January 17, 2022

December 2021 Photo-observation of the Month: Great Blue Heron


A Great Blue Heron shows off its dagger-like bill and impressive balance on the icy banks of the Missisquoi River. © Charlotte Bill

Congratulations to @cgbb2004 for winning the December 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Charlotte’s photo of a Great Blue Heron braving the cold of a northern Vermont winter received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

A familiar visitor of ponds, lakes, and other wetlands in the summer, Great Blue Herons are less common throughout winter in Vermont, when they can occasionally be found along streams, rivers, and other patches of open water where they might have a chance at spearing a fish for a meal. Charlotte encountered this bird a few days before the East Franklin Christmas Bird Count, but the heron was nowhere to be found on count day. The Christmas Bird Count is a century-old birding tradition of counting all the birds in a 15-mile-radius circle, with count circles spread throughout the globe. This invaluable dataset of winter bird populations is fueled by intrepid birders scouring their local habitats as well as homeowners filling their bird feeders and counting their visitors throughout the day. To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count circles in Vermont, click here.

A heartfelt thank you is in order for Charlotte, not only for providing this wonderful photo of her Great Blue Heron encounter, but for contributing (as of this writing) a whopping 44,036 iNaturalist identifications in Vermont alone! Charlotte’s expertise and dedication to helping others on this community science platform is what makes it so fun and scientifically valuable to post sightings to iNaturalist.


With 2,092 observations submitted by 299 observers in December, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on January 17, 2022 07:21 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 14, 2022

Mission Identify Webinar

Have you ever wondered how to identify amphibian egg masses, bumblebees, or other frequently spotted species? Are you eager to hone your ID skills and contribute to research using community science platforms like iNaturalist and eButterfly?

We want to invite you to our first identification workshop of the year! This crash course will teach you everything you need to know about using the Identify feature on iNaturalist and eButterfly, as well as some useful tips for identifying commonly observed species. Our goal is for everyone who attends to walk away feeling more confident in their ability to contribute to crowd-sourced community science projects through identifying species.

This event will take place on January 25 at 7 PM on Zoom. Please register here


Blue-spotted Salamander © K.P. McFarland

Posted on January 14, 2022 06:09 PM by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2022

Winter Bee Watching? Join Mission Identify!

Just because it's cold outside, that doesn't mean you can't be learning about and contributing to our knowledge of Vermont wild bees. Winter is a great time to revisit observations on iNaturalist to refine identifications and add annotations that increase the value of the data.

To learn more about the identifying process, check out VCE's latest "mission":
https://val.vtecostudies.org/missions/mission-identify/

Did you know from the identify window you can also add annotations?

In the "Annotation" tab, look for the "Observation Fields". There are thousands of fields to choose from, but for consistency, we recommend using those that begin with "interaction ->". In particular, "interaction -> visited flower of:" is helpful to document the flower that a bee was visiting. Your own observations are a good place to start, since identifying the plant is often easier with some memory of the observation/location. Not only is this useful information for bee biologists, it also allows anyone to explore the visitors of various plants. For example, here are 63 insects that have been marked as visiting goldenrod in VT: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=47&taxon_id=47158&verifiable=any&view=species&field:Interaction-%3EVisited%20flower%20of=48678

Helpful hint: You can change the flower of interested by replacing the last number in the URL with the number from the iNaturalist taxa page (example: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/48678-Solidago)

Finally, if you find yourself overwhelmed with bee identifications, here are eight common species that are relatively distinctive, without look-a-likes: https://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vtbees/easy8/

Posted on January 13, 2022 06:39 PM by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2022

Mission Identify

Do you enjoy identifying organisms in various taxonomic groups and want to keep your ID eyes sharp? From January through February 2022, the VAL team at VCE is running Mission Identify—challenging each of you to identify as many organisms as you can on iNaturalist and eButterfly.

The Vermont Atlas of Life depends on iNaturalist and eButterfly as ever-growing sources of biodiversity data. Once observations have been uploaded to iNaturalist or eButterfly, they need to be independently identified and verified by other users. This is called crowd-sourced identification, and the more people that are able to add an identification to an observation, the more likely it is correct. Only verified (or Research Grade) data can be used for research and conservation.

There are currently over 200,000 observations that need verification on iNaturalist, and many that need verification on eButterfly as well. We need your help!

Learn more about Mission Identify here.

Stay tuned for events pertaining to this challenge on the Mission Identify Events page!

Posted on January 10, 2022 04:31 PM by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 14, 2021

Silk Moth Cocoon Search this Sunday at Zebedee!

Join Julia Pupko and some avid community naturalists this Sunday, December 19 at noon to search for silk moth cocoons at Zebedee Wetlands!

We will discuss different silk moth cocoons, uploading them to iNaturalist, then spend an hour or two searching for them! Please bring masks, binoculars/cameras if you have them, and tick-protective gear!

Location: Houghton Hill Rd, Fairlee, VT 05045
Coordinates: 43.824158970423234, -72.22652201534207

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/gyc97ftLfLPRRL6k7

Posted on December 14, 2021 08:57 PM by jpupko jpupko | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 02, 2021

November 2021 Photo-observation of the Month: Tetracladium setigerum


A conidium (a kind of fungal spore) collected from a sample of Black River foam in Craftsbury, VT. © Connor Quinn

Congratulations to iNaturalist user Connor Quinn for winning the November 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Connor’s photo taken through a microscope of a minuscule fungal spore received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Connor is an undergraduate student from Vermont with an interest in aquatic hyphomycetes and other ascomycetous molds. Unlike the fungi many across Vermont are familiar with, from the edible Hen of the Woods to the colorful Fly Agaric, the fungi that pique Connor’s curiosity lack fruiting bodies, and instead are identified based on the structure of their spores that can be found floating around in air or water.

By using a microscope and specialized dyes, Connor was able to isolate and view this fungal spore in a sample taken from foam atop the Black River in Craftsbury, VT. The structure of this particular spore is unique enough to identify it as belonging to a species called Tetracladium setigerum. The specialized nature of the study of these fungal spores means that there are no other records of this species in Vermont (or North America for that matter) on iNaturalist, but thanks to the diligent efforts of Connor this species now has an image and a location marking its place in Vermont’s vast array of biodiversity.

While iNaturalist is dominated by observations of large, observable forms of life such as mammals, plants, and birds, microorganisms also have their (very important) place in a region’s biodiversity. Thanks to people like Connor submitting their observations, we can gain a more full picture of all the miraculous organisms that call Vermont home. In case you’d like to see some more mind-boggling microorganisms, check out some of the photos of diatoms that have been submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist.


With 3,306 observations submitted by 476 observers in November, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on December 02, 2021 11:38 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 30, 2021

Cocoon Watch is being extended through December

Hello everyone!

The Giant Silk Moth Cocoon Watch is being extended through December 31, 2021! We hope that this will give a greater number of people time to participate. If you have not already joined the iNaturalist project and would like to do so, you can join the project here. Visit the VAL Cocoon Watch page here to learn more about cocoon ID and where to find them.

Stay tuned for future cocoon-related events!

Posted on November 30, 2021 02:51 PM by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 10, 2021

Reminder: The Cocoon Watch has begun!

It's November, and the VAL team has kicked off the giant silk moth cocoon watch. To join this project, click the link here and select "Join" in the upper right hand corner of the page. Be sure to check out our recent journal post on locating silk moth cocoons and adding more information to your iNaturalist posts! View this post by clicking the link here .

Happy cocooning!

Posted on November 10, 2021 11:52 PM by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 08, 2021

A Note on Geoprivacy

Wood Turtle

This time of year, Wood Turtles are slumbering through winter at the bottom of frigid streams and rivers throughout Vermont. This past spring and fall, however, the Vermont Atlas of Life received dozens of reports of Wood Turtles from across the state. Due to its designation as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Vermont, Wood Turtle observations submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist are automatically obscured to protect these turtles from being harassed or illegally collected by unscrupulous people. But sometimes conservationists like us can’t see the locations either.

For example, we share observations each year with the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which collects data needed to make informed recommendations regarding the state status, state rank, and conservation priorities of Vermont’s reptiles and amphibians. To do this, the atlas requires exact locations of observations. Unfortunately, if we don’t have access to the locations, they cannot be used for conservation.

iNaturalist also places geoprivacy in your hands. You can make make any of your observations obscured or even completely private, if you so choose. However, if you are uploading obscured or private observations, or are uploading observations of rare or threatened species that are automatically obscured, like the Wood Turtle example, it is likely that your observations are not fully contributing to research and conservation.

The default settings of an iNaturalist project like the Vermont Atlas of Life are such that the coordinates of any obscured or private observations actively shared with the project are visible to our team of biologists, but the coordinates of observations passively gathered by the project (any observations that are made within the state of Vermont but the observer is either not a member of the VAL project or didn’t purposely add the observation to the project) are not visible to VAL curators. This means that the coordinates of many important observations of rare and threatened species are hidden, and conservationists and researchers are unable to fully use them. There is a quick fix for this!

If you would like your obscured sightings of rare species or species of conservation concern to be accessible to professional conservationists, biologists, and researchers that work with VAL, go to our  short primer on iNaturalist geoprivacy and learn how you can best set your geoprivacy settings for the Vermont Atlas of Life.

Posted on November 08, 2021 08:07 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 04, 2021

Join the Vermont Silk Moth Cocoon Watch This Month!

As November begins, we enter stick season, surrounded by the bare​ ​twigs of deciduous trees and shrubs. However, the lack of leaves reveals other jewels, if you know where to look for them—giant silk moth cocoons​.​ Giant silk moths (Saturniidae) are massive by moth standards, including the well-known Luna Moth (Actias luna). In Vermont, five species in this group have been recorded: Luna Moth, Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea), and Columbia Moth (Hyalophora columbia).

These species overwinter as pupa, wrapped snugly in their silken cocoons.​ ​This November, ​the Vermont Atlas of Life is asking you all to join ​our Cocoon Watch ​on iNaturalist by locating and ​photographing giant silk moth cocoons​. Learn more about the project and how to find/ ID cocoons at https://val.vtecostudies.org/missions/cocoon-watch/ and join us on iNaturalist ​at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-giant-silk-moth-cocoon-watch.

Posted on November 04, 2021 02:02 PM by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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