Archivos de diario de marzo 2019

09 de marzo de 2019

Ghost Flowers in the Sonoran Desert - Observation of the Week, 3/8/2019

Our Observation of the Week is this Ghost Flower seen in Mexico by @micrathene!

“My parents met taking an adult birding class and they encouraged me to be interested in the natural world,” says Arizona ornithologist David Vander Pluym. “Some of my earliest memories are of new birds (and being a grumpy 3 year old about missing a life bird).” While birds remain his primary focus, David’s grown more interested in other taxa and will even branch out into collecting spider specimens this spring. And plants? “I've only been interested in flowers for a few years (after my wife got me interested in actually looking at plants) and still know next to nothing about them.”

However, ghost flowers (Mohavea confertiflora) have quickly become one of David’s favorites and he’s even found them in the parking lot of a bar! The plant photographed above (and below), however, was seen while on a trip to Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, on the way back from a trip to Puerto Penasco, Sonora “celebrating a couple of friends' birthdays as well as an excuse to look for birds, go tidepooling, and look for whatever else we might be able to iNat.”

The group, which included David’s wife Lauren and fellow iNatter Ryan O'Donnell (@tsirtalis), were hiking up Cono Mayo when Ryan pointed out the flowers to Lauren, “who identified them and called to me, who had walked right passed it! I looked back and noticed there was a small patch of them (I counted more than 50) near where they were looking and I quickly started photographing them. I think this one was one of the first I noticed and took a photo of.”

Native to the deserts of southwestern North America, ghost flowers do have a translucent  “ghostly” look to them, and David says “the number of plants out and the size and number of flowers on a single individual varies year to year too with local rainfall.” Interestingly, ghost flowers do not produce nectar but, according to the California Native Plant Society, are pollinated by Xeralictus bees, which also pollinate sand blazingstar flowers - a species that often grows in the same area. These bees are drawn to ghost flowers because the “flowers contain marks that resemble female Xeralictus; these marks operate as a sign stimulus to the male bee, which enters the flower and in doing so pollinates the Mohavea.”

David (above, in Álamos, Sonora with another non-bird organism) tells me that while he has used iNaturalist to quickly identify plants when he’s birding, he really iNats “as a way to learn more about other forms of life beyond my main focus. Being able to share sightings and have an identification made on some random organism I photographed has made me want to pay a lot more attention to other organisms I probably would have previously passed by. Being able to identify and put a name on something is a powerful thing.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Micrathene is a genus of owls which contains but one species, the elf owl, a bird that David has studied.

- It’s shaping up to be a good flower year in the deserts of southwestern North America. If you go, please tread lightly!

Publicado el marzo 9, 2019 06:56 MAÑANA por tiwane tiwane | 9 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de marzo de 2019

Sequoia Riverlands Trust and iNatting


For two of the last three weekends I went down to Tulare County with @kueda and @robberfly to check out some properties owned by Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT), including Blue Oak Ranch Preserve, pictured above. Sam Weiser (@sweiser), SRT's Education Coordinator, is the one who reached out and told us they were wanting to use iNaturalist more extensively on their properties and in my personal opinion they're doing an excellent job with outreach and education, we had a lot of fun. Other iNat users I met were @jvaughn2000 and @nancyb, and I'm sure I'm missing some others. It was really a great community.

Sam mentioned that SRT would like to really get an idea of what's living on their properties, so I'm just tagging a few iNat friends who might want to take a trip out to the Central Valley and the foothills to check out these places. A few are open to the public, but others are only open for special occasions. There will be a wildflower event at Blue Oak on April 6th and from what Ken-ichi and I saw plenty of plants were sprouting so I'm thinking it will be a good show. I'd love to go but have a previous engagement, alas.

Here is SRT's umbrella project:

And their calendar:

I should also note I'm writing this from a personal perspective and not as a representative of iNaturalist.

@catchang @gyrrlfalcon @dpom @rjadams55 @ang @sea-kangaroo @accordiongordon @leptonia @damontighe @eddiebug @flygrl67 @hfabian @merav and I'm sure I'm forgetting many others.

Publicado el marzo 12, 2019 10:35 TARDE por tiwane tiwane | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de marzo de 2019

Announcing the iNaturalist Community Forum

If you have been a long-time iNaturalist user, you may have chanced upon the “Feedback” link in the website’s footer and you may have even clicked on it. This would have brought you to our  Google Group, which dates back to iNat’s neolithic days. While it was an adequate place for a small community, iNaturalist has expanded beyond any definition of “small” so we have decided to move our feedback and discussion forum from Google Groups to the iNaturalist Community Forum, which is hosted by

The iNaturalist Community Forum is a place for iNaturalist users to discussion iNat-related topics, report bugs, and request new features. The forum has been up and running for a few weeks now - populated mostly by former Google Group users - so we could work out some kinks and understand the platform better. And while there are still improvements to be made, we’re announcing the forum’s existence to the broader iNaturalist community so you can join in!

Here’s how to join:

1. Go go

2. Click on “Sign Up” at the top of the page. If you are already signed into in your browser, you can sign up via iNaturalist and your username and profile picture will be ported over. Unfortunately this won’t work if you are logged in on one of our partner sites such as

You can also sign up by entering your email address and a password. Either way, it would be best to use your iNaturalist username on the forum, so everyone knows who you are.

3. Please read the first message you receive. It has links to Discourse’s Trust Level system, a new user guide, and to behavioral guidelines for the forum.

If you read those documents and check out the forum for a bit, you should be able to get a handle on it soon. Note that new users have restricted privileges.  If you have questions or concerns about the forum itself, you can ask them in the Forum Feedback category.

Discourse suggests that we start off with as few categories as possible and evolve from there based on our community’s needs, so while things may look fairly sparse now, they will likely grow in the future. Please bear with us, we’re all trying to build this community together and that takes time.

Now for what might be the unpleasant part but what I like to look upon as optimistic. Discussion fora on the internet can often devolve into petty arguments, insults, condescension, and meaningless back-and-forths. However, we can all work to create a place that is the complete opposite of those fora. Discussions on this forum, just as on iNat, should be based on respect, openness, facts, and constructive conversation. Please adhere to the Discourse and iNaturalist guidelines, and if you see content that violates those guidelines, please flag it so that iNat staff and forum moderators can investigate. We have a chance here to create something positive, open, and helpful to everyone on iNaturalist.

Publicado el marzo 13, 2019 12:54 MAÑANA por tiwane tiwane | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de marzo de 2019

A Mighty Snail Found in Ecuador - (Bonus) Observation of the Week, 3/14/19

Our (Bonus!) Observation of the Week is this large Thaumastus thompsoni snail, seen in Ecuador by @souhjiro!

Edgar Segovia (@souhjiro) is a biologist who has a lot of interests, “mainly entomology, arachnology, carcinology and malacology, and I am also interested in aquatic biology and ecology.” His curiosity with nature started at an early age, when“[I] saw as child the insects on the garden or on my school patio, and the tadpoles on the puddles around my natal city of Cuenca...and compared them with the Atlas of the Animal World, from Reader´s Digest, which was my first and favorite book.” Even at at that young age, Edgar noticed detail such as the local frogs, mainly of the genus Gastrotheca, did not lay eggs like those he saw in the book.

As he grew older, Edgar was mentored by biologist Gustavo Morejon, who lent him books and showed him Universidad del Azuay’s insect collection. “As a 12-something year old boy, [I] was totally fascinated with that, and that furthered my interest on following a biology career,” he says. “I worked in ecological assessments with land insects, and also limnology studies in different places of my country, knowing meanwhile a lot of terrestrial and aquatic insects and macrofauna (including fish and herps) from Ecuador. Lately, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Charles Darwin Station, and could be in contact with the insects of Galapagos Islands in the flesh (or carapace).”

Edgar saw the snail pictured above (which, he notes, has a shell about 8 cm in length) not recently but actually way back in 2004, while instructing rangers at Sangay National Park. Tasked with teaching collection techniques for herpetofauna and invertebrates, including pitfall traps, he recalls

One drizzly morning, revising the pitfalls, among the Chusquea bamboo surrounding one of the traps, a big snail appeared. [Everyone] there was very excited, and we put it on a tree trunk to photograph it. For a time, we forgot about the pitfalls (then remembered and continued). The snail received a lot of flashes while all those with cameras photographed it, and I used the opportunity to talk about our very much neglected terrestrial malacofauna to the rangers.

This was not his first time encountering Thaumastus thompsoni. In fact, in 2002 he assisted Brazilian scientist Meire Pena when she was collecting specimens in the Azuay province. This species, says Edgar, “is associated with Chusquea and mixed chaparro forest patches on Andean Cañar and Azuay, and currently is under threat of habitat destruction for cattle farming, pasture opening, and fast urbanization, but that threat is not yet assessed properly. Great thrushes eat the snails, and sometimes near rock outcroppings their emptied and broken shells are found.” When he recently passed through this area, Edgar noted that the forest had regained some territory since 2004, and shells on the ground indicated that thes snails still inhabit the area.

As for iNaturalist, Edgar (above, in Plaza Sur, Galapagos), heard about it from Gustavo Morejon, his old mentor, and he says

the [iNaturalist community] accelerates the process of ID, and there are some specialists and experts on motivates me to publish more observations on the web instead to keep them archived, and is even fun to stroll a walk taking pics of every interesting critter or plant in the path.

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Publicado el marzo 14, 2019 07:36 MAÑANA por tiwane tiwane | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de marzo de 2019

Slime Mo(u)lds in Tasmania - Observation of the Week, 3/18/19

Our Observation of the Week is this Cribraria cancellata slime mold, seen in Australia by @sarahlloyd!

If you’ve uploaded a slime mold observation to iNaturalist recently, there’s a good chance that Sarah Lloyd has identified it. She’s our top slime mold identifier, with over 1,500 IDs added, and she only joined in November of 2018. But Sarah’s interest in slime molds (or “moulds” depending on where you learned English) is relatively recent, beginning in 2010. “After beginning a routine of daily morning walks I started to notice and photograph plasmodia (the second feeding stage of a slime mould) or their exquisitely miniscule spore-bearing fruiting bodies,” she says, “[And] I was hooked! By September that year I was closely examining logs and stumps with a hand lens and strong headlamp, essential equipment for seeing the fruiting bodies in the darkness of the shady forest—and I started to accumulate reference books.” She soon began to collect them as well.

Slime molds (Myxomycetes), as Sarah notes, “have mystified naturalists for centuries.” Originally classified as plants by Linnaeus, they were moved to fungi, then to animals, and

there is now general agreement that myxomycetes are Amoebozoans but whether this is a supergroup or kingdom is a matter of debate...Their predatory amoebae live in soils rich in organic matter where they feed on bacteria and single-celled fungi such as yeasts. Thus, they play important ecological roles including enhancing soil fertility through nutrient recycling….[and] despite being found wherever there is organic material, they are believed to be the least studied of all the microorganisms.

Amoeba-like when separate, individual cells will join together to form a plasmodium and eventually form rigid spore-bearing structures called a sporangia, which is what you see photographed above. Sarah notes that “slime mould fruiting bodies are never fleshy, but are essentially a mass of spores. They (and substrate) dry within hours and retain indefinitely all features needed to describe them.”

Sarah observed the Cribaria cancellata sporangia “on a log of a severely decayed silver banksia...part of a very extensive group of thousands of sporangia that covered 40 x 10 cm (16 x 4 inches).” She says they were about 1.5 mm in height and

[the species’] colour and distinctive ribs makes it one of the few species of slime moulds that can be identified in the field with the aid of a 10x hand lens. Unusually for a slime mould, the species appears in the same location each year and has stained the decaying wood a deep maroon colour.

Sarah (above, inspecting a slime mold), tells me

I enjoy interacting with people and identifying their slime moulds photos on iNat. People are often intrigued to find out more about them – and to find more slime moulds to photograph. Through people’s posts I can learn about species that occur in other regions of the world and see photos of myxomycetes I’ll never see in Tasmania. As an avid naturalist passionate about documenting Tasmania’s biodiversity, it’s fantastic to be able to contribute (via iNat) to biodiversity monitoring projects elsewhere in the world from the middle of a forest in Tasmania.

I have recently started to upload my own observations of slime moulds and many other species, something that should keep me well occupied for many years to come.

- by Tony Iwane.

- Check out Sarah’s Tasmanian Myxomycetes site, as well as her Instagram account!

- And her book, Where the slime mould creeps!

- Slime mold time lapse!

Publicado el marzo 18, 2019 10:20 TARDE por tiwane tiwane | 10 comentarios | Deja un comentario

20 de marzo de 2019

Holy Mola! - The Oral History of an iNat Identification

The iNaturalist community made international headlines a few weeks ago after the first hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) seen in North America was shared and then identified via iNaturalist and some dedicated participants. It really is a great story that shows the power of collaboration and the importance of keeping an open (and optimistic!) mind, so I thought it would be fun to compile an oral (although in this case, written) history from the participants.

What follows are the lightly edited and condensed recollections of most of the people involved, put together as chronologically as possible. I have not heard back from all participants, but am happy to add your input if you message me.

Jessica Nielsen (Coal Oil Point Reserve): My first observation of the hoodwinker sunfish was on the morning of February 19th, 2019. A colleague, Mark Holmgren, and I were conducting the reserve's monthly bird monitoring survey at around 7:00 am and noticed a tall dorsal fin flopping about in the water about a hundred meters off of the point at Coal Oil Point Reserve. We weren't sure at the time what animal we were looking at as we couldn't see it very clearly in the water, but we assumed it was some kind of marine mammal based on the size of the fin and head. Later the same day, when a 7 foot long sunfish washed up on the beach, we realized that was what we had seen that morning.

I was alerted to the washed up fish by one of our UCSB student interns, Ruth Alcantara... Unfortunately, the fish was already dead but it was still a sight to see such a large and unusual fish up close. I took some measurements and photos and posted the finding to Coal Oil Point Reserve’s Facebook page.

Daniel Spach (Wilderness Youth Project): We were about to leave Devereux that day after tidepooling for a couple hours when a couple of the kids spotted what looked like a dead seal or something in an unusual posture near the beach on the rocks. When we got over there we were stunned to find something I had never seen or heard of anyone finding on a Santa Barbara beach... a Sun Fish? It was longer than I am tall, over 7 feet I'd say, super flat and roundish, with a mouth big enough to swallow my head. All the kids gathered round and were giddily excited about it, noting the shape of the fins and eyes, making guesses as to its watery demise. Everyone seemed a bit scared to touch it though, thinking it would be slimy like most decomposing fish we'd encountered but its skin was actually extremely hard, dense, and rough, like an ocean rhino or something.

Kittyhawk snapped a few pictures [TI: see above] with her phone. The kids all wanted to make sure their parents would get a copy of the pictures. Might be the only time any of us will encounter this fish for our lifetimes.

Jeff Phillips (@ljefe): My 10-year old son Pierce participates in the Wilderness Youth Project’s after school program every Wednesday. [On] Feb 22, when I met the group to pick up my son and friends at 5:30pm, they were excited about this huge fish they had found on the beach during their afternoon outing (sometime between 2 and 4:30pm). I’m a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so they knew I’d be excited about it. I had them send me the photo and with my son’s help to mark the location, I posted it on iNaturalist, originally identifying it as Mola mola. I thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing discussion among tomleeturner, rfoster, and mnyegaard.

Tom Turner (@tomleeturner): I saw [Jessica’s] post and went down there with my family, because I wanted my 4 year old son to check it out. I posted it on iNat, of course, because…that is what I do. Everyone was assuming it is a Mola mola. What happened next is a classic example of iNat at its best.

Ralph Foster (@rfoster): I have an alert for Mola spp and was checking through the day's offerings when I saw what I took to be a stranded Mola tecta. I was bewildered when I realised this was in California and not in New Zealand or Australia so I tagged Marianne [Nyegaard, who described Mola tecta], asking for her input.

Marianne Nyegaard (@mnyegaard): Ralph Foster emailed me with links to iNaturalist asking if I could see what species it was, strongly suspecting it was Mola tecta. I quickly checked and thought that the fish surely looked like a hoodwinker, but frustratingly, none of the many photos showed the clavus [TI: aka what sunfishes’ back “fin” is called] clearly. And with a fish so far out of range, I was extremely reluctant to call it a hoodwinker without clear and unambiguous evidence of its identity... I emailed Ralph and told him we needed more photographs and ideally a tissue sample, and posted on iNaturalist that his was probably just a Mola mola.

Ralph Foster: Since there were no diagnostic features shown, I also tagged the observer (@sealovelife) asking if there were more images available, which is when Tom directed me to his observation.

Tom Turner: By this time I was already out on the beach in the dark looking for the fish to get better photos, because what could be more fun than this? Alas, the tide had floated it away again.

Marianne Nyegaard: I then had a cup of coffee and doubt starting creeping in... I spent the next few hours obsessively zooming in on all the photos posted on iNaturalist... Some photos showed peoples’ hands on the sunfish, so I used their fingernails to gauge the scale and compared the skin with my archive photos. Even though the resolution just wasn't high enough to be sure, I started convincing myself the skin at least wasn't incompatible with Mola tecta and that ….perhaps it was a hoodwinker?... But I felt I needed to be absolutely 100% sure before settling on an ID, seeing I had described the hoodwinker and would need to back up my ID with absolute certainty with a specimen so far away from home.

I woke up to an email from Jessica Nielsen saying [she and Tom] were keen to go back out and find the fish again so I sent them instructions of what to look for and photograph, and then sat on the edge of my chair with all fingers and toes crossed that they would find it.

Tom Turner: At low tide (now two days later), I started biking on the beach from the east, and Jessica started walking from the west, 2 miles apart. We met in the middle, at the fish, now a few hundred yards farther east.

Jessica Nielsen: Tom and I waited for the tide to go out, found the fish...and we got to work taking the photos and fin clips requested. It really was exciting to collect the photos and samples knowing that it could potentially be such an extraordinary sighting!  Once we sent over the photos, Marianne responded very quickly.

Marianne Nyegaard: I was away from my desk most of the day, but when I checked my emails in the afternoon I literally nearly fell off my chair (which I was sitting on the edge of!). Tom and Jessica had indeed found the fish and had photographed and examined it, and taken a tissue sample. A huge amount of extremely clear photos were in my inbox and there was just no doubt of the ID. They had also examined the clavus by hand to confirm the number of ossicles, which was just brilliant. Eyes and ears and hands on the ground half a world away, wow.

Ralph Foster: If it hadn't been for Tom and Jessica's willingness to revisit and examine the specimen we would not have known with certainty that this was, indeed, Mola tecta.

Jessica Nielsen: We were all thrilled to hear the news. Mola tecta was just recently discovered in 2017 (by Marianne and her research team) so there is still so much to learn about this species. I’m so glad that we could help these researchers make the final definitive ID.

Tom Turner: iNaturalist at its best: experienced novice loops in expert who loops in the expert who then helps us learn about our find and gets info she will use in her research. And it was fun and exciting for all.

Marianne Nyegaard: Ralph Foster also alerted the University of California, who did a beach dissection and collected a large number of samples. Tissue samples will soon be on the way from California to my sister’s lab in Denmark, where I do all my sunfish genetics.

So, within 24 hours after I had first been made aware of this stranding we had confirmed the ID. I just love iNaturalist and am continuously amazed by how much fun it is to “meet” passionate people all over the world

Publicado el marzo 20, 2019 08:09 TARDE por tiwane tiwane | 37 comentarios | Deja un comentario