Publishing new records without voucher specimens?

Curious... I was looking through the relatively recent papers that use iNaturalist data (https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/published-papers-that-use-inaturalist-data-wiki/2859), and I'm wondering if anyone has published a paper on a state/county/country record based JUST on iNaturalist observations... I think most publications use physical vouchers as well as photovouchers, but I'm not sure if there's been one with JUST photovouchers. Anyone know?

Traditionally with plants and bugs, I think a physical voucher is usually required for publication... I guess it would depend on the journal, but I'm not finding any papers that use solely photovouchers.

Would love any input! :)

Posted by sambiology sambiology, July 03, 2020 00:15

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Not that I know about. FWIW in my pre-iNat days this paper included a few photovouchers for rare or incidental taxa using SEINet's General Research Observations feature (e.g., here and here).

Posted by stevejones 4 months ago (Flag)
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I'm sure I have a few dozen county records with photographs only, but it's never occurred to me to publish new county records. More noteworthy, usually, are the county deletions... my experience in the taxa I've looked through in detail is that species erroneously reported in counties where they are absent are far more frequent than species occurring in counties where they have not been reported.

Posted by aspidoscelis 4 months ago (Flag)
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Hi Sam, thanks for tagging.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283503478_Second_contribution_to_the_vascular_flora_of_the_Sevastopol_area_the_Crimea

This paper is from the pre-iNat era, but it reports some records (first level administrative unit, i.e. equalling "state") based on photovouchers published in Plantarium. We tried to confirm by a specimen as much records as possible, but this was not always achievable.

I think, photovouchers should not be neglected anyway.

Posted by apseregin 4 months ago (Flag)
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I don't know of any research that meets Sam's specific iNat-only documentation constraint. My frustration is building with those researchers who have recently published monographs and treatises still ignoring modern photovouchers as supplemental distributional data. There is a very recent example with moths: A brand new and controversial revision of the Tortricid genus Paralobesia (Royals et al. 2019. Mem. Lep. Soc. No. 6) shows the "easily recognizable" species P. cyclopiana ranging no further west than Louisiana, yet @stuartmarcus uploaded a beautiful example of the species from Liberty Co., TX, in June 2017, two years prior to the publication. (The species has actually been on the Texas checklist for at least a decade, probably based on specimen records of Knudson & Bordelon or other earlier researchers.) At some point, I am hoping that future generations of taxonomists and systematists will avail themselves of useful and readily available natural history data beyond just what they find in museum cases and DNA testing of cold, dead specimens.

Posted by gcwarbler 4 months ago (Flag)
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I'm going to try it in some of my Anisophyllum papers in hopes that they'll make it past peer review. There are some inherent problems with citing iNaturalist observations (possibility of deletion, random change all primarily due to ownership remaining with the observer, and the format being extremely young by curatorial standards), but it is an extremely rich data source to be sure.

Posted by nathantaylor 4 months ago (Flag)
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Yeah not sure about publishing requirements but we print and store photo records physically in the cabinets for things that can't be collected, usually because their rarity.

Posted by bouteloua 4 months ago (Flag)
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On the positive side, I've had two requests in recent weeks for use of my images of a couple of plants in monographic treatments of certain genera (Aristolochia in Texas and Lamourouxia in Mexico). So iNaturalist is clearly becoming a source for imagery in select cases.

Posted by gcwarbler 4 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks Chuck for tagging me. Not sure if this fits the discussion, but Peter Van Zandt used some photos of mine for his publication showing moths that nectar feed as a source of pollination. Something he couldn't get from voucher specimens. I also know of of some USDA entomologists using iNat photos to document exotic moths species (and other insects) spreading their known ranges which could lead to crop damages. These databases are ahead of the curve!

Posted by stuartmarcus 4 months ago (Flag)
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I think we have a new species of Allium in New Mexico & Arizona for which iNaturalist observations are important, come to think of it. It's fairly common and conspicuous, and we have hundreds of collections of this thing going back to the 1880s. However, while it's pretty obviously distinct and easy to identify in live specimens or photographs, it's rather obscure in herbarium material. I'd been thinking to myself for more than a decade that it didn't make sense to be calling all these plants the same species. Another botanist, Rich Spellenberg, emailed me with some of the same thoughts. Having iNaturalist handy meant it went very quickly from a vague suspicion hanging out in the back of my mind to confirming that it's not just something funny going on with a few plants that I've seen or photographed, but a consistently distinct and easily identifiable plant. There are enough observations to get a pretty good idea of its geographic distribution, too.

I'll need to look through many herbarium specimens to solidify my understanding once things are a bit closer to normal, of course, and I might still find out that I'm on the wrong track. If this does move forward to publication, though, it would be a case where a large set of herbarium specimens clearly has not been the right kind of information for us to understand what's going on, while a large set of photographs brings the situation to light.

Posted by aspidoscelis 4 months ago (Flag)
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Big time thanks for all of the comments here. Definitely useful and illuminating. :)

Posted by sambiology 4 months ago (Flag)

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