Journal archives for April 2023

April 12, 2023

Welcome to our BioBlitz Project!

Hi all,

thanks for joining our iNaturalist project for the AppState Spring 2023 BioBlitz challenge! This is where we will collect all qualifying observations. Starting Monday next week! I can't wait to get out there and see what's blooming and crawling around campus.

We can use all the help we can get! Please share your excitement with your classes, friends and family. Everyone can participate! You can find more info and links to resources on our BioBlitz webpage. Feel free to share widely to recruit participants!

This time we are competing with two universities for the informal title of Most Biodiverse UNC Campus. Joining us are UNC Greensboro representing the Piedmont and UNC Wilmington representing the coast. I'm looking forward to seeing a nice collection of campus wildlife from across the state so we can compare and contrast what's living where! You will be able to find the leaderbord at the 2023 Campus Nature Challenge Project.

The rules are:
1) Observations need to be made on AppState property,
2) within the week of April 17th-23rd, 2023,
3) and need to be of wild organisms.

Q: How do I know where to go?
A: The map on the project page has the boundaries of all qualifying areas outlined. These are the same as for the Fall 2022 project and we shared some videos with more details for this, which you can find on this AppState BioBlitz YouTube playlist.

Q: I'm too busy - can I still post stuff after the official week?
A: Yes, you can! The critical date is the observation date (aka the date when you took the picture), not the upload date. If your time is limited, focus on taking pictures during the week of the BioBlitz to record your observations. You can process and upload them later when you have more time.

Q: What counts as "wild" organism?
A: Any non-human organism except for cultivated plants (planted/potted) and captive/domestic animals (including pets). Simply speaking, if a plant or animal was purposefully put there by humans, it does not count. However, a weed popping up on its own between those plantings, or lichen growing on a stone wall, or a tick you found on your dog would count as wild, so look carefully what else you can spot around the planted stuff in landscaped areas! A planted street tree might not qualify for the project, but you can often find a dozen other things on or around it that would count. You can use the iNat or iNot? google slide quiz to test your understanding of what would qualify for our BioBlitz.

Q: What features should I take pictures of so the species can be identified?
A: This will depend on what you are photographing. This iNaturalist Photo Guide has some really nice examples and guidelines what to focus on for various types of organisms.

Any other questions? Please let us know!

Posted on April 12, 2023 04:23 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 17, 2023

Spring BioBlitz starting today!

Today is the kick-off for the next round of BioBlitzing so get out there and observe what spring brings to our campus! You can join us at the Spring BioBlitz Project to keep track of your contributions but your observations will count whether you are a project member or not. All you need to do is get out there and make observations on AppState properties this week! Check the BioBlitz webpage for more details and opportunities.

Posted on April 17, 2023 11:24 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

BioBlitz is now in progress!

Good morning AppState BioBlitzers! The game's on again! Our Spring BioBlitz project is now in progress. No observations yet for either us or our competitors but I'm sure there will be plenty coming in today. It looks like it will be a gorgeous spring day out there!

A couple of updates and guidelines on visiting places:

  • You can observe on main campus including the Nature Preserve, which now has the first spring ephemerals blooming. Lots of observation opportunities there!
  • The Greenway area (e.g. Kennedy Trails) was another popular spot during the last BioBlitz that yielded a lot of observations.
  • Another public place to go to is Payne Branch Park off 321 towards Blowing Rock.
  • During the fall BioBlitz, we had zero observations from the old Watauga High School (105) property. Does anyone want to fix that for spring?
  • Camp Broadstone in Valle Crucis is another place to check out! They are asking that we please stay on the Lower Field and don't do any BioBlitzing around the cabins. (Directions)
  • The Farm crew at the ASU SD Farm in Fleetwood will be happy to host BioBlitz outings again. They ask that you please email the farm director to schedule a visit.
  • We will have a key again to open up the gate at the ASU Dark Sky Observatory off the Parkway on Saturday afternoon from 1-4 PM ahead of their North Carolina Science Festival's Statewide Star Party this weekend. For directions and tickets for the evening event, check out their website (no tickets needed for the BioBlitz).
Posted on April 17, 2023 11:42 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

NC BioBlitz this week

Hello followers, just a heads-up that this week is BioBlitz week in NC. This spring three universities (Appalachian State University, UNC Greensboro, and UNC Wilmington) are heading off against each other in a friendly competition to see who has the greatest biodiversity on campus. If you're in the area, feel free to join our project at Appalachian State University and participate!

