Journal archives for July 2016

July 07, 2016

Look at what you found!

At the closing ceremony on Saturday, May 21, @jfrancis and Ray Sauvajot announced the count at 886 species. Since then, thanks to your help, the count is up to 1,177 species as of this writing. It is also exciting to see that 20% of observations have reached research-grade status, which means they have gotten ID confirmation at the species level. There are still 4,348 observations from the BioBlitz that need ID confirmation or refinement so be sure to check them out (more about that new identification interface here).

If you haven't already, please check if all of the observations that you expect to be in this project are indeed in this project. If not, the first thing you should check is that your observations have coordinates that fall within the boundaries of the NPS units in the National Capitol Region. Feel free to message me directly if you have questions or problems.

The BioBlitz evaluation team would also love your feedback and you have a chance to win a $50 gift card if you complete the survey. You should have received an email from Ardice Hartry about the survey if you registered for BioBlitz in advance. In case you missed it, here are links to the two types of surveys:
Inventory leaders and Pro-Observers
Inventory participants

Remember to keep adding observations from our National Parks because they all count towards the 2016 servicewide total. iNaturalist has continued to improve the new upload tool on the website that streamlines the process of adding observations.

Thank you for helping make the long-term impact of BioBlitz the best that it can be!

Posted on July 07, 2016 04:23 PM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 09, 2016

Other platforms like iNaturalist

Two years ago when I started working on the [now defunct] Great Nature Project at National Geographic and integrating it with iNaturalist, I quickly starting growing a list of other platforms with a similar mission to help people record and share their observations of biodiversity and connect with other nature lovers. I thought I'd found a use for Pinterest, but apparently you can only see my "board" if you're logged in, and I don't blame anyone for not wanting to join Pinterest. In the process of starting to write this journal post, it occurred to me that the information may be most useful in spreadsheet form (I should have been doing that all along!).

Link to spreadsheet of platforms!

Generally, these other platforms fall into these four categories:
-Global and all-taxa (like iNaturalist)
-National/regional and all-taxa
-Taxonomically specific and global
-Restricted geographically and taxonomically

Among the platform, there are also ranges of:
-Social interaction (i.e. can you interact with other people's observations or just your own?)
-Data sharing (how much can you actually see/download?)
-Expert review
-Identification tools/resources
-Mapping tools
-Educational resources

Let me emphasize the following:
-The list is incomplete. I generally didn't list platforms that were restricted geographically AND taxonomically (e.g. gobotany). Feel free to suggest others that should be on here.
-I'm happy to give edit access to anyone interested in helping expand the spreadsheet.
-Some of the summary information I entered in the spreadsheet may be wrong. Please correct me! I usually didn't spend more than a few minutes on each site (specifically for the purposes of populating the spreadsheet) and may have missed things.
-I didn't include EOL in the list because it filled a related but separate niche of biodiversity information (rather than more strictly about observations/records).

I've been wanting to write this up for months, so what better way to spend this Friday night, right? I've dabbled here and there over the last couple of years and talked with some of the people involved in these sites, but others have been difficult to explore due to language barriers, complicated interfaces, and geographic/taxonomic limitations (i.e. I can't contribute to a platform in a country I've never visited). I also included iNaturalist's four country portals (Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand, and Canada) on their own lines but their numbers are included in the iNaturalist total. I included "unverifiable" observations in the counts because many other sites rely heavily on similarly reported records so I thought it would be a better comparison.

I may be wrong about this, but my impression also is that there were two "waves" of these platforms. Several started in 2009-2010 and most of those look like they haven't had much investment for the last few years. Then there's a second wave of newer platforms that started around 2012.

I find the little sites restricted to a small geographic area most fascinating. I have immense appreciation for the amount of time and skill that it takes to develop and maintain a platform like these, and I'm amazed that some of these tiny user markets have been able to fund themselves. I suspect that the vast majority of people/organizations that set out to create a platform vastly underestimate the resources needed to do it well (I've been that person and seen it first hand!). I think it's useful and important to have independent evolution of some platforms, but there's also a big argument for working together and pooling resources to build upon existing infrastructure (i.e. New Zealand's NatureWatch integrating directly with iNaturalist). The most extreme version of this I ever saw (and haven't included here) was a site developed solely for reporting a handful of snake species in a very small geographic area. In the success column, I convinced a project manager on iNaturalist not to try to make a custom iNat app branded for his project because he had an impossibly small budget.

Also interesting: it's really hard to find user numbers on most of these platforms! Please fill in any of the missing numbers if you can. It was hard to find numbers of observations/records too, but I could often estimate from a page count.

What do you think? What am I missing? Send me your email address if you want to be able to edit the spreadsheet.

Posted on July 09, 2016 04:07 AM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 63 comments | Leave a comment