21 de enero de 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Using Identify

And just like that, we’re back to the usual winter programming! I’m very excited for the snow, however I could do without the sub-freezing temperatures. On the mornings where the thermostat in my car reads -5oF on my drive in, I often think about all of the wildlife (and plants) that must cope without the comforts of heated seats and woodstoves. Of course, they have countless physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to survive. Every morning the sun rises on a new mosaic of tracks crisscrossing my backyard, letting me know that the local deer, squirrels, and four-legged predators continue to thrive despite the cold.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

If this cold snap has you in hibernation mode, then this tech tip will be right up your alley. This week we’re talking about the identify tool. Now, I know that many of you have probably been putting your substantial naturalist skills to good use from the beginning of your iNaturalist adventure – after all, helping other users identify their cool finds is half the fun! However, not everyone is familiar with the time-saving wonders of the Identify tool.

How is it different than the way many of us approach identifying observations? Instead of going to “Explore”, searching for observations that “need IDs”, and clicking in and out of observations, using “Identify” allows you to use simple strokes to agree, add comments, and flip to the next observation. This means that you get to avoid the headaches caused by hitting “back” to get off a page, only to find that you’ve lost your place.

To get to the Identify tool, click on “Identify” along the top menu bar. Once you get to the page, enter the species and/or place you’re interested in identifying observations for. One neat aspect of Identify is the number of filtering options that exist. To explore these, click “Filters” to the right of “Go” next to the search bars. Once “Filters” is open, click on “More Filters” in the bottom left-hand corner to see the full range of options. Here are a few that you may find most interesting to play with:

1. Observations identified as unknown. To filter for observations marked as “Unknown”, go to the “Categories” section and click on the last option – a leaf outlined by a dotted line with a question mark in the middle. By isolating the “Unknown” observations, you can easily go through and add broad identifications like “plant” or “animal”. In doing so, you will help other identifiers looking for plants or animals find that observation more easily. Without even one of those simple identifications, observations can sometimes get lost.

2. Sort randomly. If you go to the “Sort by” section, you will notice that the last option allows you to sort your search results into a random order. This is great for instances where you may not want an order to your observations for one reason or another.

3. Help add annotations. You can use the “Without Annotation” section to find observations missing annotations. As explained in TTT #1, annotations are important to include because they provide extra information for people who may be interested in using observations to look for patterns.

4. Assist newer users. Everyone needs a little extra help when they start out, both with identifying and understanding what should and should not be posted. By going to the section titled “Account Creation”, you can filter your search results by when a user’s account was created, allowing you to focus on observations created by folks who are new to iNaturalist.

Once you have the settings adjusted to your liking, click “Update Search”. To begin, click on the first observation that you want to identify. There are several ways to edit an identification. The most straightforward way to add a new identification is by clicking “Add ID” at the bottom of the page. If you agree with a provided identification, click “Agree” next to that person’s suggestion. You can also click “Comment” on the bottom of the page to add a new comment. If you look below the observation’s photo, you will notice boxes for marking “Captive/Cultivated” and “Reviewed”. If either of these apply, please select them. Remember, being a good identifier is about evaluating the whole observation, not just correcting its species name.

If you’re looking for a speedy way to edit an observation, then it’s time to check out the keyboard shortcuts. You can find these by clicking on the keyboard icon under the observation’s photo (bottom left-hand corner). Once you click it, a menu will pop up showing you all the different shortcuts available. For example, to add a new identification you can hit “i” and a new identification box will appear. Or, if you want to agree with the most recent identification, you can click “a”. Take a moment to browse through the options and try some out (when appropriate).