Even if you are not around to make observations, any help with IDs and marking things cultivated that aren't wild would still be very much appreciated! I predict lots of new iNat users and casual observations across all three campuses. Here is the Campus Nature Challenge project if you want to check all three schools at the same time.

Posted on April 17, 2023 04:04 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 18, 2023

Second day of the BioBlitz!

If you just joined the project, welcome to the team! We've got some stiff competition this time around, so we can certainly need your help! It looks like UNCG learned a few things from us last fall and got off to a great start taking the lead for now. AppState was a bit slow getting this going and trailing behind both UNCG and UNCW yesterday. Can we turn this around today? We're off to day 2 of our campus BioBlitz and it looks like another gorgeous sunny spring day out there! So grab your phones and cameras and see what biodiversity you can find! So far, we have reached the 200 observations and 100 species markers. Let's see if we can kick this up a bit!

A few tips and reminders:
The main purpose of this competition is to collect biodiversity data for our campuses. This citizen science data may be pulled into GBIF and other databases to be used by researchers worldwide to e.g. investigate species ranges, diversity etc. Therefore, it's important to make it as accurate as possible. For better science!

  • If you are uploading pictures from your computer/camera, please double-check and verify that the dates and locations on your postings match where you took the picture, not when and where you are uploading it to iNaturalist. If you are not sure exactly where something was on the map, you can draw a circle to encompass the site where you likely made the observation. I'm seeing some outdoors observations posted with locations given as inside buildings.
  • If you post observations of stuff that was planted, please remember to mark it cultivated (not wild). I know this will make it not count in the BioBlitz, but for research purposes it is important to sort out naturally occurring species (for range maps, to track invasives etc.) vs. stuff that was put there by humans (inventory of plants used by our landscaping crews). Planted stuff will still count for the Watauga County BioBlitz but should all be marked "not wild".
  • If you are adding IDs, please make sure that you are certain it is that species before pushing something to "Research Grade". It's fine to take a bit of a guess or use the computer suggestion for the initial ID, but once things get to the green "Research Grade" label, they are pulled into GBIF and other such repositories for actual research projects, so we want to make sure our IDs are as good as they can be for that.
  • Please try to avoid posting pictures that include identifiable humans. Remember iNaturalist is a public website and anyone in the world can see the pictures you are posting. At the very least, you should ask the people in your pictures for consent before posting them here as this is a potential invasion of their privacy. Homo sapiens observations are treated as casual by iNaturalist and will not count towards our BioBlitz totals.
Posted on April 18, 2023 12:55 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 19, 2023

Third day of the BioBlitz

Good morning AppState BioBlitzers!

It looks like it's going to be another gorgeous spring day out there today - great weather for making some more observations! Where we stand this morning:

We've climbed to second in numbers of observations just slightly ahead of UNCW, but still trailing behind UNCG. They really got a head start on us this time around! We've recruited a few more active observers (37 for AppState as of this morning, compared to 40 for UNCG), but could use some additional help and up our game in terms of numbers of observations per person involved. Tell all your friends, teachers, classes!

Remember we'll have prices in the end for the most observations made and most species observed. That competition is still wide open. Our most active participants on the morning of day three are nicole_lowder and imlichenlucas sharing the top observer spot with 68 observations each and 52 and 50 species respectively. With the other universities included, the top 4 observer spots are going to three folks from UNCG and one observer at UNCW. Currently topping out the observer leaderboard across all campuses are jaajowele from UNCG with 126 observations of 94 species and iantb from UNCW with 104 of 81 species.

For numbers of species recorded, we are still trailing behind both other universities, so try to find stuff you haven't observed yet to add some more diversity to our species list. Our most observed species so far are golden ragwort (not a surprise - it's blooming everywhere on campus right now), joined by a bunch of introduced/invasive plants (ground ivy, purple deadnettle, garlic mustard, dandelions), our native star chickweed and Christmas fern, and for the animals deer and a water snake that apparently was sunning itself on a rock in Boone Creek and begging to have its picture taken while classes were out there. You can see an overview of what we found on the stats page for the project. Over half of the species we've observed so far are plants, followed by fungi and insects. For the vertebrates, birds are the most common so far.

I received a question about the map. This is based on the official boundaries of AppState properties. I know in some places it doesn't seem to match 100% with trails, fences and other markers on the ground (specifically the Greenway Trail and Greenway Connector right at Clawson-Burnley Park weave in and out of AppState property), but we're stuck with the official boundary map provided by the university. If your observations fall outside, they won't count, so check the map to see what areas are included. There are several AppState properties that are still "blank" so far this spring and could make great targets for a visit: There are just a few observations so far at Payne Branch Park and the old Watauga Highschool property (105 Lot), and Camp Broadstone doesn't have anything at all yet.

We are doing great in terms of observing true biodiversity and not recreating an inventory of landscaping plants! Last fall, we had a large number of observations of planted stuff around campus but this spring people are really avoiding those and finding all the wild things between them. Great job on that everyone!

Posted on April 19, 2023 12:14 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 20, 2023

Halfway and we're making great progress!

Hello AppState BioBlitzers!

Awesome job yesterday! It was gorgeous out on the Greenway, where I went to do some observing and met quite a few fellow BioBlitzers. Some students had recruited their families to help them, others were mentioning they had a friendly family competition going on with a sibling at another university. Love the competitive spirit here!

We did manage to just about pull ahead of UNCG in numbers of observations last night, trailing just slightly for numbers of species but they have pulled ahead again as of this morning. It's going to be a tight competition! We are doing great on recruiting participants and leading in terms of people active in the BioBlitz. Here are the leaderboards as of this morning - you can also check for them live at the 2023 Campus Nature Challenge project:

We are just about at the halfway point in the challenge today. There are four more days to go including the weekend. The weather is cooperating nicely so far. Saturday morning is supposed to be rainy with thunderstorms so that might be a good time for those of you who are taking pictures with cameras to sit down and process and upload them to iNaturalist.

Posted on April 20, 2023 12:08 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 21, 2023

Three more days!

Good morning everyone!

Great job on the AppState BioBlitz so far! We're picking up speed but UNCG seems determined not to let us win this time and pulled ahead again. They are currently at 1,693 observations to our 1,467 followed by UNCW with 753. We are so far at about 41% of the observation count we had in our Fall 2022 BioBlitz week, with about 60% of the number of species we had in fall, so there's still more stuff to find. Let's get out there and look for additional things to observe today and over the weekend!

If you are ready for a change of scenery, we will have the gate open at the ASU Dark Sky Observatory tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon from 1-4 PM. Come on out to explore the woods around the Observatory! The forecast is calling for rain in the morning giving way to a sunny afternoon, so you may want to bring footwear suitable for muddy puddles and wet grass. For driving directions and free tickets for the North Carolina Science Festival's Statewide Star Party in the evening if you are interested, see the DSO website. (No tickets are needed for our afternoon BioBlitz outing! Those are for observing the night sky using the big telescope.)

I received a question about species numbers. Keen observers have noticed that the numbers in the umbrella project with the leaderboard differ from the numbers in the individual university projects. For example, it currently says we have 433 species in the leaderboard, but this project page says 497. What's the difference? Well, it's complicated but essentially the count on the project page includes taxa that have been identified to e.g. genus or family but have not yet been refined to species level IDs. Say, you have two observations, one with an ID of Rosaceae, another with an ID of Rosa multiflora. This counts as two "species" on the project page, even though only one of those IDs is actually at species level and the other is at family. The species counts on the leaderboard only consider observations identified to species. We are currently at 433 with UNCG leading with 466 and UNCW following with 323.

Species numbers can still change a bit as they are based on identifications being added to observations. Not every observation can be narrowed down to a species. Good quality pictures are often needed to clearly identify something. Some tips:

  • Try to get your camera to focus on the right thing and if there are multiple organisms in the picture add a note to clarify which one you are observing.
  • Get a picture of the whole plant/animal if you can, add a note on habitat as that might be important for ID (e.g. substrate a moss or lichen is growing on).
  • Get close/zoom in for details (which details are important depends on the type of organism, e.g. for mushrooms you often need a view of the gills on the underside of the cap).
  • Try to get a few pictures from multiple angles, e.g. dorsal and lateral views of insects.
  • For flowers, also include pictures of stem and leaves as well - sometimes those provide the clues for identification.
  • For trees, buds and leaves are important - a single picture of bark often is not sufficient to identify it.
  • Once you have multiple pictures of an organism, it's important to combine them into one observation rather than upload them all separately.

The better quality our observations are, the more likely they will be identifiable to species and the more useful they are going to be to scientific projects!

Posted on April 21, 2023 11:57 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 22, 2023

Rainy start into the weekend

Hello AppState BioBlitz Team,

were you awoken by thunder this morning? It's pouring right now where I am! Fortunately, it is supposed to clear up again this afternoon and should stay dry tomorrow for the last day of the BioBlitz. The rain may actually bring on some new observation opportunities after a very dry week. Mosses and liverworts will look particularly lush today, lichens may change color when wet, and the many salamanders we have in the area may come out of hiding. Be prepared for cooler temperatures as this front passes through and bring an extra layer of clothing if you go out later today and tomorrow.

We will have the gate open at the ASU Dark Sky Observatory this afternoon from 1-4 PM (PDF with map and directions - GPS will get you there as well). Feel free to stop by whenever it is convenient for you during that time frame! You can park at the building at the end of the road or anywhere along the road as long as you are not blocking it. There's forest edge habitat to explore, as well as several logging roads that go into the woods.

As of this morning, we have accumulated about 62% of the number of observations and 84% of the number of species we had at this point in the week during our Fall 2022 BioBlitz. Great job everyone considering that our observer numbers this time around are just 56% of the numbers we had in fall! Our top observers right now are kirnsc with 217 observations and nicole_lowder with 142 species. Coming in third are brookesbees for observation numbers and leighalobelia for species count.

We have some catching up to do again today on UNCG. We were slightly ahead in number of species last night, but as of this morning they have pulled ahead of us again. This is going to be a tight race over the weekend! UNCW may be trailing in terms number of observations, but they have a far greater ratio of species to observation count compared to us and UNCG. Current numbers are:
UNCG - 1,941 observations / 516 species
AppState - 1,832 observations / 510 species
UNCW - 849 observations / 350 species

Posted on April 22, 2023 11:48 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2023

Last day of the BioBlitz!

Hi everybody,

last day of our BioBlitz for spring 2023 and AppState is leading this morning! Stunning effort from everyone involved in pulling us ahead yesterday. Nothing quite like a sprint on the finish line, right? Will we be able to stay on the top today? Or will UNCG catch up again? It's looking like another gorgeous spring day out there, but feels a bit more like winter again starting the day with a freeze warning. Bring an extra layer of clothing if you go out this morning.

We have four participants who each made close to or over 200 observations so far with leighalobelia taking the lead. That gets us two of the top 5 observer spots. Leading that list are jaajowele from UNCG with over 400 observations and iantb from UNCW with 350. Collectively, we have over 1,200 species identified across all three universities so far. I'm looking forward to taking a closer look at all that data to see what everybody found and which species seem unique to each campus.

The competition ends at midnight today. Let's get out there one more day and see what else we can find!

Posted on April 23, 2023 01:14 PM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose | 1 comment | Leave a comment