Journal archives for October 2022

October 09, 2022

Almost there: Help beaked dodder qualify for CV inclusion!

Every now and then I come across a species that should be fairly easy to identify, but there aren't enough confirmed sightings yet on iNaturalist for it to be included in the computer vision (CV) training set. One such species is beaked dodder (Cuscuta rostrata, currently 73 observations total).

Yes, I can see those of you familiar with dodder raise an eyebrow at the assertion that this is easy to ID (most dodders are anything but and community ID stays at genus level). However, this one is! If you come across this plant while hiking in the woods and know what to focus on, you can get a picture that allows for positive ID, and if you see this feature on photos on iNaturalist within the correct range you can quite confidently identify it.

The feature in question is a beak-like extension of the ovary that gives the plant one of its common names beaked dodder. Other dodders growing within its range (e.g. the otherwise very similar C. gronovii) do not have this type of beak on their round ovaries. Another feature that works in the field is to smell the flowers - this dodder species is said to have a very fragrant smell. The combination of correct range + fragrance + beak makes for a slam-dunk botanical ID that is sure to impress all your naturalist buddies!

Where to look for it:
This species is a Southern Appalachian endemic and occurs mostly in high elevation hardwood forests from West Virginia south to northeast Georgia. It likes shady areas (I've found it growing in seepage areas in deep shade) but may also be found in more open places like grassy balds. (The similar C. gronovii is essentially a wetland species, often found along stream margins and in marshes and wet fields.)

Host plants:
It does seem to have a wide range of host plants that it can latch onto. Numerous herbaceous species (I've seen it on Rudbeckia, Monarda, and Impatiens, for example) and a few woody species (Rubus, Hydrangea) appear to be preferred hosts. It can be grown on Coleus in cultivation, if anyone is so inclined.

Posted on October 09, 2022 06:24 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 10, 2022

Welcome to the 2022 AppState BioBlitz!

Hello everyone!

Thank you for joining the Appalachian State University Team for a friendly BioBlitz-off with UNC Greensboro this October! I have a feeling this is going to be a lot of fun!

As we gear up for the event, I wanted to share a few resources:

  • Check out our AppState BioBlitz Homepage for more info and updates!
  • We now have a poster about what to look for at the AppState Nature Preserve in the Rankin South lobby.
  • If you are new to iNaturalist, be sure to check out the Getting Started section and Video Tutorials on their Help pages.
  • You will be able to find a leaderboard once the challenge is happening at the Campus Nature Challenge Umbrella Project.

Feel free to leave a comment or ask questions below! Only two more weeks until the challenge! Who is going to find the most species on their campus? Any bets yet?

(annkatrinrose on iNat)

Posted on October 10, 2022 03:56 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 19, 2022

BioBlitz instructions

Hi all, it's great to see so many people joining our AppState BioBlitz Project! Go Team! We have a couple more resources and upcoming events to share with you.

BioBlitz overview video:
New to iNaturalist? Not sure where to go and what to do? The video below introduces what iNaturalist is all about, which app to get, which places to visit, and what to watch out for. Over the next few days, we'll be posting more updates on the best places on our map to visit and how to get there.

Training session Oct. 20:
We will have an iNaturalist training session tomorrow (Thu., Oct. 20th) at 4 PM in Rankin Science South 119. You can attend either in person or via zoom (you can find the zoom link at the bottom of the BioBlitz page).

Species checklist:
Will has pulled together an awesome species checklist for our county based on previous iNaturalist observations during October. Thank you! This should be very informative for what organisms to target for observations during the BioBlitz.

If you have any questions or other resources to share, please feel free to post them below!

Annkatrin and Marta

Posted on October 19, 2022 04:40 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 20, 2022

AppState campus areas to visit

Hi all,

many of the questions I have received so far revolve around where to go and park for the BioBlitz, so the video below is the first in a series introducing our locations. This video covers the main campus areas, including the Nature Preserve. More info will follow on our more remote locations.

I also had some folks ask about planted vs. wild trees and included some info about the AppState Tree Inventory, which helps you to tell which trees on campus are the planted ones. You can post observations of planted trees on iNaturalist. However, they should be marked cultivated so they do not count as Research Grade observations. The reasoning behind this is that iNaturalist is meant primarily to track the occurrence of wild organisms, and cultivated plants or captive animals create problems for researchers who try to use iNaturalist data e.g. for species range maps. Cultivated plants will not count in our BioBlitz stats.

Visitor parking is available in the Rivers Street Parking Deck for a fee, or free on campus surface lots after 5 PM on weekdays and all day on Sunday. Note that there will be a football game on Saturday, Oct. 29th, so unless you have a ticket/parking permit for the game I would advise to plan on visiting off-campus places for the BioBlitz on Saturday. You can find more details about parking on the Visitor Parking page - also note their forgiveness policy at the bottom of that page.


Posted on October 20, 2022 07:56 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 21, 2022

Off campus areas to visit in town

Hi all,

wow, we've had a jump in folks joining the project. Welcome to everyone new here, and especially everyone new to iNaturalist! I hope you find it as fun as I do and stick around not just for the BioBlitz next week! Be sure to check out some of the older journal posts for info and links to resources that will help you get started. You can also find updates on our BioBlitz Homepage. We will be available for questions at the info table in the Rankin South lobby just outside the Geology museum today (Friday, Oct. 21st) from 1-2:30 PM. Feel free to stop by! We'd love to meet you!

Today's update is a short video introducing some of our off-campus areas in town that will count for the BioBlitz. We plan to have a group of people at the Greenway on Monday from 4-6 PM to kick it off and a shuttle from Rankin for those who need a ride.

For more info about main campus locations, see this video. Stay tuned for more to come about our out-of-town areas!

Posted on October 21, 2022 03:54 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

NC BioBlitz next week!

UNC Greensboro and Appalachian State University will have their first BioBlitz competition happening next week. Guess who volunteered to help organize this? Can't say no to a challenge involving iNaturalist, right? Of course I got involved with this, and now I'm going to try to get all my followers involved too! :-)

Anyone can participate, either as an observer or as an identifier. Observations have to be of wild organisms, made on university properties, and during the week of Oct. 24-Oct. 30, 2022. You can join the AppState BioBlitz 2022 project if you want, or use it to filter for observations that need IDs to help us out!

There will be prizes to win, extra credit to earn, and a lot of iNat newbies interacting with the platform for the first time. I will try to keep an eye on things, but if you notice any irregularities or problems arising from this BioBlitz event (e.g. a bunch of obviously planted stuff not marked cultivated or nonsense IDs being added), please feel free to let me know and I can do some quality control and communicate with faculty and students involved.

Posted on October 21, 2022 11:17 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2022

Out-of-town areas to visit

I hope y'all are enjoying another gorgeous fall weekend and are just as excited to start the BioBlitz tomorrow as I am! This is another where-to-go update introducing our out-of-town locations that are included in the AppState boundaries map. Some of these are off-limits or difficult to navigate but we do have permission to explore the following locations:

  • Payne Branch Park - just a couple of minutes south of Boone off of 321
  • Camp Broadstone in Valle Crucis - please stay on the Lower Field (directions)
  • ASU SD Farm in Fleetwood - please email the farm director to schedule your visit (directions)
  • ASU Dark Sky Observatory off the Parkway - please don't block the gate

Check out the following video for more info, directions and times when there will be groups to join at some of these places! Currently, we have a farm visit planned for Fri., Oct. 28, at 10:15 AM, and we will have the gate open at the Dark Sky Observatory on Sat., Oct. 29, from 1-4 PM.

Posted on October 23, 2022 05:09 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 24, 2022

BioBlitz is now in progress!

Good morning AppState BioBlitzers! The game's on! Our BioBlitz project is now in progress. No observations yet (it's still dark out there) but I'm sure there will be plenty coming in today. I wonder who will be the first to post an observation, and what will it be?

Remember we will have a group outing to the Greenway this afternoon from 4-6 PM. There are still some slots available if you need a shuttle ride from Rankin. For other places to visit, also check out the videos that were posted in previous journal entries.

For those who didn't make it to any of our training sessions last week, here's a list of questions that were asked that might be of interest:

What is the best way to tell whether a species is Cultivated or not?
The definition of captive/cultivated on iNaturalist is that the organism "exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there." So anything that was planted by humans is cultivated. However, if a plant came up on its own, e.g. a garden plant self-seeding outside of its original area, it is considered wild. The iNaturalist Help pages have some examples what is considered wild vs. captive/cultivated. For trees on campus, you can check out the ASU Tree Inventory to get an idea which trees are planted/managed by the university.

Do invasive/ non-native species count?
Yes, definitely! It's actually quite important to track these on iNaturalist for people who study how invasives are spreading. We will probably find a few at the Greenway this afternoon.

Does iNaturalist alert you when you are outside the boundaries, if not, how can you tell?
No, unfortunately it doesn't alert you. You can check whether your observation was within the boundaries by checking its location info on iNaturalist. It should come up as "Appalachian State University" and if you open up the Details underneath the map on the web interface, it should list "Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, US (Point of interest)" under Community Curated.

Can you take a photo with a big camera with a zoom and upload it onto iNaturalist?
Yes, absolutely! I take most of my pictures with a camera and upload through the web interface. The disadvantage is that I have no GPS coordinates and have to put the location in manually by placing a pin on the map. When we talked about this at the session, we decided it would be smart to create the observation using the phone app to get the time/location automatically and add the zoomed camera images later. There is a brief tutorial video on the iNaturalist help pages demonstrating how to do this via the web interface.

What does it mean that sound recordings are also allowed in addition to photos?
It means just that: You can use a sound file (e.g. bird/frog/katydid calls) in place of a photo as evidence for the organism. They have to be in wav, mp3, or m4a format. You can record using the phone app, or extract a sound file from video taken with a camera.

Are we allowed to bait/collect?
Yes, birds at feeders, moths attracted to light, or fish you're catching are all valid observations for iNaturalist. Collections done for class (e.g. water or leaf litter samples for microscopy, plants for the herbarium, mushrooms for spore prints, insects for entomology collections) are also fine. Just be mindful of not harming any wildlife in order to get observations and refrain from collecting vertebrates without a permit. The date and location should reflect when and where you collected, not where the microscope or storage space for the collection is located. The easiest way to do this is probably to create the observation of what you are sampling while out in the field, and add the microscopy images to it later.

Posted on October 24, 2022 11:02 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 25, 2022

Y'all are awesome!

Good morning everyone and welcome to our second day of the AppState BioBlitz! When we started this, we were debating what our goalposts should be - 150 species, or 200, or should we be bold and say we're shooting for 300? Where do we stand right now? We are already at an amazing 346 species! And that's just day 1. Go AppState! (Note: The "species" count on the project page is even higher at 404, but that is because it is also counting observations not yet narrowed down to species and currently identified at genus or family level, for example).

It looks like a lot of you were really having fun with this yesterday - I saw a lot of students and even entire classes walking around campus with cell phone in hand taking pictures. Well over 1,000 observations were uploaded! It was a gorgeous evening to be out on the Greenway as well. Our top observed species after day 1 are a tie between white-tailed deer and the invasive oriental bittersweet with its brightly-colored fruits.

The first observation uploaded yesterday was common chickweed observed by mtoran. If you are the competitive type, based on the leaderboards on the project page the folks to beat currently are leighalobelia with over 100 observations already and currently the most species at 86, closely followed by dendro-julia and rivermont.

I received a couple of questions about iNaturalist and the most common one that came up is:

Q: How do I combine several pictures into one observation?

A: You should be able to do this in the upload window and there are video tutorials available both for the mobile app and the website interface. If you already have uploaded the pictures and they came through as separate observations, check out this help forum thread for suggestions what to do.

Why would you want to do this? Because it makes it much easier to identify your observations! For example, let's say you took a picture of a tree from a distance and a close-up of its bark and another of a fallen leaf. If you combine all three into one observation, it will be much easier to tell which species of tree it is compared to trying to ID each individual picture on its own.

Need help with iNaturalist?
I will be on zoom this evening (Tue., Oct. 25) from 5-6 PM for questions and to demo a few neat things you can do on the website.

I hope you have some more fun with this today!

Posted on October 25, 2022 11:06 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 26, 2022

What if I didn't get a picture?

This question came up yesterday: Do I need need a photo or sound file to post an observation? What if I saw a bird and it got away before I could take a picture?

You can still create an observation on iNaturalist with the time, place, and species without media (photo or sound) attached to keep a record of what you saw. However, like observations of captive/cultivated organisms these will be considered 'casual' and not count towards your BioBlitz stats.

To make observations research grade, others would need to be able to confirm your sighting based on evidence provided. If you don't have a photo, you can get creative: Make a sketch of what you saw and post a picture of that in place of a photo, along with a detailed description. For ideas how to do this and still make it count, check out some of the research grade observations based on drawings that others have posted on iNaturalist. These were posted to the Nature Drawing and Journaling Project , which is a good place to connect with other iNaturalist users who use a sketch book rather than a camera to record observations.

Progress update:
We're at over 1,500 observations now, covering a total of 428 species identified with 183 of those already having been confirmed to research grade. A shout-out and big Thank you! to our top identifiers tsn, rivermont, and maxbird1 who are helping out by adding IDs for others! Our top two species observed remain the same as yesterday, with Christmas fern, white pine, and English ivy rounding out the top five. Currently the top three observers with the most species are leighalobelia, dendro-julia, and brynnaselah.

Friday activities:
Biology department folks are planning a few group activities for Friday, including a trip to the ASU Farm in the morning, aquatic sampling along the New River at the Greenway and a field trip to the Gilley Research Station in the afternoon. Stay tuned for more updates on these!

Please make sure to mark stuff that was planted as captive/cultivated. We're seeing a lot of plants being posted from around campus, some of which were clearly put there by humans (e.g. street trees, shrubs in front of buildings, flowers and other landscape plantings). It's fine to add these to iNaturalist and they can be useful to document what is still blooming, for example. However, they should be marked "not wild" so they don't mess up species range maps for those using iNaturalist data for research projects. If it looks planted (e.g. in a mulched area, signs of care such as pruning or staking), please remember to check the "captive/cultivated" box when you upload these. Please note that only wild organisms will count towards the BioBlitz stats, so also check out those plants for anything wild on or around them: Mosses and lichens on the bark of trees, for example, weeds growing between the flowers, or insects visiting them would all be wild observations that count.

It's great to see so many folks getting involved and having fun with this!

Posted on October 26, 2022 11:19 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment