Photography and citizen science 

One of the interesting and important things about photography of naturally occurring organisms in the internet age is that photos can become usable data. If you post a photo on the Internet which has an identifiable organism in it with time and location information, you have now produced a potential data point in any number of studies dealing with conservation, biogeography, phenology, or any number of other fields. Organizing that data is a major challenge. However, a plethora of organizations and sites have taken up the task of transforming the observations of people around the country or world into standardized data sets. Many are niche projects, limited taxonomically or geographically, such as BAMONA (butterflies and moths of North America) or the lost ladybug project. Others are larger and broader in scope, such as iNaturalist, an all-in-one place to upload observations in the form of photos or even sound clips from anywhere in the world of any kind of organism.

duck

My first observation on iNaturalist, a mallard duck in the Hudson River

I have posted observations on iNaturalist since 2008, albeit with some major gaps that I am working on filling. My observations have been used for projects such as a survey of Mid-Atlantic terrestrial arthropods or biodiversity of Louisiana. I have seen iNat grow a lot over my time submitting observations, and when I saw that over two million observations have been submitted I was amazed. I now take a lot of pride in the fact that my first observation on the site was it’s 76th.

large

Sieboldius albardae, a Japanese dragonfly which I mistook for an Oni-Yanma (genus Anotogaster). Helpful iNat members assisted me in correcting the ID.

As many kind and helpful people have assisted me in identifying my observations, I am trying to put more effort in helping those with unidentified arthropods (especially crustaceans) get good IDs on their photos. I try to look over new unidentified submissions during my lunch break.

 

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