to nature watch from my back porch. From my vantage point, I can often observe the movements of chipmunks and deer in the forest without alarming them. I’ve also become more aware of the Black-capped Chickadee alarm calls that point the way towards a Barred Owl, hawk, or other predator nearby. Gaining this deeper acquaintance with the nature surrounding my home has been one small gift to come out of the chaos.

I hope that you have also found your knowledge of the nature around you deepen. If you still have more exploring to do, the good news is that summer isn’t over yet! August is just around the corner with all the sights and sounds that late summer brings. And it doesn’t take a backyard or unlimited wild spaces to enjoy them either—the tree along your street, your neighborhood park, or even a patch of grass growing next to the side walk all provide spaces to learn more about the other species we share this planet with. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some nature exploration inspiration over the next few days, I highly encourage you to take part in the Vermont Moth Blitz 2020!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Joining projects and taking part in bioblitzes is a great way to take your iNaturalist use to the next level. Besides providing a place to contribute your observations to a larger collection of information, getting involved with projects is also a great way to connect with a community whose interests are similar to yours. Whether you enjoy documenting cool tracks, the plants in your local town forest, or the animals that visit your backyard, there’s a project out there for you!

First, I recommend spending some time browsing through different projects. You can find the projects page by going to the dropdown menu under “Community” and selecting “Projects”. You can look over the “featured”, “recently active”, and “recently created” projects, or look for others in your interest areas in the search bar.

Once you find a project that interests you, it’s a good idea to officially join it. While you can often contribute to projects without joining, becoming a member will allow you to receive project updates, such as notifications when new blog posts are shared. In some cases, joining the project will allow the project curators (the iNaturalist users running the project) to see your observations’ exact locations. This comes in handy later when they are using the data collected by the project to conduct studies and develop a better understanding of the region. There is no limit on the number of projects you can join and you can leave them any time you want.

To join a project, click on the project that interests you. Once on the project page, you will see text in the top right corner above the project banner that says “Join this project”—click on that. On the next page, you should see the project’s description and below that a list of the curators. Looking further down, you will see a list of project rules. These are the requirements for adding observations to the project. Any observations that don’t meet one of these requirements won’t be accepted to the project. If you continue on, the final section is “Other”. Here, you can select whether you want to receive project updates, like notifications about new blog posts, and whether you want to make private/obscured observation coordinates viewable by the curator(s). As I mentioned above, you should consider changing the privacy settings, since they will allow the project curators to use the observations as data more easily. Once you’re all set, click “Yes, I want to join”.

And that’s it! Occasionally, you may run into an issue where you either can’t add your observation to a project or it doesn’t appear in the project. This could be for a couple reasons. You may not be able to add your observation if the project you’re trying to add to is a collection project. There are different types of projects. Collection projects are the most common type and don’t actually store observations—they simply act as a filtered search. If you go to the project’s page, you should be able to find your observation there by clicking on “View Yours”. In other instances, your observation won’t appear in a project if either the accuracy circle or obscuration box fall outside the project’s place boundaries. Sometimes, you may be unable to add an observation if other rules aren’t followed. For example, if you’re adding an observation to a project like a bioblitz that has specific date requirements, you won’t be able to add observations made outside that date range. So, if you’re trying to add an observation that was made in March, but uploaded in May, to a project that only wants observations from May, you won’t be able to add the observation.

These are just a couple examples of issues you may encounter when uploading observations. If you run into other problems, I recommend searching in the iNaturalist forum to see if other users have encountered a similar issue. Chances are someone else has had a similar experience and will be able to give you some pointers.

TTT Task of the Week

This week, take some time to explore the projects page. If you come across a project that sounds interesting, join it! Keep in mind the potential problems and, when you can’t find an answer, remember that you can always ask for help in the forum!

That’s all for this week. Thanks for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity, stay safe, and happy observing!

Anotado en julio 21, martes 20:55 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario