Tim Messick

Joined: Feb 28, 2017 Last Active: Apr 19, 2021 iNaturalist Monthly Supporter since July 2020

Botanist, photographer, cartographer. Most familiar with the flora of the central and eastern Sierra Nevada and the western Great Basin. Interested in all biodiversity.

BA Botany ('80) and MA Biology ('82) from Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. My thesis then was a local flora of the Bodie Hills (Mono County, CA; Lyon and Mineral Counties, NV). Updating that annually as "Plants of the Bodie Hills, an Annotated Checklist", available at https://bodiehillsplants.com/downloads. Recently retired (April 2020) from my day job of preparing maps, visual simulations, and other report graphics for environmental planning and permitting documents at ICF in Sacramento, CA.

iNaturalist has been a great way to explore and learn from what others are seeing in places I know well or plan to visit. It lets me botanize when I can't be in the field. I enjoy helping others identify plants, and seeing the geospatial data set grow for a wide variety of species. Feel free to message me with questions.

For those new to the iNaturalist community, welcome! Here are some tips for making useful plant observations:

  1. Upload multiple photos per observation, showing flowers (face and profile), leaves (basal and stem leaves), fruits (if present), and overall growth habit. Many plants require all of these for an accurate ID. This is about providing context: showing the whole plant and enough closer photos to display all of its major parts — not just an isolated scrap of leaf, bark, or flower. Avoid covering most of the plant with your hand or fingers while showing just one flower. Habitat photos can be very helpful too: meadow, aquatic, alpine scree, coastal bluff, etc.
  2. Please use photos that are of reasonably good quality (focus, exposure, detail, etc.). Do not upload photos in which the subject is out of focus, blurred by camera motion, silhouetted against an overexposed background, etc. Bad photos are not useful for identification — even by experts.
  3. Pines and other conifers: please include photos of cones as well as a close view of the leaves and an overall view of the growth form. Most conifers cannot be identified from only their bark.
  4. Composites (Sunflower family): please include a side view of the flower head. The phyllaries (bracts around the head) are often essential for identification but these are usually hidden by the petals in a face view of the flower head.
  5. Do a "reality check" on IDs suggested by iNaturalist's "computer vision." Sometimes these are surprisingly, impressively accurate. Many times they are moderately to wildly inaccurate because the features needed for an accurate ID can't be detected in the photos. Computer vision does not take geography into account, and may suggest species that occur only hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your observation. Check the taxon page for the suggested species to look at other Research Grade photos of the plant, and look at the map of other observations to see where they occur. Use other web sites or books as references to reality-check a plant's appearance and geographic range.
  6. Please use the "Notes" section to tell us something about the habitat (physical setting or plant community), if that is not obvious in the photos. Include any other interesting comments or uncertainties you may have about the identification. For plants this could be like your "herbarium label."
  7. Don't click the "Agree" button to "Like" an observation. Please "agree" with an ID only if you actually know the plant and understand or concur with the technical basis for the proposed ID of an observation. Casual use of "Agree" when the ID is uncertain or incorrect erodes the scientific value of "Research Grade" observations.
  8. An "observation" is one or more photos of ONE organism (individual or population) taken at ONE location at ONE time. A single observation should not include photos of different subjects (a bush, a squirrel, an insect, a tree). Including a habitat photo is fine, though. Please do not make "observations" of people, pets, food, or trash. iNaturalist is mainly about documenting natural diversity in the wild—mostly alive, but road kills, scat, and other "sign" can be valid evidence of a recent live occurrence. Cultivated/captive subjects, people, and pets will be marked as "casual" observations, to keep them from cluttering the data for organisms in the wild.


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