Journal archives for November 2016

November 19, 2016

The nature of identifying nature. :) Appreciation for those that spend time ID'ing for others...

There's a 'hidden' page that you should watch:
http://www.inaturalist.org/stats

The folks at iNat really like statistics, I think (right? @kueda @loarie @tiwane @joelle @alexshepard @pleary )... Well, if you look at the stats page, you can see some really interesting trends and fluctuations. I set all of the time frames to max so that I can see the trends over the longest time possible... It's so beautiful to see the growth of observations and observers. I can only speak from my precedent and the folks that I talk to, but the more that we observe, the more that we actively want to observe -- exploration leads to more exploration. This is a great thing! :)

However, with the influx of observations from folks just trying out iNat and with the surge of explorers exploring, it leaves a LOT of observations that are awaiting some guidance... Guidance comes in the form of comments, ID's, encouragement, messages -- it creates a welcoming community. This is why iNat is something special, I think. It's not an app, it's not just a tool, it's a community and network. I'm obnoxiously bonkers about it. :)

However, I've also discussed citizen science and iNaturalist with my friends in academia, and I'm surprised at how many folks are opposed to the concept of the ID's by non-experts... When a 'non-expert' ID's something, it's as though science is diluted, or so they say. It's quite true that many organisms can't be identified with 100% certainty with just a photo or two. Maybe too much value is placed on getting an observation to "research grade" as well. I have a bit of a different view, and it's why I've continued to use iNat. The ID is guidance and a 'welcome to iNat,' not the final answer.

As I've worked in the herbarium with a collection of nearly 1 million plant specimens, I would see specimens packed with annotations (corrections on the ID) as well as countless specimens awaiting an ID... I think this is the nature of all collections -- many times specimens (or observations, in the case of iNat) await guidance and identifications... ID's can be wrong, and that's ok -- as they are re-examined eventually, perhaps the correct ID is placed on the observation. No natural history collection is stagnant. :)

So, my most heart-felt appreciation to those that identify observations for others. What you really do when you ID something is invite that observer to the community. Nature appreciation is amplified when you're part of a community that values that trait. That's tremendously valuable -- I'd even argue that it's life changing.

Again, big time props to the new identify tool as well -- it's easier to provide guidance now more than ever. I tend to filter observations to Texas, and remove the ones that "need ID." This loads up all of the verifiable observations, even those that have already been verified by others. Here's the link I use:
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?quality_grade=any&place_id=18

Also, it's ok to 'agree' with the already agreed ID's, I think. Not only does it appear to be more invitation to the iNat community, but it also adds more consensus to the identification. As new users come along and perhaps give a more broad ID, if there's a lot of consensus already, the taxon stays with the consensus rather than the new more broad ID.

I was going to tag the folks that have identified so many of my observations, but there are sooo many folks that have welcomed me to this community. As a matter of fact, here they are:
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=grid&user_id=sambiology&view=identifiers
737 people have welcomed me to this community of iNaturalist. Thanks. :)

Posted on November 19, 2016 04:12 by sambiology sambiology | 19 comments | Leave a comment