Now that you’re familiar with using shortcuts to edit identifications, turn your attention to the tabs across the top of the observation’s window and notice the four tabs (currently on “Info”). Next to that, you will notice a tab called “Suggestions”. This shows you the suggested identifications for this observation.
The next tab will show you the observation’s annotations. Remember earlier (in point number 3 above) when I mentioned how you can filter by observations without annotations? By using this tab, you can add annotations to observations that need them or agree/disagree with current annotations. You can do this by hand or use keyboard shortcuts to add new information. Click on the keyboard icon again and you will notice that the list has expanded to include new shortcuts. For example, when on the Annotation tab, you can add a “Female” notation by hitting “s” then “f”.

The final tab allows you to vet the data’s quality. Look through the checklist they provide and select “no” for any missing qualifications. This helps ensure that observations remain accurate.

Once you’re satisfied with your additions, you can get to the next observation by either clicking the arrow to the observation’s right side or hitting the right-facing arrow on your keyboard. No back buttons required! If you’re looking for a visual explanation of how Identify works, then check out this great video from iNaturalist’s help section.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you’ve explored Identify, it’s time to put it to use! If there is a particular place or group of species that you usually identify, then try out Identify while continuing your normal identification routine. If you’re not comfortable adding new species identifications, try focusing instead on adding annotations. Go to your filters and set them up to find species without annotations. If you’re new to this feature, look for plants and animals with clear annotations, such as species of butterflies or flowering plants. By taking the time to add identifications and evaluate data quality, you will both be helping other users become better naturalists and ensuring that observations provide a reliable data source to those using them.

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

Anotado en enero 21, martes 20:30 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de enero de 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Identification Resources

Happy spring everyone! Oh wait…

Just kidding, but you could have fooled me. Sunday was almost t-shirt weather. And I’m not the only one who felt spring in the air. This weekend, I noticed a flurry of insect activity both inside my house and beyond. Many insects who usually hunker down in the cracks of my house decided to take advantage of the warm weather to forage and stretch their wings.

While some of us may enjoy a break from winter’s icy grip, unusual warm spells can cause problems for wildlife. In some cases, unusually warm weather can cause species that rely on temperature cues to emerge too soon, leaving them vulnerable to starvation and freezing if temperatures plummet. In other instances, phenological mismatch can occur when temperature-dependent food sources emerge before daylight-dependent species become active.

As weather and temperature patterns become increasingly erratic, the consequences to different species will become more pronounced. However, tools like iNaturalist are a real game changer. By tapping into iNaturalist’s vast network of citizen scientists, professionals tackling these issues can monitor how species respond and develop conservation plans to support species as their surrounding environment changes.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Besides monitoring species, iNaturalist is also well known for its role in helping people learn how to identify the life around them. However, we can all use a little outside help from time to time. Maybe there’s a particular species of fern that has the automatic identification stumped. Or maybe you want to confirm that someone’s suggested identification is correct. Regardless of your needs, there are plenty of resources to help you identify the plants, animals, and fungi you encounter in your travels.

Below is a sample of the Vermont Atlas of Life team’s go-to resources.

Sibley Guides and Apps
Merlin Bird ID
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – The Feather Atlas

The Sibley Guide to Trees

Moth Photographers Group
Flower Fly genera
Lady Beetles
Bee genera

Introduced Species:
USGS Nonindigenous Invasive Species
iMap Invasives

Discover Life

TTT Task of the Week

Take some time this week to explore any of the unfamiliar resources listed above. See if you can find some new favorites. I also invite you to comment down below or email me directly with your own favorite resources. Let’s see if we can get a big list going that people can turn to when they need help!

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

Anotado en enero 14, martes 20:14 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 13 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de enero de 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: Adding Historic Photographs

Happy New Year! I hope that your past two weeks were filled with happiness and relaxation. Or I hope that they were at least filled with good food and plenty of places to hide when you’re tired of talking to people. Realistically, it might have been two weeks of both.

Welcome back to Tech Tip Tuesday everyone! If you’re new here (maybe your New Year’s resolution to get more involved with iNaturalist led you here) this is a weekly series where I share a tidbit of iNaturalist wisdom to help you expand your repertoire of naturalist know-how. Since the New Year is about new beginnings, I figure it’s time to add an extra element to TTT. I will continue brainstorming weekly topics with the Vermont Atlas of Life team, however I want to encourage you all to be a part of this process. If you have a burning iNaturalist related question that you would love to see as a TTT topic, I invite you to write to me either through iNaturalist or my VCE email address. Obviously I may not be able to address every question the week that they’re submitted, but rest assured that your questions will not go unanswered!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

iNaturalist is a great tool for identifying the plants, animals, and fungi photographed as you go about your outdoor adventures, but what about all of the wildlife photos you took before iNaturalist existed? Good news – you can totally add those too! That’s right, that black bear you snapped a photo of during your camping trip in 1995 can take up residence on your iNaturalist account. Along with helping you increase your number of observations, these photos can provide scientists with valuable insight into conditions and species presence at certain points in time. In some cases, historic photographs and documents serve as the only records that provide clues to past environmental conditions in a particular area. By examining these records, scientists can see how an animal, plant, or fungi’s phenology (timing of biological events, such as migration or flowering) has changed over time. This in turn helps scientists better understand how species react to climate change and other environmental disturbances in the past, and predict how they may continue to respond in the future.

Before you start posting all of your nature pictures from the past few decades, I’m going to lay out some guidelines so that they can serve as meaningful data points.

1. Make sure the date is correct. When uploading the photos, double check that the date assigned to the photo is the date you took it, not the date that you’re uploading it. You can change the date when you’re adding an observation by clicking in the box that says “date” (this is above the box that says “location”). If you don’t know the exact date, then either leave the “date” box blank or choose a day in the correct month and add a comment saying that the date is not exact. If you choose the second option, make sure to note whether the year and month are correct.

2. Make sure that the location is correct. This can be tricky. If you didn’t write down where you took the photo and it doesn’t have GPS coordinates, you may not know the exact location. Luckily, there is a way to indicate a level of uncertainty when setting an observation’s location.

To change the location, first click on the box that says “location” when adding the observation. This will take you to a page with a map. If using iNaturalist on your computer, you will have the option to type in the location and search for it (sorry mobile phone users). For either mobile phone or computer users, you can zoom in on the area of the map where you were. It’s ok if you only know what town, state, or region you were in. You will notice that your map either has a big red circle (computer users) or a black target (mobile phone users). The size of the area that these circles cover refers to the area in which you made your observation. If you know that you saw your black bear in the parking lot of Lake Dunmore State Park, then you shrink the circle so that it only encompasses the parking lot. On the other hand, if you only know that you saw the bear somewhere in Salisbury, then you make the circle large enough to cover all of Salisbury. The center of the circle is placed on the area where the bear was most likely seen and the circle size communicates to those using the data what the possible range of true observation locations were. Once you have your location circle set, click “Update Observations” (computer users) or the back arrow (mobile phone users).

A final note: please do not guess at the exact location. It’s better to have a large circle encompassing half of Vermont than to have a small circle around the wrong location.

3. Edit pictures as needed. Maybe your photo was shot when you were just learning and the image is blurry or grainy. Maybe you were interested in a different scene at the time and your observed species is on the very edge of the image. If you can, edit photos before uploading them so that the subject is as clear and obvious as possible. But even a crummy image can be an important piece of evidence, so don’t worry if it isn’t the best image.

4. Add observations for all species. It’s ok to add the same photo multiple times if there is more than one species present, as long as the date and location information is kept consistent. For information on how to do this, check out TTT #2.

TTT Task of the Week

As we find ourselves increasingly entangled in winter’s icy grip, it’s tempting to stay indoors and observe nature from a frosted window. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then I encourage you to take this time to stroll down memory lane and revisit old nature photos. Post any that you come across, even if it’s a species that seems super common. Species that are common now may not remain that way, therefore documentation is still important. Just remember to set the date and location properly. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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

Anotado en enero 07, martes 18:33 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de enero de 2020

Naturalists Help the Vermont Atlas of Life Build Biodiversity Big Data in 2019

From the first observation of 2019, a Barred Owl sitting on a deck submitted by naturalist extraordinaire Roy Pilcher, to a Christmas Fern laying on snow shared by Bondaley on the last day of the year, naturalists added over 100,000 biodiversity records to our rapidly growing database of life in Vermont. Thank you!

And amazing observations kept coming all year long. We had  3,896 naturalists contribute  more than 104,140 observations representing over 3,300 species verified. Over 2,800 naturalist helped to identify and verify data. And we joined the more than 615,000 iNaturalists worldwide that submitted over 13 million observations in 2019!

Check out the 2019 year in review statistics dashboard, and if you’re an iNaturalist you can see your year in review too. Share it proudly on social media and tag it with #vtatlasoflife!

The Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist has grown leaps and bounds since 2013. We now have over 375,000 biodiversity observations in the database. Note the peaks and valleys of data sharing match the seasons each year.

Anotado en enero 03, viernes 13:54 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de enero de 2020

December 2019 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Craig Hunt for winning the December 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of a Sharp-shinned Hawk taking a Blue Jay in the snow in Townsend, Vermont garnered the most votes.

With over 1,800 photo-observations submitted by 160 observers this month, it was very competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

The autumn river of raptors migrating southward becomes dominated by Accipiters like Sharp-shinned Hawks in October. Although not all individuals leave, many do. More than 11,000 Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen on one October day at Cape May Point, New Jersey as they pushed southward. Most overwinter somewhere in North America; however, some travel as far south as Central America, migrating thousands of miles between their breeding and wintering grounds. They are powered by a mix of flap-gliding flight and soaring on mountain updrafts and rising plumes of hot air. Recently, more Sharpies have been overwintering farther north. No one knows exactly why, but the popularity of backyard bird feeding may provide some Sharp-shinned Hawks the food they need to survive northern winters.

Sharp-shinned Hawk populations currently appear stable, after dramatic declines during the DDT pesticide era (mid-1940s to 1972). Recently, work by VCE has shown that individuals nesting in Vermont’s Green Mountains and a rare subspecies in the mountains of Hispaniola, have high levels of mercury in their blood. Learn more from VCE’s Research Notes about this finding.

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 enero 01, miércoles 15:49 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de diciembre de 2019

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the December 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 diciembre 27, viernes 15:05 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de diciembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Exploring 2019's Year in Review

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2019 is almost over. As we count down to the new year, we say goodbye to more than just another year – we say goodbye to an entire decade. It seems like not too long ago, we were welcoming in 2010. Looking back over the events of the last 10 years really impressed upon me just how much has happened and makes me both apprehensive and excited for the decade to come. Regardless of if and how you choose to celebrate over the next couple of weeks, I hope you find ways to spend time around the important people in your life and get outside when you can. Maybe you will even get a chance to do both at the same time!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

I realize that we still have another two weeks of 2019 left, however I also recognize that the holidays are an incredibly busy time, especially since both Christmas and New Year’s Eve fall on Tuesdays this year. Therefore, I thought I would bring in a little reflection a couple weeks early. That’s right, there’s a way to see both personal and global iNaturalist statistics, allowing you to explore this year’s major trends and reminisce about great finds.

To access 2019’s statistics, you first need to visit iNaturalist’s Year in Review 2019 page. Once on this page, you will first see three graphs depicting the numbers of observations made, species recorded, and identifications provided. Take a second to check these graphs out. Notice the color keys that tell you what each section on the graph means. By hovering your cursor over these sections, you can see the number of individual data points in this category and what percentage they are of the whole graph. By clicking on any of these graphs, you can visit the observations or results page for each of these categories, allowing you to explore individual entries.

If you scroll on, the next graph shows all of the verifiable observations entered for this year by date. If you pause to examine it, you will notice that the graph breaks the data down into three different levels: observations per month, per week, and per day. Notice how the data is fairly consistent with some possible seasonal variation, except for a couple of spikes. By hovering your cursor over different parts of the graph, you can see how many observations were recorded for that day, week, or month. By clicking on any area, you can see the observations for that particular time.

Moving on, you will come to a graph of this year’s observations versus last year’s observations. Similar to previous graphs, you can see data about specific days by hovering your cursor over the graph, you can also click on the graph to see the observations. Notice how this year has slightly more observations, however the shape of the two datasets is fairly similar.

Below this graph is a map showing where all of this year’s observations were made. You can’t navigate to a different page by clicking on the map, however if you select the “layers” button in the map’s top right corner (looks like stacked paper) you can see all of the observations for 2018 as well. You can also use the zoom in and out buttons in the top left corner to explore a particular location more closely.

After the map, there’s a section showing the pictures with the most faves and comments. There are some pretty cool ones in there, so I encourage you to spend some time looking through them.

Once you’re done looking through the pictures, you will see a graph showing user’s observation streaks (the number of consecutive days they’ve recorded observations). Personally, I’m impressed with some people’s dedication. By clicking on any one of those bars, you can see that person’s observations.

Next you will see a graph showing the number of identifications users have made for others. Similar to previous graphs, take some time to explore the month, week, and day break downs.

If you scroll on, you will get to a graph showing the number of newly added species per month over the last year. If you drag the white box along the smaller graph below, you can see the number of species added in previous years. If you click on one of the months, a list of the new species discovered that month will appear below the smaller graph. Take some time to explore all of the newly added species. Pretty neat!

Finally, you will see the last set of graphs: “Growth” and “Growth by Country”. “Growth” shows how much each of the displayed iNaturalist components (such as observations) have increased over the years. “Growth by Country” shows either the percent total growth (what percentage of the total observations for 2019 a country contributed) or the percent growth (how 2019’s number of observations compared to last year’s) depending on which option you select from the dropdown menu in the top right corner of the map.

After the graphs, there’s a section listing publications that used iNaturalist data. Glance through the titles and feel free to explore any that catch your interest.

Now that you’ve glanced through the global data, it’s time to see your personal data. At the bottom of the page, click “View Your Stats”. On the next page, click “Generate Your Stats”. If you scroll down through your data, you will probably notice that it follows a similar format to the global statistics. You should also notice a cool graph titled “Species Observed”. This organizes your observed species by taxonomic order. The more species you’ve observed this year, the more complex your graph will be. Take some time to click on different areas and learn more about the species you observed. By clicking on a particular section, you will generate a condensed graph showing that species’ taxonomy. By clicking in the center of the graph, you can trace your way back up through multiple taxonomic groups until you return to your full graph.

And that’s it! If you want to return to the main stats page, simply click the “View 2019 Stats for iNaturalist” button.

TTT Task of the Week

Take some time to explore all of the different stats I just guided us through. See if you can notice any patterns in your own data or the global data. If something you see sparks your curiosity or inspires a new plan for observing in 2020, write it down! Reflecting on a year’s worth of data like this is a great way to identify new areas for exploration.

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

Anotado en diciembre 17, martes 17:16 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de diciembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Editing Profiles

Today doesn’t feel as much like “walking in a winter wonderland” as it does “slogging through an early mud season”. If you live outside the Upper Valley on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, I hope you’ve had better luck maintaining snow cover. I realize that I often begin a post by commenting on the weather. Monitoring patterns in the natural world, including paying attention to factors such as precipitation and temperature, are important because they drive a species’ ability to persist in an area. As weather patterns get increasingly erratic, plants, animals, and fungi that we’ve long accepted as common in our area may shift farther north in an attempt to keep pace with cooler temperatures or disappear completely. By paying attention to the weather and monitoring biodiversity, we are staying connected with the rhythms of nature and alert to potential problems.

As humans, we are wired for connection, both to other humans and our surrounding environment. Today, these connections help us tackle some of the biggest threats facing our species and our planet. They allow us to identify what’s normal and what isn’t, and come together as a community to learn and problem-solve. Nowadays, there are countless ways for people to connect with each other. While this is a double-edged sword in some ways, many examples of technology improving connections exist.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

iNaturalist is one such example of how modern technology can help us connect to nature and each other. While there are many ways to connect through iNaturalist, today we’re talking about profiles. I know, profiles may not seem like the most pressing issue to address when it comes it iNaturalist use, however they are surprisingly important. Besides individual observations, your profile is how you will make a first impression on other users. Ultimately, iNaturalist is a social media site – it’s a way to connect and communicate with other nature-enthusiasts. Your profile is how you can display your skills and interests to others so that they know who is sharing observations and who is providing identifications.

I realize that profiles are very personal, so feel free to take whatever tips resonate with you and leave others behind.

1. Your name. There’s a space where you can add your real name (not just your username). I recommend doing this because it makes it easier for others to cite your photographs (if your copyright settings allow) and makes your profile feel more personal.

2. Profile picture. Similar to providing your real name, having a profile picture makes your account seem more personal. It puts a face to the observations and identifications. It’s also a great excuse to show off one of your fantastic naturalist adventures.

3. Provide context. One of the most important components is providing some information about who you are and why you use iNaturalist. This could include what you do/did professionally, how you got started on iNaturalist, what you like most about using it, etc. In general, these are any details that illustrate you as a naturalist.

4. Talk about taxa. It’s always good to list what taxa most interest you and/or which one(s) you would consider yourself proficient in identifying. This is helpful for those who like to identify other’s observations because knowing that you’re well-versed in the taxon you’re identifying will help other users gain confidence in your identifications. A fun bonus is adding a “Favorite Taxa” list to your profile. To add “Favorite Taxa”, go to your lists (found in dropdown menu under profile icon in the top right corner) and create a new list titled “Favorite Taxa”. Whatever taxa you add to that list will automatically appear on your profile.

5. Add resources. It’s also great to list resources that you find helpful when identifying plants, animals, and fungi. These could be the names of books, online guides, or any other source that is accurate and informative. If you have other naturalist resources that are not specifically for identification but that you find helpful for better understanding the natural world, definitely include those as well!

6. Professional links. Besides the resources listed above, your profile is also a great place to provide links to your nature photography website, the nature-focused organizations you work for, projects that you’re involved with, or important publications you authored. However, your profile shouldn’t be your CV, so just pick links that you feel are most important for others to check out.

7. Keep your profile nature focused and professional. Really, you can provide whatever information you want in your profile, however providing details that are relevant to your experiences as a naturalist will help you make the best connections with other users.

If you’re curious about what some example profiles that follow these guidelines might look like, check out these iNaturalist users:

Greg Lasley
Cedric Lee
Denis Doucet
Jason Michael Crockwell

At this point, you might be thinking “This is all great, but how do I even edit my profile?”. The good news is that it’s quite simple. Go to the dropdown menu under profile icon in the top right corner and click on “Profile”. Once on that page, click on “Edit Account Settings & Profile” under your picture. Once you are on the “Edit” page, you can change many different parts of your profile. For today, I recommend sticking with your name, profile icon, and the “Tell everyone a little about yourself” textbox, but feel free to explore other possible settings.

TTT Task of the Week

Start out by exploring the profiles listed above. Think about what you like and may want to incorporate in your own profile. Then go edit your own profile, including at least one of the suggestions made above. Take a look at the other areas you can edit, but for now focus on your name, picture, and description.

As always, thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity and happy observing!

Anotado en diciembre 10, martes 20:21 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de diciembre de 2019

Tech Tip Tuesday: Exporting Observations

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty excited for our recent snow storm, even though I knew that it meant more shoveling. From my weather app (ah, the wonders of modern technology), I knew that the storm would begin around 4pm, so I set out for my favorite hillside at 3:15pm to watch it approach. I love how still the air gets as a storm draws near – so calm, it’s almost as if the whole world is holding its breath. As I stood under the nearly naked limbs of an old oak, I watched as the mountains were slowly erased, merging with the pale grey sky. Suddenly, I felt the air change on my face, plunging from frosty yet mild to damp and chilly. Within a few minutes, there was an exhale and the last oak leaves above me began gently stirring. When I finally turned to leave, the mountains were gone and snow was beginning to drift from the sky.

I love watching the weather like this and believe that it’s truly a hidden joy. With all of our apps, we need not look at the sky nor pay attention to the air to know that the weather is about to shift. However, there’s something very grounding about sensing the change – an ancient knowledge forgotten among touch screens and keyboards. I find that if I watch closely, I can also tell when a storm is coming based on the behavior of wildlife. There’s often a burst of activity followed by stillness as the storm gets closer. I clearly remember walking in the woods right before a big snow storm during my sophomore year of college and watching a shrew scurrying about unconcerned with my presence, chewing on some ice remnants. Next time a big storm is predicted, I suggest stepping outside to see what animals around you are preparing for the inclement weather.

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

If you prefer to watch the snow fall from a comfortable window seat, there are still plenty of ways to learn about the wildlife beyond your front door. If you love using data as a tool to better understand the natural world, than this week’s TTT is for you! Although many people may think that the data produced by iNaturalist is exclusively for scientists and other conservation professionals, it’s actually accessible to anyone. In a couple of simple steps, you can export observation data and begin using it to explore.

There are two ways you can get to the “Export Observations” page. The first way is to go to the “Explore” page and select “Filters”. In the “Filters” box, you will see a button that says “Download” in the bottom right corner. Click on that. This will set you up to export data from anywhere in iNaturalist. By following these same steps, except from your personal observations’ page, you can export data from your own observations.

The other way is to visit the Vermont Atlas of Life project page and scroll down to the “Members” box to the right of the map. The fourth option down is “Export Observations” – click on that. This method prepares you to export data from the Vermont Atlas of Life project. If you want to export data from a wider area, simply delete “Vermont Atlas of Life” from any textbox you see it in. You can also do this as you walk through the next steps.

Regardless of which method you use, you should now be on the “Export Observations” page. If you want, you can delete the text in the box at the top of step 1 – this will get filled in as you walk through the options below. Please note, you don’t have to fill in the information for all of the steps below. Only fill in the information you want to see in your exported data.

1. Find a specific species or place. This is one way to input a particular species, place, or other field you’re interested in. To figure out what you can search, click the dropdown menu at the end of the search bar. You can test out this feature by searching for a species, place, tag, or anything else described there. There are other ways to input this information later on as well. You can also leave this blank.

2. Filters. Here, you can add filters to specify the type of observations you want. Maybe you only want observations with sound or ones that are not marked “captive/cultivated”. Selecting these options will narrow the range of observations you receive.

3. Show only. The next line allows you to select the groups you want displayed. For example, if you only want to export insect observations, then select “Insects” and leave all other boxes unchecked. This is best if you want all the species for a particular group. This step is not necessary if you are interested in a specific species. Hover over each option with your cursor to see what they are. Notice that there is a category for “unknown” observations.

4. Taxon and Observed on. These are pretty straight forward. “Taxon” asks you to select which species or group of species you’re most interested in (if you did not do so in step 1). “Observed on” allows you to select observations made on a specific date.

5. Rank. In this next line, you can specify the taxonomic rank you’re interested in. For example, maybe you only want observations that have been identified to the Genus level. If this is the case, you would select “Genus” out of the dropdown list under “Exact Rank”. If you want any observations with a “genus” identification and higher rankings, then you would select “Genus” under the dropdown list for “Lowest Rank”. If you want anything with a “genus” identification and lower rankings (i.e. species, subspecies), then you select “Genus” under the “Highest Rank” dropdown menu.

