December 18, 2021

How to change the place/location name associated with an observation

As promised in my previous journal entry, I'm going to provide some tips on changing the "place" or location name associated with your observations. This is for those who currently put place names in the "Notes" field.

Before providing instructions, I thought I've provide a bit of background for those who wonder why someone would want to enter their own Place/Location name. The Ontario Butterfly Atlas website does not show exact locations for observations. On the maps, the finest granularity at which the observations are mapped is at the level of 10km "squares". A square that's 10km on a side covers a lot of ground. The Atlas can also display various lists of observations. The Lat/Long coordinates are never displayed in those lists, so without some kind of Location name, it's tough for someone viewing the lists to know where any particular observation was made.

When you enter an observation into iNat, it will get the Lat/Long from the photo (if they are included), or you can enter the coordinates manually. Using those coordinates, iNat will automatically generate a Place/Location name for your observation. I don't know exactly how this is done, but depending on where you are, the Place names are often vague - often little more than a County name. For some reason, it will generate different place names for observations with the exact same coordinates. I assume some folks have noticed this deficiency and that's why they have taken to putting more specific/accurate place names in the Notes of their observations. As I said in my previous post, that's great, but it would be better if they simply replaced the default place name with their specific one.

The information below applies when you are accessing the iNaturalist website using a computer. I don't use the iNat app so I'm not sure how to do this on a smart phone. ( Yes, you can submit your observations to iNat using the iNat website. You don't HAVE to use the App on your phone).

For an existing observation, this is fairly easy. You can get to the Edit Observation page a number of ways. If you bring up the full view of the observation, there should be an "Edit" button at the top right of the page. If you click on your profile image up at the top right of any page, the drop down menu includes an "Edit Observations" option. If you select it, you'll see a list of your observations, and for each one, there's an edit option over on the right hand side of the list. Once you get to the Edit page, you should see a map near the center of the page. Above the map, there's a block with the legend "Where were you?", and the box below the legend contains the current place/location name associated with your observation. You can change that name, and then click "Save Observation" at the bottom of the page. That's it! Easy peasy.

If you want to enter your place/location name at the time you are submitting your observations, it's handy if you upload all the photos you took at a particular location/date at the same time. Either Drag/Drop them into the upload page, or select them via the upload dialogue. You can select observations individually by clicking on them, clicking and dragging a box around them, or by clicking the "Select All" option at the top of the page to select all your observations. This brings up some editing options on the far left that will apply to your selected observations. If you select ALL your observations for that date/location, it's like you've created a "virtual checklist", where you can now edit attributes of these observations as a group. If you click on the location box on the left, it brings up a map where you can zoom in and click on the location that you want to attribute you observations to, or you can enter the Lat/Long you got from a GPS device. Then you can drag the boundary of the accuracy circle so that it encompasses the whole area covered by your virtual checklist. At the bottom right, there's a box called "Locality Notes". This is the Place/Location Name! Why iNaturalist doesn't label this consistently is a mystery. It will contain some default name generated by iNat. You can give it your own name. Before you click the "Update Observations" buttom at the bottom, consider whether this is a location you visit frequently. If you think you may want to report observations for this location in the future, click the "Pin" button beside the Locality Notes box. This adds the location to your list of Pinned locations (which appears at the top of this page). In the future, when you want to report observations for this location again, you can just click on your pinned locations and select a location from the list. Not only does this save you the bother of entering the coordinates over and over again, but it means you will use the same name for the same location over time.

When you are happy with the location coordinates, accuracy, and locality notes (place name), just click on "Update Observations" and this location will be applied to all the selected observations. If you have other information that applies to all the observations, you can enter it at this time. For example, if you want to enter something in the Notes field that applies to all the observations, you can do so on the left hand side. This is also a good time to add fields like "Additional Observers" and "Habitat", since those are usually things that would usually apply to all the observations in your "checklist". You will see "Fields" in the list on the left hand side. Just click on it, type the name of the field you want to add in the box that appears. After you add a field to an observation, iNat remembers it and will offer it in a dropdown menu the next time you add a field to an observation. When you are done entering all the information that applies to multiple observations, you can click on the individual observations and add notes/fields that only apply to individual observations.

To my mind, this is far more efficient than editing every observation individually. This is probably old hat to a lot of iNat users, but based on what I see in the observations received by the Butterfly Atlas, at least some observers aren't exploiting these capabilities. I don't enter very many observations into iNaturalist, so there are probably other tricks that I'm unaware of. I hope this helps.

Posted on December 18, 2021 19:48 by rcavasin rcavasin | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Tips on data entry (that will help the TEA's Ontario Butterfly Atlas)

While processing iNat observations from 2020/2021 for inclusion in the Ontario Butterfly Atlas, I'm finding that folks are adding all kinds of information to the "Notes" section of their iNat observations. This is great - better that the information be included somewhere than omitted completely. However, isn't necessarily the "best" place for some pieces of information. If observers are going to go to the trouble of adding this information, they can greatly help the Ontario Butterfly Atlas by putting the information in places where our software can find it more easily.
One of the things I see most frequently is a location name (eg. "Ganaraska Forest"). iNaturalist enters a default location name based on the Lat/Long of the observation. This default name is often vague, so this additional information can be very important. However, when you put it in the Notes, it means that someone has to manually copy it into the location field in our database, which is a lot of work, and is error prone. iNat users should note that they are free to edit/replace the default location name that iNaturalist assigns to their observations. It's pretty straightforward, and you can apply the same location name to a group of observations (at the time you are entering them). I'll create a separate post with instructions on how to do this, but our suggested format for the location format is to start with a town/city/region name, and then append something more specific like a park or trail. In other words, go from something general to something more specific.
For example:
Toronto - Edward's Garden
Algonquin PP - Old Airfield
Khartum - Doorley Creek Rd - km 2

Sometimes the location that iNat inserts is fine. You can use your judgement as to whether or not it needs to be "tweaked".

Other pieces of information that folks often put in the Notes are things like:
number of individuals observed*
life stage (adult, larva, etc.)*
additional observers*

The items marked with an asterisk are of particular interest to the Atlas project (especially the life stage!!!), but when these pieces of information are all crammed into the Notes, it means that somebody has to separate them out and copy that information from the Notes into their proper fields of the Atlas database.

If observers would like to help the Ontario Butterfly Atlas, one thing that would be a huge help would be to include these pieces of information in specific Observation Fields that are dedicated to them. When they are included in their proper Observation Fields, the software we use to process the iNat data can put this information into the proper fields automatically. This saves a huge amount of time, and is far less error prone.

Please note that over the years, hundreds (possibly thousands) of Observation Fields have been defined in iNat by different people. When we download the iNat data, we have to specify which fields we want to include, and we can only download and process a limited number of them. So if you put your additional information in a field other than the one we have chosen, the Atlas won't receive it - it would be better to just leave it in the Notes.

The fields we have chosen for the Atlas project are the following:
Count (the number of individuals you are reporting - you can give a total of those seen/photographed)
Insect Life Stage (you don't have to specify that it was an adult. we will assume it's an adult unless this field is set to some other value)
Additional Observers (give a list of observers other than yourself, separated by commas)
Habitat - any notes about the habitat you feel are important

Using these Observation Fields is completely optional. If you feel it is too much trouble, please continue to include the information in the Notes. Please note that these fields have to be added to your observations - they are not there by default (some projects automatically add fields to your observations, but the Ontario Butterfly Atlas doesn't do that). I am not suggesting that anyone should go back and add these Observation fields to their existing observations. You can if you want, but this is mostly for observations you are going to add in the future.

In addition, the Atlas captures the following Observation Fields:
Nectar Plant (self explanatory)
Insect Host Plant (please use this for larvae/eggs - not for nectaring adults)

However, whatever we find in those fields gets copied into the Notes field of the Atlas, so there is no need to add these fields if you prefer to just put the information in the Notes of your iNat observation. But if you are going to add these fields, then there's no need to duplicate the information in the Notes as well (some people have been doing this).

In Summary:
Instead of putting a location name in your observation Notes, you can simply EDIT the default location name that iNat assigns to your observation.

The Ontario Butterfly Atlas captures and processes the following Observation Fields, so it is preferable to include the pertinent information in these fields rather than the Notes:
Insect Life Stage (very important, but optional for adults)
Count (optional, and only really necessary if you're reporting more than one individual)
Additional Observers (only add the field if you need to report an additional observer)
Nectar Plant
Insect Host Plant ( use for larval host plants )

Feel free to add other Observation Fields, but please be aware that the Atlas won't "see" the information you put there.

Posted on December 18, 2021 14:00 by rcavasin rcavasin | 4 comments | Leave a comment

December 17, 2021

A note about "Geoprivacy" and the TEA's Ontario Butterfly Atlas

The TEA maintains an online Atlas of Butterfly observations for the province of Ontario. The Atlas aggregates observations from a number of sources, including iNaturalist. In recent years, iNaturalist users have made increasing use of the "Geoprivacy" setting to obscure the locations of their observations. In the past, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas was able to include obscured observations if observers granted project curators permission to "see" their hidden locations. In 2021, iNaturalist changed how they handle obscured observations, and now iNaturalist obscures both the location and the date of these observations. Because of this change, and the increasing concern around privacy settings in general, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas will no longer include obscured observations in our database, even when the observer has granted us permission to "see" the precise location/date of these observations.

With thousands of observations posted to iNaturalist every year, we don't have the resources to keep track of who is "OK" with the level of information that the Atlas reveals and who is not. The TEA simply can't take the risk of revealing information about observations that observers want or need to keep hidden. Therefore, the safest course of action is for the Atlas is to simply exclude all iNaturalist observations where the Geoprivacy is set to obscured (or private). Long time contributors to the Ontario Butterfly Atlas who want to see their observations included in the Atlas should consider whether obscuring their observations is really necessary. There are certainly a number of circumstances where it's the appropriate thing to do, but only in very rare circumstances is it because the butterfly in question needs "protection".

In summary, if you obscure your observations using the Geoprivacy setting, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas will not include those observations. Furthermore, I will no longer verify the identifications of these observations (because TANSTAAFL).

Please note that this policy will (eventually) be applied retroactively to all observations in the Atlas database, so long term contributors may see some of their older observations "disappear" from the Atlas if those observations have the Geoprivacy setting set to "obscured" or "private".

Also note that I'm not telling anybody that they shouldn't use the Geoprivacy setting. What I'm saying is, if you ask that your observations be obscured, the Atlas project will respect your request. Just consider whether it's what you really want.

For those who are OK with the level of detail revealed by the Butterfly Atlas, but don't want to set the Geoprivacy on their iNat observations to "open", there is a solution. Observers can submit their observations to the Atlas Project using a spreadsheet. Contact me (rcavasin) for details.

Posted on December 17, 2021 14:38 by rcavasin rcavasin | 5 comments | Leave a comment

October 20, 2021

Butterflies and Bombs

Catchy title, isn't it? I came across this podcast about a long-term project to save the Saint Francis' satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci), a butterfly that is only found at the the U.S. military base, Fort Bragg. It is found in and around a live fire artillery range. The evolution of the researcher's view on how to protect an insect that lives in the same place that the U.S. special forces are trained is very interesting.

for Apple users, here is a link to the Apple podcast podcast page

Posted on October 20, 2021 01:50 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 06, 2021

Opportunity to participate in the LepSoc conference

The Lepidopterists's Society annual meeting is online this year - consider it an upside of Covid. Members and non-members are welcome to participate for a small fee. The schedule is now available so that you can see if any of the sessions are of interest:

The schedule for the combined annual meeting of the LEPIDOPTERISTS’ SOCIETY, SOUTHERN LEPIDOPTERISTS’ SOCIETY, ASSOCIATION FOR TROPICAL LEPIDOPTERA, and SOCIETAS EUROPAEA LEPIDOPTEROLOGICA has been posted on the Lepidopterists' Society website.

Registration information is available here:

Posted on August 06, 2021 01:41 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 31, 2021

Mottled Duskywing reintroduction at the Pinery

There is a great profile of the long-term project by Jessica Linton and Ryan Norris to reintroduce the Mottled Duskywing to Pinery Provincial Park in today's Globe and Mail:

Posted on May 31, 2021 12:56 by dkaposi dkaposi | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 13, 2021

Post on Red Admiral migration in the midwest

Royce Blitzer (@iowabiologist) tracks migration of the vanessa butterflies and recently had a note on the 2021 migration pattern in the US midwest:

Posted on May 13, 2021 01:03 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2021

Conserving Rare Butterflies in Michigan

Alan Macnaughton forwarded a link to the recent LepSoc News.
"The article with the above title is in the latest issue of the LepSoc News. The whole issue is available at the link below, and it is not behind a paywall:"

There is also some great photography of butterflies of NW India, and some news on the western North American Monarch population.

Posted on April 24, 2021 18:47 by dkaposi dkaposi | 1 comment | Leave a comment

March 06, 2021

Update on wintering Monarchs and two upcoming presentations

From TEA member Don Davis:


On Feb 25, 2021, WWF Mexico, in collaboration with their partners, released the latest population data for Monarchs wintering in Mexico in 2020-21. Monarchs occupied 2.10 hectares in December 2020, compared to 2.83 hectares in 2019 – a 26% decline from the previous year.

Major factors that impact the Monarch population include climate and habitat availability.

Also released was data related to the degradation of the Monarch wintering forest in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve from 2019-20. Best calculations suggest that the percentage of degradation quadrupled from the previous year, mostly due to illegal logging but also because of drought and wind falls.

Observers in Canada and the United States were not surprised by the reported Monarch population decline, having observed reduced numbers on July 1st counts and also during the annual fall migration.

Earlier, on January 29, 2021, Xerces Society announced that only 1914 wintering Monarchs were counted along the California coast – a decline from the 1980’s of 99.9%.

Many are concerned about the dire consequences of winter storms and record cold temperatures in Texas and northern Mexico during the period Feb. 10 – 20, 2021. Nearly all above ground vegetation and insects died back. We know that the size of the summer Monarch population in Canada is driven by the early reproductive success of Monarchs in Texas and the southern United States.

As scientists and others monitor the return and reproductive success of Monarchs in their northern breeding grounds, your reports and observations for all life stages of Monarchs to Ontario Butterfly Atlas and Journey North will be particularly important in 2021, as will your efforts to provide nectar sources and breeding habitat for Monarchs.

Monarch Butterfly Fund, a U.S. based non-profit organization chaired by Don Davis, will again be funding reforestation projects in the Monarch Reserve, and workshops to benefit local communities. These workshops will include building high efficiency wood stoves and water cisterns, and sustainable farming and forestry practices. MBF recently held a highly successful webinar about Monarchs in Mexico and will soon be posting an informative fact sheet to questions posed by participants. Go to:

Link to MBF webinar:


On Tuesday March 9 at 1pm EST, join Monarch Crusader Carol Pasternak as she interviews Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist Brenda Dziedzic. Brenda is the author of the enormously popular Raising Butterflies in the Garden, now in its stunning and detailed second edition. We'll get an inside view of her kitchen table rearing lab, as well as a video tour of her small urban garden, which attracts more than 30 species of Lepidoptera. Click here to register:

Monarch Joint Venture – Monarch Conservation Webinar Series. Outstanding presentations about many topics related to Monarchs and their conservation. Next event will be held on March 23, 2020:

Posted on March 06, 2021 13:35 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 08, 2021

More education & information options - a presentation Feb 9 from the McGuire Center Seminar series

The McGuire Center Seminar program presents the webinar series: "Expanding Horizons in Lepidoptera Research"

Please join us to hear about the latest advances in diverse fields of Lepidoptera research, including evolution, genetics, ecology, biology, and conservation, among others.

Talks are open to all via Zoom at the following link:
The next talk in the series is:

Melanie Lalonde and Jeffrey Marcus
“The Chronicles of Junonia: Evolutionary travels in space and time in an emerging butterfly model system”
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Tuesday, Feb. 9th, 12 p.m. ET

The series schedule is available here:

Posted on February 08, 2021 14:08 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment