July 02, 2021

500 days of observations

Yesterday I hit 500 consecutive days with at least 1 observation each day, running Feb 18. 2020 to July 1, 2021. For those 500 days, I have 7950 observations total. That's an average of 15.9 observations a day (significantly boosted by having 2 city nature challenges in that time frame), with a high of 304 and a low of 1. So far I have 1057 unique taxa identified. Of those, 5805 observations (73%) are currently identified to genus level, 4521 (57%) are identified to species, and 3505 (44%) are research grade. Arthropods make up the majority of observations (43%), followed by birds and plants at 25% each. Other vertebrates only make up ~2 % of those observations (mammals, amphibians and reptiles, no fish). Other major groups include mollusks (4%), crustaceans (~1%), and fungi and lichens (~1%). All observations were made in southern California, within 100 miles of my home. We haven't travelled for more than a day trip since the pandemic hit. Most observations were local (74%), and a good chunk of observations were around my home and yard (35%). Another 7% of observations were made around the places I work. We are lucky to have mountains, desert and beaches all within a couple of hours drive, which provided wonderful places for some of our day trips for the other ~20% of observations. I am hoping to continue my observation streak through the end of the year, maybe beyond. I will see how it goes.

Posted on July 02, 2021 05:58 PM by beetle_mch beetle_mch | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 02, 2021

Beetle_mch year in review 2020

Jan 1, 2021
Not long after the stay at home orders for COVID 19 started on March 13, 2020, I noticed that I had made at least one observation everyday for a month. I decided to try and continue that trend for the duration of the quarantine period, thinking it would only be a few weeks. Now 2020 has come to an end and I have made at least one observation everyday for 318 days. I made 5020 observations this year. (I lost one hummingbird observation from the official count because it was marked as “can’t be improved” at the family level. It was a picture I took in the morning during city nature challenge. It is clearly a hummingbird, but the colors and markings are washed out, so it can’t be easily identified. I didn’t know before this that that would knock an observation out of the verifiable pool. It bothers me. As an entomologist, I have many observations that I would be thrilled if I could only get them solidly identified to family. I admit that for this particular phot, the quality is only so-so for a bird, but there are many other types of life where kicking out observations at the family or higher level with IDs that can’t be improved would lose a ton a valuable data that people have put a lot of work into identifying.

The most observations I had in one day for 2020 was 159, on April 25, during city nature challenge. I had more than 100 observations every day during city nature challenge, with a total of 504 observations. It was the first year I participated in city nature challenge, and a strange year to start since it was all solitary observing. Getting that many observations a day was exhausting, and uploading them all was exhausting too. It was fun to do for a weekend, but I cannot imagine becoming a top observer and doing that on a daily basis year round. Big observation days aren’t that common for me, and usually involve traveling to a more unique environment. My big observation days tended to be days we went hiking in the mountains, or went to the beach. I had 6 days with 50-100 observations, and 40 days with 25-50 observations. All our travel was local day trips. I am glad I live in a region with a variety of ecosystems to visit within an hour or so driving. There were only 7 days in 2020 that I did not make an observation, all before COVID hit California- Jan 8, 11, 12, Feb 2, 3, 15 and 17. There were 26 days I only had one observation, and 24 days I had only 2 observations. I did best at getting out an observing March through June. The cool weather helped, and even though we didn’t travel, I am fortunate to live in a city that maintains a lot of nature trails, including one that runs just a few blocks from my house. It also helped that when schools switched to distance learning in March, they significantly reduced class time, and left a lot of open time for families. This gave us a chance for a lot of family hiking. The small backyard pool we had up for several months also helped. I found a lot of new insect species by skimming the pool. Hopefully someday I will have more of them identified. As August approached, and I taught my summer class online (Entomology 10, an introductory course for non-science majors) I had very little free time. When my daughters went back to school in mid-August, their schedule was very intense, with the school district emphasizing that they would offer a rigorous education experience. That seems to translate into “we will give you lots of extra homework to make up for not being in a classroom” especially for my poor high school daughter. So I was helping my girls get through their school day, tech troubles and manage homework, while doing my online work as best I could during their school day, and working on campus or running necessary errands in the evening and on weekends. It was a very grueling schedule for all of us. There were many days I barely managed to see anything, just time for a quick check for any insects caught in the pool, or something by the porch light in the evening. Still, having iNaturalist has been a lifeline for me in those hard times.

I could not resist comparing my performance in 2020 to other iNaturalist users. Worldwide, I ranked 292nd out of 811,253 observers for number of observations during 2020. I ranked 449th for number of species observed (582 for me). My identification efforts did not make the charts for worldwide identifiers. My IDs were listed as 3954 for my year in review, although looking through my list of IDs, 1 see 4200. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy. However, worldwide rankings, place 500 had 9752 identifications, so I was still a long way from that. In North America I ranked 178th of 518,207 observers for number of observations and 424th for number of species, still not ranked for identifications. In the United states, I ranked 134th of 433,415 observers for number of observations and 398th for number of species, and still not ranked for identifications- but spot 500 had 4572 identifications, so I am getting closer to making the list. In California I ranked 27th of 70,328 observers for number of observations and 105th for number of species. For California I ranked 203rd for number of identifications, out of 14,478 identifiers in California, providing 2093 identifications for California observations. For southern California I ranked 13th of 34,253 observers for number of observations and 39th for number of species. For California I ranked 102nd for number of identifications, out of9241 identifiers in southern California, providing 1883 identifications for southern California observations, so nearly half of my identifications were focused on my local area.

I spend most of my identification time trying to help out with Order and Family identifications of Insects and Pterygota, often in North America, sometimes world-wide. I would also look though unknown observations, mostly in southern California. Sometimes I would look through all observations that needed ID in my very local area, and identify whatever I could. And there was a small handful of insects I have worked with that I would occasionally look through to identify to species. Another source of ID work was the digital insect collections I had my students do for my summer class. This was the second year I used iNaturalist for a digital insect collection. I try to make sure I give some identification feedback on everything they post during the class.

2020 was my second full year using iNaturalist. It was a very different experience from 2019. The number one location for my observations in 2020 was in my own yard. I recorded 2,131 observations at home, about 43% of all observations this year, and 309 species. While I very much enjoy backyard birding, arthropods were my main source of observations at home, making up 85% of my observations here. I had three main techniques for observing arthropods at home. Number one was our backyard pool. We had a small pool (10 ft diameter, 3 ft deep) set up from late spring well into fall. I regularly checked out arthropods in the pool, scoping them out with a small fish net to photograph them. This accounted for 40% of my observations at home, with 851 observations and 128 species identified so far. I tracked the swimming pool arthropods in a project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/beetle_mch-swimming-pool-arthropods. Regularly checking the back porch light was another great source of observations. I also had some carrots I let flower and go to seed. Checking those flower heads was a great source of insects through the spring and summer. Overall I found 240 species of arthropods in my back yard, compared to 24 species of birds. My most common arthropods were western honey bee, metallic sweat bees, Asian lady beetles, Ceratagallia leafhoppers and tripartite sweat bees. My most common birds were black phoebes, white-crowned sparrows, California towhees, northern mockingbirds and mourning doves. Western fence lizard also made my top ten back yard sightings.

This was the year of staying home. About 80% of my observations this year were made at home or on local trails and open spaces in my city. That compares to 56% of my observations made close to home in 2019. Another 8% of my 2020 observations were made while traveling for work-related field work. That left about 12% of my observation made while taking day trips, all within 70 miles of home. In spite of staying in territory where I have previously recorded many observations, I logged 376 new species this year. Another change for me this year was an increased proportion of observations of insects. Although I am employed as an Entomologist, insect taxonomy is not my area of specialization, and while observing for iNaturalist, I had been in the habit of looking for the larger more charismatic plants and animals. This year I focused on a lot of the small animals in my yard, and as a result, I am much more familiar with many of the local insect species. This year 46% of my observations recorded insects, and 38% of the species I observed were insects. For comparison, in 2019, 30% of my observations were insects, as well 30% of the species I observed.

Posted on January 02, 2021 01:25 AM by beetle_mch beetle_mch | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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