6. User, Project ID, Taxon IDs, Date Range, Created on. These are areas where you can add additional information. Under “User”, you can provide a specific user’s name or their ID number to export only their observations or all of your own. For “Project ID”, you enter the project ID number or URL slug (appears at the end of the web address) for the project you want to export data from. For example, the URL slug for the Vermont Atlas of Life is vermont-atlas-of-life. “Taxon IDs” are the number associated with the taxon on iNaturalist. You can enter multiple numbers if you’re interested in multiple species. You can find this number by going to the taxon’s page (see TTT #7) and selecting the “id” number in its URL. “Date Range” allows you to select the range of dates you want observations from and “created on” let’s you choose observations that were created (not observed) on a specific date.

7. Step 2. This section shows you a preview of what your data will look like. Take a glance at this to make sure that the data displays the information you need. If it doesn’t look correct, return to the steps above and make the necessary changes.

8. Step 3, Basic. This section allows you to choose all of the columns you want to export. Look this over carefully and decide what information is most meaningful to you. You can leave all options selected, however this will create a huge file that may be difficult to sift through, so it’s best to stick with the necessary information. Some good choices when looking to gather basic data could be: id, observed_on, user_id, image_url, description, and out_of_range. Ultimately, it just depends on what is important to you.

9. Step 3, Geo. Similar to above, this is where you can select what location columns you want. Latitude and longitude are some good basic ones. This is another instance where unchecking columns that you’re not interested in is helpful, otherwise you could end up with an enormous datasheet. Once again, it’s all about what’s important to you.

10. Step 3, Taxon extras. These usually appear unchecked by default. They’re useful if you’re interested in looking for patterns in larger taxonomic groups, but otherwise they’re not really necessary for most basic functions.

Helpful tip: if you’re confused about what any of these checkable items mean, you can hover over them with your cursor and they will offer a brief explanation.

11. Step 4. Yay, you’re done! Hit “Export” under step 4. A green box with a “Download” button should appear at the top of your screen shortly. Sometimes larger file sizes take longer to export, so don’t panic if it doesn’t immediately appear. You can also choose to have iNaturalist email you when the export is complete if it’s taking a really long time.

12. Download. Once you hit download, click on the new file that appears. It should display the file in your computer’s “Downloads” folder. From here, you can drag it to move it to your desktop or a different folder on your computer.

13. Open file. Go ahead and open the file. It should open in Excel (at least it does on my computer) and from there you can begin exploring the data or move it to a preferred data processing platform.

One final note: this tool is best used for data that you don’t intend to publish. If you’re looking for data that you can publish, it’s better to export directly from the geoprivacy preferences set either for specific species or by specific users.

TTT Task of the Week

Now that you know how to export data, it’s time to give it a try! Think about what aspect of iNaturalist you may want to explore for patterns and start filling out the “Export Observations” page. If you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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

Anotado en diciembre 03, martes 18:53 por emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de diciembre de 2019

November 2019 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the November 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of a 'eastern or red' Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) in Waterbury, Vermont garnered the most votes. With nearly 2,000 photo-observations submitted by 246 observers this month, it was very competitive.

Late each fall, and then again in spring, Fox Sparrows visit our backyards here in Vermont. Most field guides and general references depict Fox Sparrows as a bird that nests only in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska and the high mountains of western North America. The eastern subspecies of Fox Sparrow—the Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca)—has traditionally been considered a passage migrant through New England, stopping off briefly in late fall and early spring as it travels to and from its breeding grounds in eastern Canada. But that has recently changed.

A species never known to nest in New England prior to the 1980s, Fox Sparrows have expanded their breeding range south by about 400 km in a span of less than 30 years, and seem to be on track to continue this remarkable journey. If past trends are any indicator of the future, they will likely become at least occasional nesters in suitable habitat in Vermont and New York (and indeed, may already be). If you find any next summer, make sure you add your observations to Vermont eBird or the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist!

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 diciembre 02, lunes 16:43 por kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario