atjelmeland

Joined: Apr 10, 2018 Last Active: Sep 17, 2020

I am the Upper Coast Project Director with The Nature Conservancy in Texas. As a researcher, I’ve studied birds, grassland restoration, and invasive plant species and currently study grassland restoration in this role as well as managing lands and regional projects. I office at the Texas City Prairie Preserve where I often grab my camera as I go and spend some time learning about the natural resources of the preserve. My interests tend to be location-based rather than taxon-based. I recently engaged in a personal hobby to learn and document moth taxa of the preserve and now as new moth species have slowed down, it has expanded to include nearly all photographable taxa on the preserve.

My iNaturalist philosophy:
All research depends upon accurate and reliable data. That being said, with any Citizen Science method of data collection, there must be some expectation of error which is balanced by the volume of data received. Furthermore, there are natural limitations of identification of many taxa via digital media. I, like most people on iNaturalist do not consider myself an expert in any field of taxonomy. However, I still make efforts to do the best I can to identify my observations and to verify other's identifications based on things I've learned from my experience, from looking at reliable guides and from the true experts here on iNaturalist. I do this because 1) there are not enough experts to identify every observation on iNat, 2) in order to get the observation to the right experts, it's important to identify it to the closest taxon you can, and 3) it's crucial to the process of learning. Naturally, I do not bat 1000 on this nor does anyone else. If I'm corrected on an observation by someone, I'll pull my ID if I'm not comfortable with confirming theirs or I'll look into it and confirm their identification if I feel comfortable doing so reliably. Research grade does not mean 100% accuracy, it just means it has been vetted by two or more people who have hopefully done their best they can to confirm their identification. The fact that iNat allows anyone to ID and not just curators suggests they're encouraged to do just that.

The power of iNat is that you don't have to be an expert to use it. You no longer have to be an expert- scouring the world collecting and pinning bugs or making bird and animal skins- to make a contribution to science in some small way. Sometimes my observations lead to discussions with researchers and collections for their research projects to further our understanding of the world. In my short time, I've seen strides in the art and science of photograph-based identification methods for many organisms.

I've learned a great deal about identification of organisms around me since being on iNat. it's important to foster that learning environment in others. This includes being patient with someone who occasionally comes up with a wacky ID, explaining why you feel the ID is not correct, and suggesting resources for them to improve. It would be pretty boring and not very useful if everyone only added "Insect", for example, since they don't consider themselves an expert in entomology or "bird" since they're not an ornithologist.

In conclusion: Go forth and learn!

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