02 de janeiro de 2024

muir's 2021-2023 iNat Year(s) in Review

My most fav'ed iNat observation ever -- well-placed sandhill cranes in Homer, Alaska, observed 10-Aug-21.

Time for my end-of-year review, which I skipped in 2021 & 2022, so get ready for a journal post three years in the making. See the following links for past “Years in Review” for 2016, 2017/2018, 2019, and 2020. I like to think about it as an end-of-year holiday letter, but if it was written for the type of people you meet on iNat, mixing the events of friends and family with the best of nature observations.


An exquisite-looking white-lined dirona (Dirona albolineatea) in Whittier, Alaska, observed 27-May-21 and never seen since.

In the second year of the pandemic, @aamuir and I mostly stayed in Alaska in 2021. I made short trips to Seldovia, Seward and Whittier – seeking out the marine and coastal forest life of Kachemak and Resurrection Bays and Prince William Sound, respectively, that generally aren’t available around Anchorage. Amazing moments include a smoothhead lumpsucker found by @mckittre and family, a batwing seaslug that wow’ed, a tubesnout, watching a black bear slurp pink salmon eggs with family, and poking through the tentacles of a beached lions mane jellyfish to tease out commensal amphipods. Closer to home, I observed a state record square-headed wasp, and in the neighborhood lagoon: Hudsonian and bar-tailed godwits, and a yellow-billed loon.

Redshank moss (Ceratodon purpureus) in Denali National Park, Alaska, observed 5-Jun-21 on an Alaska Geographic field course. Highly recommended!

I drove a ton on the Parks Highway in 2021, attending two Alaska Geographic events, including a mosses and lichens short course in June (iceland lichens and golden fuzzy fen moss!), and then a return to Teklanika campsite in the park for a July 4th family weekend (yellow-dotted alpines!); plus a camping trip to Byers Lake (freshwater slimy sculpins!). @tatianah22 and partner visited and we watched dall sheep up close in the Chugach and piles of stars in Halibut Cove. Other notable family events with side-naturalizing included a celebration of life for my uncle in Washington state, where I found a western widow, and a follow-up trip to Arizona afterwards, with scorpions and bromeliad flies.

Sitka, Alaska, in the rain.

Sitka was our big planned trip in 2021. Sitka is an Alaska naturalist mecca, particularly for anybody on iNaturalist, and it was also a perfect choice for a family vacation. The totem park was great, the science center was excellent, Captain Davey’s Sitka Wildlife Adventures was an awesome tour. We visited St Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, declared a “refuge for seabirds” in 1909 by Teddy Roosevelt and now part of the Alaska maritime refuge complex that stretches from southeast AK to the Bering Sea. Bird density on the island’s prime nesting areas can reportedly reach 7,000 birds per acre, which if extended into square miles (4,480,000 birds per sq mile), would be considerably more densely inhabited than anywhere humans live on earth (Manila = 111,537 people per sq mile). The birds were good in Sitka, but the people were great. @gwark @kljinsitka @paul_norwood @kilasiak @sitkaconnor were all so welcoming, I was glad to return two years later to meet even more of the Sitka community. You can listen to me ramble on about iNaturalist and other things on gwark/Matt Goff's radio show, available here.

Collybia fungus growing on another fungus, observed 4-Sept-21 at the Girdwood Fungus Fair. Although the event caters mostly to edible-focused attendees, the fair in combination with the summer lichen course really awakened an interest in me for Alaskan fungi that has yet to let up.

In 2021, I attended the Girdwood Fungus Fair for the first time. The forays and speakers like Noah Siegel were inspiring and opened my eyes to all sorts of wet September organisms and a still-growing number of “life list firsts.” Following the fair, I was finding brilliant scarletina boletes and spectacular purple spindles that somehow escaped my attention before. Many thanks to the Turnagain Mycological Society and the US Forest Service for organizing these events.


The great great gray owl (Strix nebulosa) of South Addition, Anchorage, Alaska, observed 25-Mar-22 and other times nearby -- each time a treat.

In 2022, the big winter excitement was a neighborhood great grey owl. Several arrived in Anchorage, pushed off other parts of their range by unfavorable snow conditions. They provided remarkable connections for people and wildlife, perching in the open, impressive and visible, allowing serious birders and casual trail walkers the same extended opportunities to marvel. I was blessed multiple times by our neighborhood owl, on the Coastal Trail, by the railroad tracks, and even driving the kids to school – which was an amazing moment for all of us to share.

A pair of monkey-faced pricklebacks (Cebidichthys violaceus) sharing a crevice with an abalone on Hazard Reef, Montaña de Oro State Park, California, observed 3-Jan-22. I was both extremely excited to be face-to-face with such a creature, and trying to act nonchalant so as to not attract the attention of fishermen walking the tidepools trying to harvest this same species.

In January 2022, I traveled to California’s Morro Bay for the first time, witnessing the king tides and tidepooling on Hazard Reef and Estero Bluffs. I saw so many amazing new things for me. Monkeyface pricklebacks, sea spiders, nudibranchs galore, lesser two spot octopi, furry crabs and so many other types that I don’t see in Alaska. I was trying out a new purchase of clear boxes for semi-aquatic photography, which I considered a great addition to the iNat “gear” pile. Many thanks to @jeffgoddard for some pre-trip tips that kept it a safe and interesting visit.

Mother and cub brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Katmai National Park, Alaska, observed 18-Jun-22 on foot. This image is often my background for Zoom meetings and makes me happy.

Closer-to-home tidepooling adventures included a trip to Seldovia, and observations of sea mice, spotted aglajas, skeleton shrimp, a Pacific sandfish with wonderful teeth, and a scalyhead sculpin that was so picturesque that artist and tidepooling friend, Valisa Higman, made gorgeous cut-paper art that you can buy on Etsy. In June, we made a family trip to Kodiak Island. Not only did we do an amazing bear viewing trip to Katmai National Park with Sea Hawk Air( (can recommend – our guide Jo Murphy was great), we enjoyed an octopus all together from grandma to grandson, and I explored Spruce Point and Mill Bay Beach, finding heart crabs and calico sculpins among other intertidal goodies. (And my first wood tiger moth!) Although we unfortunately were not able to meet up, I’m very grateful to the fantastic @machi for inspiring me to visit Kodiak through their own observations and suggesting some great places to visit around town.

A heart crab (Phyllolithodes papillosus) showing its best side on Spruce Cape, Kodiak, Alaska, observed 15-Jun-22.

Other 2022 trips included a Los Angeles/San Diego trip with the family and in-laws, where I dipped on La Jolla leopard sharks, but met up with @mordenana and fam, and saw plenty of bugs, like this funky clearwing moth Eichlinia gloriosa, on an otherwise non-nature-centric trip. I traveled to Washington DC for work, and although I got to see several friends and colleagues, I unfortunately got sick, so I spent more days in recovery there than I ever wanted, but was buoyed by some snakes. More pleasant travels were finally seeing a long-sought-after heath bumblebee in Denali NP, watching my boys catch trout and pike in Nancy Lake, and brown-eyed wolf lichens observed in Truckee CA for Thanksgiving at my sister’s place.

One piece of a stunning coral tooth fungus (Hericium coralloides) growing in the woods next to the Parks Highway, Alaska, observed 12-Sept-22 but appreciated for long after.

Following the Girdwood Fungus Fair in 2021, I switched it up to attend the Cordova Fungus Festival with my mom in September, 2022. My first time in Cordova, I had a great time. I’m still looking for my first boreal toad, but I did find Copper River floodplain views, temperate rainforest mushrooms and slime molds, and Prince William Sound marine beach life. And similar to the previous year, it was the fungi that I found after the festival, with eyes more fully opened, that brought me the most joy and curiosity. On a drive to and from Fairbanks for a work meeting, my brain was on coral tooth fungus, truncated and slender clubs, velvet-foot fairy fans, and pinelitter gingertails. Outside of Fairbanks, the permafrost research tunnel stretches the appropriateness of using iNat for this purpose, but how could I resist making observations of 43,000 year old roots, sedges dangling from the frozen wall, and bacteria locked in permafrost ice.


In 2023, I did an iNat Big Year, which you read about here. I “worked” hardest at setting a new personal best in the number of new-to-me species and taxa observed on iNat. On average, I observed about 3.5 “lifers” per day in 2023, and received a lot of help from the iNat community.

2023 compilation of my monthly photo summaries. See them in greater detail here.

Overall, as of this writing (1/1/24) I made 2,644 observations of 1,006 unique taxa in 2021; 2,637 observations of 1,150 taxa in 2022; and a personal record-smashing 6,471 observations of 2,347 taxa in 2023. Thank you to the top identifiers of my 2021-2023 observations: @gwark @csyampae @caiawatha @alanhorstmann @pynklynx @johnascher @phelsumas4life @jbrasher @ebleke @clauden @noah_siegel @estehr @sitkaconnor and @awenninger, half of which I managed to meet in person during that period. My 2024 iNat goals:

  • Ease off the big year pace/intensity
  • Catch a wolverine in the camera trap pics
  • Meet a long-time iNat friend for the first time irl to check if they are as funny in person
  • Finish up an iNat journal post or two from the drafts
  • Sicily
  • Progress towards 10k species (=unique taxa) by the time I turn 51 in 2028

As always, thank you for indulging me in my end-of-year reflections and “holiday card” for iNaturalist friends and acquaintances, far and wide. cc’ing those who have avoided being tagged so far: @mccay79 @jeniferak @ptarmigan @robinmulvey @loarie @carrieseltzer @jakob @treegrow @judygva @annettes-au @onekoolkid0 @ashley_bradford @troydeclan @katzyna @jasonrgrant @naturelady @sambiology @gyrrlfalcon @jaykeller @anudibranchmom @dennispaulson @richardhall @danabrennan @ceahyphae @ljodwalis @tepary @congonaturalist @madhipp11 @dennisronsse @sialialascensis @kdog907 @jennygumm @dannynelson94 @jmrobertia @cbloomfi @rolandwirth @kmohatt @short-billed @troydeclan I love seeing everyone’s observations, I hope to spend time with all of you outside at some point. From my family to yours, happy new year everybody!

Western club coral fungus (Clavariadelphus occidentalis) at Ruth Arcand Park, Anchorage, Alaska, observed 4-Sept-23. Family in foreground for scale.

Posted on 02 de janeiro de 2024, 04:59 AM by muir muir | 17 comentários | Deixar um comentário

07 de fevereiro de 2023

2023 is my iNat big year

tl;dr I made all my goals with the help and support of family and iNat friends

I think I'm going to go for it -- 2023 is my iNat big year. I'm going to try to post personal bests in the basic categories: most observations in a year, most species (=unique taxa), most new species, most identifications, and at least one observation every day. New species is going to be the most difficult personal record I think, although I'll probably focus on that and then fumble my streak or something. Here are my personal bests:

Most observations (2017) = 3560 (Goal = 3600 obs)
Most species (2017) = >1764 (Goal = 1800 sp)
Most new species (2017) = >1130 (Goal = 1200 newly added sp)
Most identifications (2012) = 775 obs/339 taxa/292 observers (Goal = 800 IDs)
Observation per day = never attempted (Goal = 365 day streak)

It will be hard to beat my 2017, which included SE Arizona iNat-athon, a work trip to Indonesia, a dragonfly society meeting in Virginia Appalachia, and vacations in Tennessee and elsewhere. But, the attempt should be fun. I will update this journal post as I go.


January recap: A good start with daily observations around my Anchorage Alaska home and commute, and a trip to Morro Bay, California, scheduled to coincide with their lowest tides of the year. An otter with a live rainbow trout was neat to see and you can watch a couple videos of the otter dealing with it flopping around, eating just the head, and then slipping away with it again under the ice. In CA, nudibranchs of the Central Coast were a big draw for me in the intertidal, and I was thrilled to see 12 species (pictured above) along with many other animals, plants and fungi on the trip. Some of the other new-to-me taxa included a seaside button lichen, a pencil isopod, and a cinnamon teal. Thank you to @anudibranchmom @thomaseverest @jeffgoddard @tomleeturner and many others for the dialogue, comments and identifications that helped make my CA iNat'ing better. January recommendation where to stay: the "Bird House" in Los Osos CA (VRBO link). Where to eat: Valley Liquor in Los Osos for quick breakfast burritos & burgers. Monthly total = 620 observations.


February recap: last month, I traveled to California and this month I traveled even further south to western Mexico state of Jalisco and the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. Amongst other family vacation activities, I snorkeled a bunch, including at PN Islas Marietas and a couple beaches south of the city, and fit in an entire day in the mountains with my wife dedicated to birding in the San Sebastián del Oeste area. It was glorious and particularly fun to watch my 9-year-old son get into snorkeling and get excited with me finding fish and other marine life to observe, including 7 species of pufferfish and relatives, a couple stingrays, and many yet-to-be-identified sedentary species. I added 20+ lifer birds, including brown boobies, new-to-me warblers, and the second smallest bird species on Earth, the bumblebee hummingbird. Ostensibly on a birding day tour on 24-Feb, I observed far more insects and plants, including an abundance of wasps, butterflies and bromeliads. A big thank you to @albertoalcala @aleturkmen @sultana @oscargsol and many others helping to review and identify MX-JAL observations. Finally, back home in Alaska, I got my first videos back from a backyard camera trap, adding screengrabs to the 30+ moose observations I’ve already made in 2023. Recommendations of iNat-related activities as a tourist in Puerto Vallarta: comb through the interesting shells at Playa Lindomar, take an early morning walk to el salto waterfall if staying downtown, and book a nature trip in the ocean or forest with Luis @kiskadee, who is the executive director of the San Pancho Bird Observatory. Where to eat: seafood at Abulón Antojeria del Mar. Monthly total = 500 observations. Cumulative = 1121 observation (31% to goal), 562 taxa (31% to goal).


March recap: I spent the full month in Anchorage, mostly dormant but venturing into the city's largest natural areas--Kincaid, Bicentennial and Chugach State Park--to look at lichens. Mostly thanks to @csyampae identifications, I recorded 19 species of fungi that I hadn't seen before, including a bevy of well-named species: the seaside firedot, the cileate wreath, a yellow specklebelly, and a bearded jellskin. There's so much to see that I had previously overlooked. Conversely, in terms of large conspicuous things that are hard to miss, I'm up to a moose-a-day rate of observations, and should have a few more to add from trail cameras currently deployed in the woods. Monthly total = 157 observations. Cumulative = 1278 observation (35% to goal), 612 taxa (34% to goal).


April recap: This month brings several signs of winter waning: ptarmigans and snowshoe hares just starting to transition into summer colors; more and more lichens accessible and uncovered by the melting snow; Milbert’s Tortoiseshell as the first butterflies in flight and landing on slushy ice; and the voices of cranes, geese and gulls conspicuously leading the way for spring bird migration. I became re-acquainted with Byssonectria terrestris, a neon orange, specialist spring fungus that grows on moose urine (I have a LOT of questions about this), and began daily monitoring of a couple patches – boosting it into a tie for my 2nd most observed species this year. I was so happy to go outside this month with @rkelsey who was in town to speak at the Cordova Shorebird Festival, with @paul_norwood who was in town from Sitka, and to meet @csyampae for the first time. Like March, most of my April new-to-me species are lichens found and identified by Preston, so credit to them! This month’s recommendations of iNat-related activities: become a member of the Alaska Native Plant Society (a bargain $15/year) and start planning for their iNat-fueled July plant bioblitz and contributing to the Chugach State Park Flora iNat Project all year. Where to eat while out iNat’ing: Girdwood Brewing Company foodtrucks. Monthly total = 335 observations. Cumulative = 1620 observations (45% to goal), 738 taxa (41% to goal).


May recap: My job took me to Wales and England for the second half of May, and I diligently sought out every weedy plant, bug and fungus that I could distinguish as potentially new-to-me. My wanderings took me to meadows in Cambridge and Oxford, a royal London park, walking trails around Church Stretton, and the Welsh hills of Snowdonia National Park. I observed a number of new as well as familiar lichens, many new insects and a small handful of new birds, and even a roadkill badger on the highway that @jason1192 slowed down just enough for me to snap. Cheers to identifiers @cmarkwilson @nschwab @oakleafe @jlisby and many others for sharing your knowledge of UK species. UK restaurant recommendation: the Magdalen Arms in Oxford. The first half of the month, still in Anchorage, I was able to meet up with several local iNat’rs: Preston in the still melting snow (now thankfully gone from mostly everywhere at sea level), reconnect with Kerri @kdog907 and meet @pynklynx and @dennisronsse on an early plant walk on Turnagain Arm. Always a great joy to meet people for the first time IRL who I’ve long admired via their iNat observations and identifications. April/May is the time when iNat action starts to ramp up in our state – I’ve written before that an estimated 63% of iNaturalist observations in Alaska are made between June and August, covering about 82% of the all taxa that have been identified on iNaturalist in the state. Alaskan summer is a rush of visitors and light and nature cycling fast, and this year shouldn't be any different. Monthly total = 893 observations. Cumulative = 2513 observations (70% to goal), 1112 taxa (62% to goal). Daily streak still intact.


June recap: June started with a through-hike in a miserable June snowstorm, from the Rabbit Lake trailhead to McHugh Creek with my beloved @aamuir to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Not much was seen or celebrated at the higher altitudes in the wind and whipping snow, but we did enjoy loud and conspicuous willow ptarmigans in a 2700-2900 ft elevation band on either side of the trail’s high point. Plant activity seems delayed this year, with mostly cool and cloudy May and June weather following this winter’s heavy snow. A native plant society walk with @dennisronsse in Arctic Valley was therefore less fruitful than normal, with several comments about how plant and bird timing is weird in 2023. I was grateful for @csyampae showing me a corner of Campbell Creek Gorge, sheltered from most people and lichens galore, such as this charismatic Xanthoparmelia. A couple quick visits to my hometown of Kenai were my only other trips away from Anchorage in June. Both times I drove the scenic route on Skilak Lake Road, and both times I saw bears, including a sow brown bear with yearling+ cubs. What a sight! June was a month of camp drop-offs and pick-ups, and so several of my daily observations followed wherever my kids were going, including my (never ceases to be exciting) first-of-season moose calf in Kincaid Park. I was also with my youngest son, when I made an observation of a small beetle while harvesting rhubarb. Thanks to @sdjbrown who identified it as a hairy spider weevil (Barypeithes pellucidus), which appears to be a new state record, which I flagged for @awenninger who collected it on her own rhubarb only a week later! I love the connections and the sped-up pace of learning that iNaturalist enables. Monthly total = 553 observations. Halfway through the big year, I’ve completed 85% of my observation goal, 70% of my species goal, 51% of my goal for newly added taxa, 190% of identifications, and my daily streak is intact at 181 days with 184 to go.


July recap: Unusual for me, I left Alaska during the month of July, and spent a week in Barbados to celebrate my in-law’s 60th wedding anniversary. It was wonderful in all respects. Barbados is the easternmost island of the Caribbean and small enough to drive around in half a day. I ate mangoes and snorkeled, poked around the fringes of wooded gullies and cleared fields (once forest, then sugar cane for 350+ years, now weeds). I made almost 500 iNat observations in a week, including 160 new-to-me taxa. Barbados is relatively under-observed on iNat, and even a short trip like mine yielded 39 taxa (and counting) identified on iNaturalist for the first time in the country, including nine insects, six sponges, six fish, four plants, and three fungi. Overall, some personal favorites: a sharptail (snake) eel observed alongside my son Marshall, a spotted spiny lobster that I never saw directly but only saw after blindly photographing inside a coral crevice, a handsome Exomalopsis bee among many other pollinators on Euphorbia heterophylla, and my first sacoglossan – a lettuce sea slug – that consumes algae and absorbs the chloroplasts into its own cells for energy production (the only multi-cellular organism known to do so, earning the group the nickname, “solar-powered sea slugs”). Thank you to @jbrasher @coralreefdreams @la_mrmd @sue1001 for sharing your knowledge of marine life and @stevemaldonadosilvestrini for island plants. Recommended iNat-related tourist activity in Barbados: Calypso Cruises for booze cruise snorkeling.

Back at home in Alaska, I picked up new-to-me species mostly in dribs and drabs, similar to June. I am learning that for areas and seasons that I have already iNat’d heavily in the past, I really benefit from the fresh eyes, motivation and the different perspective of being in the field with other people. By myself, I tend to stick to my own favorites and routines! Of note this month, I did finally observe the chokecherry midge galls helpfully flagged by @awenninger, and while @mordenana was in town for a mammal conference, he spotted a pika and a moose with sores on its legs that led to learning a cool story about moose flies and roundworms, plus another successful dipnetting season for red salmon on the Kenai River with the entire family. Monthly total = 719 observations. Cumulative = 3794 observations (105% of goal), 1535 taxa (85% to goal). Daily streak still intact.


August recap: August was by far my most social iNat month, connecting with naturalists across southeast Alaska as part of an “iNatathon” with Paul Norwood and Preston Villumsen. It was amazing! For a week, August 20-26, we iNat’ed every day, sometimes together, sometimes split up on the trail, passing through the towns of Haines, Skagway and Juneau, and even walking across the US-Canada border into British Columbia. Between the three of us, we’ve observed over 680 different taxa (and counting) in 2200+ iNat observations. I also tacked on a few days more in Sitka to overlap with a low tides series. I have so many favorite iNat observations from my trip, but I think I will particularly cherish the Western tiger beetles encountered unexpectedly on the Chilkat River, the aptly named “gillgobbler” parasitic fungus, a gorgeous bakery-good-brown Dyer’s polypore, every Pilophorus matchstick lichen, mushrooming with Judy in Haines, several cute red-backed voles, hundreds of moths at the Juneau National Guard and US border post, a toothed jelly fungus (aka cat’s tongue), meeting Jenifer and some of the Juneau naturalist community, meeting one of the rough-skinned newts established on Galankin Island, fishing for new species with Paul and Connor including a bonus lifer of a thick-billed murre, visiting Roland’s island, tidepooling with the Sitka crew on the causeway, and of course every shout of excitement through the woods and mountains from Preston, Paul and the naturalists along the way when someone would find something so cool that they had to share and/or help me get a new species (“Where’s Matt!? This one should be new for you! Matt!!!”). Food recommendation to prepare for a day of iNat’ing: the marionberry turnovers at Mountain Market & Cafe in Haines. Recommended iNat-related activity: listen to Matt Goff’s Sitka Nature Radio Show including Matt and I's conversation about my Big Year and other topics. Monthly total: 1478 observations, 696 taxa. Cumulative: 5293 observations (147% of goal), 2027 taxa (113% of goal! New personal record!), and 1074 new-to-me taxa (90% of goal).


September recap: September iNat’ing in Alaska means mushrooms. What starts as a side interest in August as other summer life shows signs of winding down, blows up into a September fixation as fungi abound in moss, decaying wood, spruce needles, and across all sorts of curious microhabitats. There are so many! Some of my favorites this year: yellow earth tongues seen in Homer; a much-sought-after Hydellum peckii, “bleeding” red-juice in Ruth Arcand park; tuning forks in Girdwood; and various elfin saddles and Gyromitra false morels, coral and club fungi, brackets growing on brackets, witch’s butter, and leafy brains. Lichenized fungi are, of course, available to marvel at all year-long, but there is something so inherently satisfying about the explosion of fruiting bodies of all types, bridging the seasonal transition with an exclamation mark and easing the loss of the long days of summer. Many thanks to @pynklynx for the ID help as always with Alaskan fungi.

My other big September adventure was a week-long trip to Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota that combined a work meeting in La Crosse (electrofishing giant catfish on the Mississippi! hatcheries with endangered mussels, sturgeons and dragonly larvae!) with family time visiting my mom’s cousins and family farmland. It was hotter in late September in the Midwest than it’s been all summer in Anchorage, so I relished the opportunity to be in fields of flowers and pollinators again, exploring patches of prairie and observing what survives in and around industrial ag, dipping on a ball cactus in Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, and enjoying serendipitous encounters with herps like my lifer tiger salamander crossing a farm road. Thanks to @csledge @aric4sloth @jeff_leclere and others for sharing your IDs on my observations, expertise and enthusiasm for nature in the Minnesota area.

Recommended iNat-related activity: Join the Galls of North America iNat project, as well as Leafminers of North America, for all your “what’s that on this leaf” questions that will inevitably change how closely you investigate plants for interesting abnormalities and feeding signs. Gall Week occurred in September and I’m grateful for a @tepary organized walk in Abbott Loop Community Park and the first opportunity irl to meet @awenninger and @danabrennan. Monthly total: 791 observations, 404 taxa. Cumulative: 6084 observations (169% of goal), 2259 taxa (126% of goal), and (!!!) 1201 new-to-me taxa (100% of goal!!).




October-December recap: A lot of organisms slow down for the Alaskan winter and, with most all of my goals met for the year, so did I. Therefore I'm grouping the last three months together. I picked up species here and there, but mostly I relaxed and tried to not mess up the daily observation streak so near the finish line. Anchorage’s omnipresent magpies and ravens helped out my “lazy observer” tendencies, including a local celebrity leucistic bird. I was happy to meet up with @tatianah22 in Ottawa, and @cbloomfi @leda_and_oona in NYC, both on non-nature-centric trips, but also a chance to pick up a last few more new-to-me species. Perhaps the biggest iNat-related excitement was retrieving my camera traps from the Chugach foothills (brown bears! bull moose!), and re-deploying them in Butte with @caiawatha, who generously supplied beaver scent glands as an attractant. With @csyampae along for good company to place the cameras, we spotted marten tracks and a ruffed grouse. When I returned to download the pics in mid-December, I was chuffed to see eagles, a goshawk, and the marten caught on camera (over and over again), and absolutely thrilled to see a wolf during a snowstorm in all its winter, furry glory. Monthly totals:

  • October: 137 observations, 60 taxa
  • November: 86 observations, 35 taxa
  • December: 104 observations, 62 taxa

Cumulative totals (as of 1/1/24) and new personal bests:

  • Most observations (2023) = 6,471 (2017) = 3560 (Goal = 3600 obs)

  • Most species (2023) = 2,347 (2017) = >1764 (Goal = 1800 sp)
  • Most new species (2023) = 1,262 (2017) = >1130 (Goal = 1200 newly added sp)
  • Most identifications (2023) = 2,152 (2012) = 775 obs/339 taxa/292 observers (Goal = 800 IDs)
  • Observation per day = done! never attempted (Goal = 365 day streak)

A solo wolf makes a fitting contrast to my successful iNat Big Year of 2023, because I was so happy not to do it alone. First and foremost, I'm thankful to my wife @aamuir and family who indulge and support me in my pursuits and (as I'm frequently informed) deserve more credit in my observations. And thank you to all who I've tagged somewhere above or who have otherwise provided encouragement and identifications along the way. If I were to re-do my big year goals, I think I would add one related to the number of iNat people to make an observation together with. Thanks all for joining this journey and reading!


On December 31, 2023 and thus arriving just under the wire of the Big Year, a wolverine (Gulo gulo) was captured on a camera trap that @csyampae @caiawatha and I set up in November. WooHOO! What a way to end the year with a hugely anticipated species that I have never documented before! caiawatha was instrumental in helping make this observation happen, from discussing camera options earlier in the year to sharing locations and expertise. So that really is the fitting end to a wonderful year of observing cool things with cool people. Thanks all!

Posted on 07 de fevereiro de 2023, 07:11 AM by muir muir | 33 comentários | Deixar um comentário

17 de janeiro de 2021

muir's 2020 iNat Year in Review

Yellow moosedung moss, Splachnum luteum with Splachnum sphaericum, observed on August 10, 2020, Denali Borough, Alaska. Insects disperse the spores of many species in this family, a characteristic found in no other seedless land plants.

2020..... I cringe with mentions of silver linings to the calamities of the past year, still ongoing, but a comment from a fellow iNaturalist user has stuck with me: I'm grateful for our access to the natural world as the human-built one goes haywire. As for my gratitude for the cycles of the natural world in 2020, the year on iNat started for me with a group of icy river otters in the neighborhood and concluded with a spruce grouse on the x-country ski trails in a city park. From otters to grouse, to urchins in between, here is my end-of-year "holiday card" to the iNat community, highlighting some of my most memorable observations of the year. (I wrote similar "Years in Review" in 2016, 2017/2018, and 2019).

Red Sea Urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus), observed on June 7, 2020, on Outside Beach, Seldovia, Alaska.

Mid-winter, it was cold and calm enough in Anchorage that the trees became thick with ice crystals, covering the city in monochrome, with birds dying overnight stuck to their perches. I don't do much posting to iNat in the winter months, but did manage to observe my first short-eared owls in Alaska at the airport, and the usual cast of Bohemian waxwings, eagles and magpies in the neighborhood. The first wild insect of spring was a plant bug on April 23, with lacewings, syrphids, and tortricid moths appearing around the same time. Similarly, sandhill cranes start showing up around our parts then, and I observed my first group of the year on April 25. During a trip to Independence Mine area in the mountains, still covered thick in snow in late April, I did not expect to find so many Milbert's toroiseshell butterflies emerged and fluttering across wide snowy expanses, and learned from @swiseeagle that, "Adults typically emerge in mid summer, then hibernate for the winter, emerging again in the spring....It's definitely going to be awhile until there's plants to lay eggs on, but they'll be ready when there is!"

Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti), observed on April 25, 2020, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska.

Spring also brought morels and morel hunters to the site of last summer's big burn on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. I had never seen fungi attract crowds like that, and people harvested for weeks and weeks in the blackened landscape, posting some of their finds to an iNat project created by local mycologist @kmohatt.

Morel (Genus Morchella), observed on May 23, 2020, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska.

Besides a pre-pandemic trip to San Diego in January, we didn't travel much this year. We stayed local and hiked in the Chugach, up into algal-laced watermelon snow, and few trips down on the Kenai Peninsula. The sub-tidal in Seldovia brought perhaps the most natural cheer to 2020.

Red-trumpet Calcareous Tubeworm (Serpula columbiana) and a tiny Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), observed on June 6, 2020, Seldovia, Alaska.

Summer brings two things: salmon and more interesting insects. I found my first spruce bark beetle buzzing across my deck, notorious contributors to the fuel load of aforementioned forest fires. At Eagle River Nature Center, I observed a yet-to-be-identified Synanthedon clearwing moth. On July 17, I marked a personal daily record of 6 different species: Dolichovespula arenaria, D. albida, D. arctica, D. alpicola, Vespula alascensis, and V. intermedia.

Parasitic Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arctica) with a face full of pollen, observed on July 17, 2020, at Glen Alps, Anchorage, Alaska.

I met "Chuck" the porcupine at 2:30am on July 4th under a wilderness cabin on the Resurrection Trail. The US Forest Service visitor logbook had many references to the animal, describing many similar experiences of being woken up by the sound of chewing, dating back to at least 2015.

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), observed on July 4, 2020, Caribou Creek cabin, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska.

Summer passes rapidly in Alaska, and fireweed marks its passage. By the second week of July, it's blooming in Anchorage, starting from the bottom of its flower stalk and working its way up to the top. Every patch of fireweed is a good treasure spot to check for bumblebees and other generalist pollinators, adding to the widespread (and earlier) blooms of cowparsnip and dandelions. By mid-August, however, one can find fireweed blooms finishing up, with seed pods cracking and white whispy seeds visible. Summer is ending, it says. And then by the first week of September, the leaves have turned color too, with the seeds pods fully burst and summer fully gone. Check out this beautiful story with pictures from the Fish & Wildlife Service, published in August in honor of fireweed and its place in our world.

Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) on July 11, 2020 (the first week I noticed it started blooming extensively around Anchorage) with more flower buds than flowers, July 17, 2020 (with a Bombus melanopygus), and on August 15, 2020, above Kachemak Bay, with more seed pods than flowers.

September is a time to hunt and hopefully fill whatever space is left in the freezer. The caribou on the Denali Highway ended up being quite safe from me this year, despite two attempts, but I was astounded at how many bruce spanworm moths (Operophtera bruceata) I found myself in. Every couple steps kicked up a moth from the sub-alpine vegetation, and an isolated gas station's lights attracted thousands. In 2020, the species was documented on iNat from Kachemak Bay to the Brooks Range (see this observation from @annelised describing similar outbreak abundances), potentially tens of millions of individuals across Alaska.

An outbreak of Bruce Spanworm Moths (Operophtera bruceata), including a flightless female, attracted in mass to the lights of an isolated gas station, and on a bush in the sub-alpine, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska.

A flock of willow ptarmigan in the season's first snowstorm was another highlight of the hunt. I was able to edge myself right into the middle of them, and they were so camouflaged, if I blinked, my eyes would need to refocus to find them, even though they were only feet away. On the same alpine ridge, but more cautious, I found rock ptarmigan, a life record for me and a species I had been looking for in vain for a couple years.

Willow ptarmigan flock in a light mountain snow (Lagopus lagopus), September 20, 2020, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska.

By the end of the rut in the second week of October, the moose have chilled out again and rest up as they prepare for winter. They're not a particularly rare sight in our neighborhood or our backyard (or from the car's rearview camera) at any time of the year, but it was cool to see 3-4 together with the fall colors.

Overall, I made 971 observations in 2020, of 432 unique taxa identified so far. Thank you to @gwark @johnascher @edanko @phelsumas4life @awenninger @matthias22 @clauden @jasonrgrant for being my top identifiers this year. For obvious reasons, I also met far fewer iNat'rs outside my family IRL this year: @carrieseltzer & @treegrow during a pre-pandemic work trip, @mckittre socially distanced on a beach, and a Denali trip with new converts @cbloomfi @leda_and_oona.

One thing I did put my iNat energy into this year was a two-part analysis of Alaska's iNat observations, as the state passed 100,000 observations in September 2019 and 5,000 unique taxa in March 2020. I'll hope you'll read it here and here.

Anyway, no iNat goals for me for the next year (as I've done in previous years), other than to say that I have a trip to Sitka scheduled for the summer and I hope it happens. Finally, to end, here's a holiday moose -- hoping the cycles of the human-built world becomes less haywire as 2021 progresses.

Posted on 17 de janeiro de 2021, 11:53 PM by muir muir | 10 comentários | Deixar um comentário

19 de abril de 2020

Alaska iNat passes 100k observations & 5k unique taxa: Part II -- Boroughs

Photo by jimmywayne CC BY-NC-ND

This is the second part of a journal post marking AK iNaturalist reaching two recent milestones: 100k observations and 5k unique taxa. If you haven't yet, I would encourage you to read Part I first for background, trends since 2009, seasonality of iNat activity, observations by species groups, and the last remaining Alaskan amphibian to not be IDed on iNat.

An iNaturalist observation has been made in all 29 boroughs and census areas (the Alaskan equivalent to counties, hereafter simplifying to ‘boroughs’). As of 17-Nov-2019 (when I copied the data), the boroughs with the most amount of iNat activity are Sitka, Kenai, and Anchorage. The boroughs with the least amount of iNat activity are Bethel, Kusilvak, and Bristol Bay.
Alaska boroughs and census areas 2008-13

More observers & more observations per borough → more taxa recorded on iNat. In general, there’s a positive relationship between the number of taxa recorded in boroughs on iNaturalist and the number of observers (R2=0.47) and observations (R2=0.87). For every additional observer in an area, roughly about 13 additional observations and 1.5 additional taxa are expected to be recorded on iNaturalist. The boroughs with the most observers? Anchorage (1,023 iNat observers; Alaska's largest population center with almost three times the residents than the next biggest borough), followed by Kenai (910 observers). The boroughs with the most observations? Sitka (38,505 observations), followed by Kenai (12,526 observations). The boroughs with the most taxa recorded? Same pattern as observations: Sitka (2,740 unique taxa), followed by Kenai (1,680 unique taxa).

More people living or visiting a borough for nature → more iNat observers. What explains variation in iNat activity across Alaska boroughs? I spent a bit of time compiling datasets on factors that I suspected might be important: population size, area, visitor volume, visitor volume engaged in nature activities (including wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking), broadband service1. Of those, the two factors that seem the most predictive2 in terms of explaining # of iNat observers are (a) borough population, and (b) number of visitors that engaged in a wildlife viewing activity in the borough3. Multiple regression analysis indicated that those two predictors explained a decent 84% of the variance in the number of observers between boroughs. So, there are more iNaturalist observers in boroughs with more residents and more visitors that want to see wildlife -- makes sense, right? This appears true even when controlling for other factors.

More people living or visiting a borough ≠ more iNat observations…. except…. . In contrast to iNat observers, the same pattern does not hold true for iNat observations when looking across all boroughs. In fact, none of the factors I looked at significantly explained differences in observations between boroughs EXCEPT when I dropped a single borough from the analysis. When I looked at all boroughs except for Sitka, the importance of population size and wildlife-viewing visitors re-emerged as significant variables, with a simple model explaining 75% of observation variance4. So, what makes Sitka special?

The Borough of Sitka contains about 1% of Alaska’s population, 0.5% of the state’s area, and >37% of its iNaturalist observations. Sitka has a bit more iNat observers than one might expect based on population or wildlife-viewing visitors, but it has a lot more iNat observations -- so many that it confounds state-wide patterns and analysis mentioned above. You don’t need to run a regression analysis to notice that Sitka iNat is exceptional within Alaska, maybe even the only robust iNat community in the state (if you think differently, however, please feel free to correct me). In the comments of Part I, uber-iNat’r @damontighe said, “@gwark and the rest of the super community there is really showing what can be done by organizing people to contribute and being on top of helping identify things as they roll in. I have yet to take iNaturalist observations in a location that got as much identification help as I had in Sitka.” Over email, I asked @gwark what makes Sitka special, and with his permission, am posting his response here (lightly edited for clarity, like some off-brand @tiwane):

Part of it is my compulsiveness - in addition to the 8000+ observations I've made since I really adopted iNaturalist as my primary way to record natural history observations in at some point in 2016, I've been working through all my photos going back 20 years, 99% of which are from Sitka.

Although a few of us had dabbled with iNaturalist previously, the first person in Sitka who really started using it extensively was Paul Norwood at the beginning of 2015. When I saw how it was working for him, I was convinced that iNaturalist was the way to go.

rolandwirth and kljinsitka both got into iNaturalist during the All Species Community Big Year project that we did in 2017 (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/sitka-big-year-project) They both really took to it, and have been quite active since that time.

Several other people with >50 observations who are based in Sitka participated in the big year project. A handful have continued to occasionally post observations since then.

I know that I regularly encourage folks to post things to iNaturalist, and I am pretty sure paul_norwood, kilasiak, rolandwirth, and kljinsitka do as well.

I'm not sure if it makes much difference in terms of on-going participation, but I'm pretty compulsive about going through all the observations that come in and trying to identify things. I actually look at all observations from south coastal Alaska (and Haida Gwaii, as well) - but I'm most knowledgeable about things that occur in Sitka, and so am more likely to be able to ID things the closer they are to Sitka.

I think gwark and damontighe hit on a key point re identification help. I wouldn’t really know how to look for the publicly accessible data to confirm it, but my guess is that strong, durable iNat communities are created by enough exceptional individuals that are both creating observations, but also doing a lot of identifications and engagement on other people's observations (as well as connecting with people IRL). People that aren't engaged online, or aren't organized around this platform in person, probably have a much higher likelihood of drifting away. Kudos to Sitka for building community.

I also like the link to the big year project as a starting point for some people to become active users. I think the data are pretty clear that the City Nature Challenge (CNC) brings in a huge influx of iNaturalist users, a fraction of which become longterm active members of the community. I had very briefly talked to the CNC organizers last year about establishing a challenge in Alaska, but the CNC dates -- end of April -- just wouldn't work well for most of the state I think. For those of you Alaskans who didn't join through the Sitka Community Big Year, I'd be curious if you're willing to share: how did you become an active user on iNaturalist?

Tagging folks who commented on Part I: @rolandwirth @loarie @whaichi @carrieseltzer @gyrrlfalcon @awenninger @choess @treegrow @mckittre @connietaylor @paul_norwood

I had planned a Part III to forecast Alaska iNat observations into the future (as is my wont), but I think the spread of the novel coronavirus makes the exercise feel a little less fun and a bit ‘heavier’ now. There’ll be a lot fewer visitors and residents moving around in 2020. Fewer people won’t bother some Alaskans (less crowding on our highways/trails/rivers should be a nice break for us and nature), but it’s going to be a hardship for a lot of neighbors and communities, and an atypical, possibly quite grim year overall.

1 Sources (some more out-of-date than others): Borough Population (copied from Wikipedia 12/1/19: American FactFinder Population. US Census. Retrieved 2019-10-15); Visitor Volume + Wildlife Viewing in Community % + Birdwatching in Community % + Hiking/Nature Walking in Community % (2016 Visitor Volume and Profile https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded/DEV/TourismDevelopment/TourismResearch.aspx); Broadband availability (> 768 Kbps download/ 200 Kbps Upload speeds) (% of households served) (2014) https://www.connectak.org/sites/default/files/facts-figures/files/ak_nov_2014_table_5.pdf

2 Multiple regression analysis was used to test if borough traits significantly predicted borough observers. The results of the regression indicated that two predictors explained 84% of the variance (R2 =.84, F(2,25)=66.50, p < .000001). Borough population significantly predicted the number of iNaturalist observers (β= 0.003, p < .0000001), as did borough visitors who engaged in a wildlife viewing activity (β= 0.002, p < .000001).

3 The number of visitors that engaged in a hiking or nature walk activity in a borough was also positively related to iNat activity, but was no more significant nor explained more variation than the related variable related to visitors engaged in a wildlife viewing activity. My guess is that the two variables related to visitor nature activities are broadly similar enough that they indicate similar things about the borough, and I chose to focus on the one that appeared to explain more variation. Broadband access and total number of visitors were not significant variables, including when controlling for other factors.

4 Multiple regression analysis was used to test if borough traits significantly predicted borough observations. Dropping Sitka from the analysis was the only way to find a significant model. The results of the Sitka-less regression indicated that two predictors explained 75% of the variance (R2 =.75, F(2,24)=36.27, p < .00000001). Borough population significantly predicted the number of iNaturalist observers (β= 0.03, p < .00001), as did borough visitors who engaged in a wildlife viewing activity (β= 0.02, p < .0001). Models that included total visitor volume, visitor volume engaged in hiking/nature walking, and broadband access did not substantially increase R2.

Posted on 19 de abril de 2020, 06:26 AM by muir muir | 4 comentários | Deixar um comentário

17 de abril de 2020

Alaska iNat passes 100k observations & 5k unique taxa: Part I -- seasons & species

This journal post is Part 1 of 2. Read Part 2 here: Alaska iNat passes 100k observations & 5k unique taxa: Part II -- Boroughs

Alaska iNaturalist observers passed two milestones in the past 6 months: 100,000 observations and 5,000 unique taxa1. Curious about trends, I played around with the data2 available on the iNat place page (I’ll post the data if people are interested, but see footnotes where I try to explain my method of copying and interpreting the data). If you see an error, in either the data or my interpretation, please comment below. Here’s what I learned:

iNat observers added 35 times more observations in 2019 compared to a decade ago, grew 20-50% annually in recent years, but remain modest contributors compared to other US states. In 2019, more than 34,900 observations have been posted, representing a near 35-fold increase from the 2009 total of ~1,015 observations3. Since 2016, iNat activity is increasing on average by about 50% every year. By 2018, Alaska added an average of about one hundred iNat observations and four new observers per day. This is 3-4 times below the 2019 average for US states (i.e., 389 new observations and 11 new observers per day) and the number of Alaska observations added in 2019 is about 0.5% of all US observations added.

iNat activity in Alaska is 9-10 times higher in the summer vs winter. Unsurprisingly, given our latitude and climate, Alaska iNat activity is highly seasonal with a burst of observers and species in the summer months of June, July and August. Summer accounts for about 63% of all observations and about 82% of all taxa that have been observed in Alaska. Conversely, winter observations made from October to March account for just 13% of all observations. Of the total number of iNat observers that have posted in Alaska, only 16% have made an observation during the winter versus 73% in the summer. Comparing the number of observations and observers by monthly average, there is 9-10 times more iNat activity in the summer compared to the winter. New observers making their first observation in Alaska show the same pattern of seasonal dormancy and activity: 67% of new observers in 2018 were added during the three months of summer versus 8% added during a half year of winter.

One new taxon was recorded about every 56 observations in 2019. As the most observable species have been documented by the iNat community over time, the number of observations required to document a unique taxon, previously unrecorded in Alaska on iNaturalist, has steadily increased. From 2009-2015, a new taxon for Alaska (species or above) was recorded every 11-12 iNaturalist observations uploaded. In 2016, however, the average number of observations needed to record a new taxon increased to 21 observations, then 32 observations in 2017, then 43 observations in 2018, and most recently, 56 observations in 2019.

Approximately 13,205 species are known to occur in Alaska from checklists, and a very rough estimate is that iNat observers have observed no more than a quarter of them. Species checklists for Alaska are available for birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, non-marine arthropods, vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, and lichens from the following online sources:

Combining all these groups, iNaturalist observers have documented around 3,324 unique taxa, or approximately 25% of the combined checklist species total of 13,205 species. This should be considered a very rough estimate because (a) the various checklists and iNaturalist are using different taxonomies and/or contain taxonomic errors, (b) in a few cases, iNaturalist counts taxa that the checklists for various reasons do not (e.g., bison; hybrids), and (c) I am comparing species totals and generally not matching individual species. If you are able to look past those data issues, vascular plants, mammals, and birds are covered the most by iNaturalist observers in Alaska, followed by liverworts, mosses, lichen, fish, insects and arachnids.

99% of resident and regularly occurring Alaska birds have been observed, and iNat coverage appears to decrease with increasing rarity. Birds are a relatively well-covered group by iNaturalist observers in Alaska. For example, 331 bird taxa have been observed at the time of this journal post. iNat observers have covered about 99% of the Alaska checklist of resident bird species and regular visitors (checklist maintained by UAF and last updated January 2020). iNat observation coverage appears to decrease with increasing rarity. For example, iNat observers have recorded 78% of bird species considered rare (defined in part as annual or possibly annual in small numbers, most at the perimeter of Alaska), 20% of bird species considered casual (defined in part as not annual, beyond the periphery of annual range, but recur at irregular intervals), and 2% of bird species considered accidental (defined as one or two Alaska records, or none in last 30 years). Because the most observable bird species have already been documented on iNat, the number of new taxa added every year is relatively modest: on average, about 10 per year since 2008. Relatedly, the number of observations required to document a new taxon for Alaska is higher for birds than any other comparable group I looked at. In 2019, on average, a previously unrecorded bird species for Alaska was added every 860 iNat observations. Top AK bird observers: @gwark (4151 obs, 227 taxa), @sitkaconnor (1580 obs, 212 taxa).

A little less than three-quarters of Alaskan vascular plants have been observed on iNaturalist. iNaturalist observers have recorded about 73% of the species total on the Alaska Provisional Vascular Checklist (1304 species on iNat vs 1780 on the checklist). In 2019, a new taxon was recorded on iNaturalist every ~77 vascular plant observations. Dicots are generally monitored more widely by the iNat community (79% of the checklist total) compared to monocots (59%). Species-poor groups like quillworts, horsetails, conifers, and ferns are relatively well-covered (all 90%+), as are groups like roses, buttercups and orchids. Grasses, sedges, and mustards are less well-covered (iNat species totals are 40-55% of the checklist species totals), with asters and legumes somewhere in between (~60-70%). In terms of rarity and observation coverage, I did not attempt to correlate Natural Heritage ranks for Alaska -- S1 through S5 -- with iNat observations, but I’m curious if the same pattern holds as bird observation coverage and checklist categories of rarity. Top AK vascular plant observers: @gwark (5064 obs, 465 taxa), @jasonrgrant (1368 obs, 434 taxa).

About 72% of Alaskan mammals have been observed on iNaturalist. iNat observers have recorded about 72% of the mammal species total from the wildlife data portal of the Alaska Center for Conservation Science, with about 25-30 species of rodents, shrews, bats, and cetaceans still to be observed on iNaturalist. In 2019, a new taxon was recorded about every 400 mammal observations. Top AK mammal observers: @madhipp11 (94 obs, 34 taxa), gwark (482 obs, 28 taxa).

About 41% of known Alaskan liverworts and 28% of mosses have been observed on iNaturalist. iNat observers have recorded 44 unique taxa of liverworts (Phylum Marchantiophyta) and 160 unique taxa of mosses (Phylum Bryophyta). In 2019, a new-to-AK-iNat taxon was recorded every 63 liverwort observations, and a new moss taxon every 27 observations. Top AK liverwort observers: gwark (235 obs, 36 sp), @kilasiak (39 obs, 24 sp). Top AK moss observers: gwark (739 obs, 113 sp), paul_norwood (225 obs, 43 sp).

Very roughly, no more than 27% of Alaskan lichens have been observed on iNaturalist. iNat observers have identified around 225 unique taxa of lichen out of 835 species known to occur in Alaska. (Because lichens do not form a monophyletic group, and some lichen families contain non-lichenized members, the percentage of known species and # of unique taxon recorded is more of a rough approximation compared to other groups. I'm not going to attempt to calculate the # of observations to record a new-to-AK-iNat species in 2019, nor the top observer. Lichens, glorious mess.)

About 26% of Alaskan fish have been observed on iNaturalist. iNaturalist observers have recorded around 26% of the species total from all the taxa reported from Alaska in FishBase, and in 2019, a new taxon for Alaska was documented every 35 iNaturalist fish observations. Approximately 340 species of bony fish have yet to be posted and identified on iNaturalist, plus another 26 species of hagfish, lampreys, and elasmobranchs. Top AK fish observers: @paul_norwood (127 obs, 52 taxa), gwark (203 obs, 51 taxa).

<12% of Alaskan insect and arachnid species have been observed and identified on iNaturalist. There are a lot of Alaskan arthropods that iNat observers have not found and identified yet. Based on what information is currently available, a very rough estimate is that iNat observers have recorded about 12% of the known insect species in Alaska (916 species on iNat vs 7440 species on the Draft Checklist of Non-Marine Arthropods of Alaska) and about 10% of arachnids (102 vs 1002). Given the degree to which the checklist is considered incomplete and provisional, the actual percentage is likely much lower. Top AK insect observers: gwark (3270 obs, 276 taxa), @muir (814 obs, 147 taxa).

Within the insects4, the Odonata are among the groups best covered by iNat observers (~74% of species on the Draft Checklist, 25 out of 34 species, have been observed on iNat), followed by the Orthoptera (~48%, 10 out of 21 species), and Lepidoptera (~43%, 366 out of 849 species). Conversely, iNat observers have recorded only 5-10% of speciose groups like the Hemiptera (56 out of 611 species), Hymenoptera (98 out of 1187), Coleoptera (178 out of 1753), and Diptera (146 out of 2450). In 2019, a new insect record for Alaska iNaturalist was added every ~29 observations and a new arachnid every ~24 observations. Within the insects, a new taxon was added every 38 Hymenoptera observations posted to iNat, a new Lepidoptera every 33 observations, a new Diptera every 19 observations, and a new beetle every 14 observations.

Seven out of eight Alaskan amphibian species have been observed. A handful of major taxonomic groups have few known representatives in Alaska, and unsurprisingly their iNat coverage is highly variable. For example, there is one chimaera species (i.e., the spotted ratfish) and it has been observed (100% coverage), whereas there are seven jawless fish species and only one has been observed (14%). There are nine known millipede species and four have been observed and identified (44% coverage). Among these types of groups, amphibians are well-covered by iNat observers. There are eight known amphibian species and seven species have been observed (88% iNat coverage), with only Ambystoma gracile yet to be found and identified.

Part II will look at iNat observations and observers by borough. (spoiler: Sitka features heavily!)

Flagging for some AK iNat observers who haven’t been tagged yet: @kilasiak @rolandwirth @kljinsitka @mbowser @cedarleaf @awenninger @connietaylor @blainespellman @sitkarowan @troydeclan @old-bean-adams @mckittre @naokitakebayashi @akfrank @jdmason @robertweeden @dssikes @ahaberski … and some other iNat’rs @carrieseltzer @treegrow @jakob @gyrrlfalcon @loarie. Apologies in advance if you consider this tagging to be spam.

1 100,000 verifiable observations was first passed on 08-September-19. Conversely, the 5,000 taxa milestone has been “nearly there” for months afterwards. I started drafting this journal post in November when the number of unique Alaskan taxa surpassed 4,950. The total steadily climbed to around 4,990, and then dropped some, and dropped some more, until it was around 4,960 unique taxa before rebounding upward again. The taxon total seems to take two steps forward, one step back (sometimes three steps back) for weeks at a time. Three months later, on 19-Feb, observation and unique taxa simultaneously passed 110k and 5k, respectively. Again, the taxon total backslid below 5,000. The specific cause of these downward fluctuations isn’t obvious, but presumably it’s some combination of identification revisions, deletions of observations or user accounts, taxonomic updates, updates to data quality, etc. Finally, sometime around 10-March, the 5k unique taxa milestone was surpassed (again) and the achievement has since appeared resilient to fluctuations.
screenshot 19-Feb-20
screenshot 7-Mar-20

2 I manually copied the data from inaturalist.org/observations on 15-Nov-19, when it looked like both milestones were imminent. Manually copying data is admittedly a flawed method, vulnerable to data entry error, time-consuming, and produces a dataset that’s very quickly out-of-date. I don’t know how to access the iNat API, but I have a basic understanding that if I did, that would be a better way to source the data I’m interested in. Alas. On 7-Mar-20, I updated that totals for several of the major taxonomic classes of observations.

3 The 2009 total (and all following years) includes observations added after the year in question. In fact, the first iNat observation in Alaska wasn’t posted until 12-January-2011 (a humpback in Resurrection Bay observed in 2005 by @msr), approximately three years after iNat came online. Proportionally, the biggest year of recent growth was 2016-2017, and there is probably an interesting analysis to be done of how yearly totals accumulate over time (e.g., what % of 2015-dated observations were added in 2015 vs 2016 vs 2017 and so on).

4 FWIW these data are a few months out of date at the time of this journal post, and were copied around 15-Nov-2019.

Posted on 17 de abril de 2020, 04:42 AM by muir muir | 79 comentários | Deixar um comentário

04 de janeiro de 2020

muir's 2019 iNat Year in Review

An August 2019 observation of a rockweed isopod, ready to take on the world. Seldovia, Alaska.

As per my tradition, please indulge my end-of-year reflection and “holiday card” for iNaturalist friends far and wide, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet in real life, and some not yet. See links for past “Years in Review” for 2016 and 2017/2018.


I posted 1,268 verifiable 2019 observations, with 744 taxa currently identified. That’s a modest ~10-15% increase over my 2018 activity, bringing my cumulative total to about 19,511 observations and 4,954 taxa since I joined in 2011. As I’ve approached the 20k iNat observation milestone, I started to make a purposeful effort in the last six months of 2019 to focus on quality (as measured by new-to-me taxa) over quantity of observations. As part of that push, I sought out more than 200 observations neglected and hiding on my hard drive, mostly covering my pre-digital camera years traveling around South America (1998-2002). A couple years ago, I had a bunch of old slides, negatives and prints from that period commercially scanned, and I finally got around to uploading them, as well as a few field drawings. It was fun to mentally re-visit that time period (with miniature pangs of regret that I wasn’t as attached to a camera then like I am now).


2019 was my first full calendar year in my new home of Anchorage, Alaska. I visited many of the same places in southcentral Alaska that I did last year, but spent more days in Kachemak Bay and on the Denali Highway (both of which I want to spend more time in 2020). Part of the (enjoyable) challenge of living in a state like Alaska is that it’s so big and roadless with so many amazing places that I don’t know and would love to. The seasonal attractions of familiar places, however, keep me returning to the same haunts for salmon, berries, migrating birds, game, and accessible mountains.

I made one trip to the tropics this year: a family vacation to Mérida and the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. I solicited ideas from locally based iNat users, and am grateful for help from @aldo_echeverria @lsauma @trinchan @adorantes for recommendations. While I intended to write a journal post sharing what I learned and where I went, I never did, so please feel free to see and share this map as a collection of local recommendations to visit nature around Mérida.


In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species observations from 2019:

Thanks to the ID assistance of @caseyborowskijr @matthias22 and @humanbyweight, I observed five new species of yellowjackets this year, including this Arctic Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula albida), and gained a new appreciation for hornet diversity. On the same July 3rd hike in Chugach State Park that I saw the pictured yellowjacket, I also observed a rare clearwing moth: Synathedon arctica (thanks to @taftw for all sesiid IDs).

A crescent gunnel (Pholis laeta) observed during two days of amazing tide pooling with @mckittre in Seldovia, AK. Some of the best time I spent outside all year.

A falcated duck (Mareca falcata), the first record on mainland Alaska, was a birder attractant this summer at Potter Marsh in Anchorage. Along with golden eagles, Hudsonian godwits, rough-legged hawks, and a number of Yucatán birds, my avian life list surpassed 1,000 species in 2019.

One of the 133 gray whales (including 48 in Alaska) that turned up dead in the US and Canada this year. 2019 was reportedly “the second-worst year on record for gray whales [2000 was the largest Unusual Mortality Event (UME) on record], which were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s. It could represent as much as 10% of the species' total population.” This whale floated to rest at a very accessible spot to the Seward Highway and attracted a large crowd of onlookers, one of whom marked its demise with lupine flowers.

I killed a caribou in early September, my first. Two weekends later, I drove up to the same area on the Denali Highway to help a cousin, but by the night I arrived, he had already harvested his animal. So, the next morning, I headed out on foot, with only a camera, and was soon thrilled to be following fresh wolf tracks. Suddenly I realized that hundreds of caribou were moving toward me, pushed down by the season’s first heavy snow in the mountains. I ran to get out ahead of the herd and only half-succeeded. Threads of 20/30/40 caribou pushed around me, and I reached a hill to watch them undisturbed, crossing creeks, shaking water from their heavy fall coats, and melting in and out of spruce forests and open muskeg. Everywhere I looked for an hour, there were caribou. One of my favorite wildlife experiences of 2019. Video here. I never did see the wolf.

Although technically not a 2019 observation, this year I added a few field sketches from 20+ years ago in Ecuador (and one from Bolivia), which were lovely to revisit.

An ant-eating ant mimic Tutelina formicaria expertly IDed by @salticidude who recognized it as the first iNat record for the species among 40,000 other salticid observations. Observed in Idylwild WMA, Maryland. My other favorite 2019 salticid was the Pelegrina montana jumping spider, which for the moment anyways, has only been recorded on iNat in my backyard.

And finally, on December 31st, a caddisfly emergence in a blizzard that followed the warmest New Year’s Eve on record, capping off the state’s warmest year on record. A NOAA report published in October notes that “Alaska has been warming twice as quickly as the global average since the middle of the 20th century. Alaska is warming faster than any U.S. state.” Makes me wonder: what anomalies will we observe on iNat in 2020 that will seem normal in 2030?

Journal Posts

-- July 23 - The hunt for 5,000 taxa before 20,000 observations. An exercise in iNat navel-gazing, as I attempt to work toward a 1:4 taxa to observation ratio. By tracking my stats every few weeks, I learned that, independent of any new observations I might add, I gain a net of about 4-5 taxa per week from the iNat community reviewing and identifying my old observations. Extrapolating that rate to the entire year, about 1% of my old observations were improved with finer taxonomic identifications in 2019. As mentioned previously, this journal post also motivated me to post more than 200 observations from scanned images from my pre-2002 archives.
-- July 10 - What’s the world’s most observed insect genus? And more thoughts on iNat observability. An attempt to identify the most observed insect genus on this website, and define what I mean by observability. I think there’s a good case to be made for the bumblebee (Bombus) in North America, but on further reflection, I think the answer is likely something else (Papilio?) globally. In terms of what factors affect the observability of any taxon, I suggested accessibility and the degree to which a taxon is common, charismatic, conspicuous and (smartphone) camera-friendly.
-- April 5 - Idylwild WMA field trip. A sort of failed attempt to convene a larger group for an iNat meet-up two hours from DC, but the bugs, weather and location certainly did not fail a small group of us, and we had a very fine time indeed at one of my favorite places in the wider DC region.


I was thrilled to spend time in the field with @judygva @treegrow @richardhall @nlblock this year, and even got to briefly see @bogslogger during his visit to Alaska. A big THANK YOU / GRACIAS to all of the people who helped identify observations I posted in 2019, including top IDers @gwark @ivanresendizcruz @rangertreaty50 @entomokot @johnascher @treegrow @nlblock @mc1991 @maxallen @adorantes and all the other folks and friends connected via iNat that have brightened my 2019 (that I don’t think I’ve tagged elsewhere in this journal post…..) including @tatianah22 @annettes-au @jhammock @annebatten @naturelady @connietaylor @renatapitman @finatic @sambiology @greglasley @jakob @borisb @botanygirl @gyrrlfalcon @onekoolkid0 @jaykeller @davidbygott @awenninger @ashley_bradford @dssikes @edanko @jonathan_kolby @jrfulkerson @troydeclan @katzyna @mbowser @rachelneugarten @psyllidhipster @susanhewitt @jasonrgrant @brucebennett @akfrank @ahaberski @loarie @kueda @tiwane. (And apologies for the tag if you consider this spam….)

2020 Goals

I met few of my 2019 iNat goals. And yet, I still found joy, buried in rotting wood, exposed at low tide, and flitting in otherwise charred and blackened lands (perhaps not a terrible metaphor for 2019...). So, recognizing the aspirational nature of this list, here’s what I want to do in 2020 related to iNaturalist:
-- Get a new camera
-- Visit Cordova & the Copper River Delta
-- Visit Mystery Creek road (if open to the public) and observe what is living in the aftermath of the Swan Lake Fire, which ignited on June 5th, burned for most of the summer across 167,164 acres (676 km2), and may still be smoldering under the snow
-- Observe and identify 500 AK taxa (I got to 430+ taxa in 2019, ~85% of the way there!)
-- See an Arctic Warbler
-- Be in a tidepool with my family during some of the lowest AK tides of the year
-- Nepal
-- Vancouver Island marmots (cc @marmota_taylor)
-- Align schedules to see the constant traveler @carrieseltzer
-- Be outside with @judygva and @treegrow who are some of my favorite reasons to visit DC
-- Publish journal posts on iNaturalist activity in Alaska (now shaping up to be a three-parter -- please send an editor), more navel-gazing on reaching 20k observations, resources for southcentral AK bumblebee identification, and a ten-year sample of iNat activity across countries.

From my family to yours, Happy New Year everybody.

Our 2019 Christmas tree, harvested in the MatSu Moose Range. A white spruce, iNat’d of course.

Posted on 04 de janeiro de 2020, 05:12 AM by muir muir | 15 comentários | Deixar um comentário

24 de julho de 2019

The hunt for 5,000 taxa before 20,000 observations

This is a bit frivolous and arbitrary, but having recently crossed the 19,000 observation threshold, I am trying to observe 5,000 identified taxa before I hit 20,000 observations. If I understand correctly how iNaturalist counts taxa, I am currently (as of 7/23/19) sitting at 19,018 verifiable observations and 4,644 identified taxa above the subspecies level (of which, 4,032 have been identified as species). That means that for my next 1,000 or so observations, I need to observe and identify ~350 taxa that I haven't before, or about 1 new taxa for every 3 observations. That will be difficult for me!

Recent new-to-me taxa (clockwise from top left): Banded Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus investigator), Salmon Louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), Ixodes angustus, Dark Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma citrata).

I am generally someone who enjoys (and believes in the community value of) documenting the same species multiple times. I have been known to encourage others to "observe everything!" (cc @judygva) When I first joined iNat, it was obviously the easiest to record a new-to-me species, and it generally becomes more challenging to observe new taxa after finding the most conspicuous, charismatic, and camera-friendly species at a site. In 2011 and before, I was observing and identifying a new taxa every 1.66 observations. From 2012-2015, I averaged a new taxa about every 5 observations. From 2016 to now, I become a bit more selective, traveled to several new areas, and averaged a new taxa about every 4 observations. If I want to achieve my goal of identifying 5,000 taxa before I cross the 20,000 observation threshold, I am going to need to step up my identification game, practice more restraint in observing previously documented taxa, stop neglecting other taxa, and visit some new habitats and sites.

Recent new-to-me taxa (clockwise from top left): Rusty Tussock Moth (Orgyia antiqua), Falsehorn Flies (Genus Temnostoma), Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), Northern Red-banded Yellowjacket (Vespula intermedia).

Here's my plan to strive for quality over quantity:
-- Spend a couple days tide pooling in Seldovia. Goal: 30-40 new taxa.
-- I don't know this is true, but my sense is that passively, I gain a net of about 1-4 new taxa per week from the iNat community reviewing my old observations. So over the next couple months or so, I would estimate a net gain of ~20-30 new taxa.
-- Identify ~100 new taxa reviewing my old observations and adding new observations from my photo archive.
-- Pick up ~200 new taxa in S Texas in <500 observations. cc @finatic @sambiology @treegrow so that they can keep me on point.

Posted on 24 de julho de 2019, 04:16 AM by muir muir | 29 comentários | Deixar um comentário

10 de julho de 2019

What's the world's most observed insect genus? and more thoughts on iNat observability

What is the world's most observed insect genus? On iNat at least, I think the answer is Bombus, the bumble bee. Globally, 22,000+ iNat observers have recorded over 72,000 verifiable Bombus observations (1.34% of all insect observations), followed by Common Swallowtails (Genus Papilio, 26k+ observers, 68k+ observations, 1.27% of insect observations), Tiger Milkweed Butterflies (Genus Danaus, 20k+ observers, 63k+ observations, 1.18% of insect observations), Ladies and Related Admiral Butterflies (Genus Vanessa, 19k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.06% of insect observations), Honey Bees (Genus Apis, 25k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.05% of insect observations), and King Skimmers (Genus Libellula, 8k+ observers, 39k+ observations, 0.74% of insect observations). If iNat was more popular in African and Asian countries and not so biased to North American observers, you might see genera like Orthetrum, another dragonfly (2k+ observers, 11k+ observations), among that list.

What affects the observability of a genus or other taxon? Whether on iNat or in general, I think the most important factor is habitat accessibility. If a taxon doesn't occur on the road system, occurs in a habitat away from human population centers, and/or can't be easily observed from dry land, then I suspect that the taxon is unlikely to ever be among the most observed on iNat. Aside from accessibility, I think you probably need at least two of the following four factors, and the more the better, to boost both detectability and observability:

Common: the degree to which a taxon is present and abundant.

Charismatic: the degree to which a taxon appeals to people. Charisma is obviously somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but broadly, it appears to be a detectable influence on what humans care about in nature (e.g., paper: Human preferences for species conservation: Animal charisma trumps endangered status).

Conspicuous: the degree to which a taxon is notice-able and visible. For example, a taxon that is diurnal, brightly colored or highly contrasted, large-bodied, and/or perches in the open is more observable than a nocturnal, dull-colored, microscopic thing that resides in the soil or thick vegetation.

Camera-friendly: the degree to which a taxon is photograph-able. I'm not quite sure if/how this might differ from a taxon being conspicuous, but something about taxon staying still in well-lit situations. To the extent that iNat observations are increasingly made via the app, this factor increasingly means smartphone camera-friendly.

In many areas (outside of Africa and Australia) and for many people, I think bumble bees probably hit all four, and are a top candidate to be the world's most accessible/common/charismatic/conspicuous/camera-friendly and thus observed insect genus.

Tagging some of the most frequent Bombus observers and identifiers: @alexis_amphibian @erikamitchell @dleaon1 @tony_wills @jenniferf4 @tmarkolivier @beeboy @czbgbuzztroop @johnascher @rustybee @mdwarriner @hadel @pfau_tarleton @heatherholm @malisaspring @haukekoch @rjm2 and more general insect iNat'rs @borisb @nlblock @edanko @brandonwoo @maractwin @greglasley @sambiology @treegrow @judygva @treichard @vicfazio3 @finatic @loarie @carrieseltzer @tiwane who likely have additional thoughts on what affects the observability of an insect taxon. Image #1: a fuzzy-horned bumble bee (B mixtus) in Whittier Alaska, Image #2: a global snapshot of iNat Bombus observations, Image #3: a possible Fernald's cuckoo bumblee bee (B fernaldae) in Kenai Alaska.

PS What is the world's most observed genus overall on iNat? Hint #1: it's in the birds. Hint #2: it's among these candidates: Dabbling Ducks (Anas) vs Great Herons (Ardea) vs Typical Thrushes (Turdus) vs True Sparrows (Passer) vs Buteo hawks (Buteo). Without looking, leave your guess in the comments below.

Posted on 10 de julho de 2019, 08:04 PM by muir muir | 7 comentários | Deixar um comentário

05 de abril de 2019

May 18 - Idylwild WMA field trip

Calling all DC-area (and Delmarva-area) iNaturalists --

After previously meeting up in suburban Maryland (see @carrieseltzer 's journal post), Rock Creek Park (see @treegrow 's journal post), Meadowood Recreation Area (see my journal post), and the Suitland Bog Natural Area (see @mellis's journal post), I am proposing a trip farther afield near the MD-DE border: Idylwild Wildlife Management Area on May 18 (Saturday) 2019. I first heard of Idylwild from @mike_moore Michael Moore's excellent website, which describes the 3,800 acre area as "an abandoned sand mining operation in sandy pine woods next to the Marshyhope River with a wide diversity of pond, stream, bog and river habitats" and "by far the premier site for odonates on the Delamarva." You can read more about Idylwild and find a helpful map on Mike's webpage for "Where to find Odonates" (scroll down), and see what has been observed and posted to iNat from this area in the past.

The plan is to park in the parking area off of Noble Rd (Google map location). I will try to arrive around 8am, and plan to wander up the trail and nearby fields, for those arriving later. Again, I recommend you look at the Idylwild map on Mike's website (remember to scroll down to get to a section dedicated to Idylwild), particularly if you're coming on your own or joining later. Please add a comment below if you need a ride, or can provide a ride, and folks can try to organize amongst themselves to carpool to the extent possible. It's a 2+ hr drive from DC. I will likely be renting a car, and departing DC on May 17 (Friday), after dinnertime to give the traffic a chance to relax, and stay at a chain hotel in Easton or Seaford. I would expect a full day -- potentially also visiting a second site in the afternoon, and maybe gathering for dinner at a restaurant somewhere along the route back to DC. I usually bring an extra set of clothes because there are some marshy and creek bits where my enthusiasm carries me into the wet. ;) Be aware that there are no restroom or other facilities at this site.

If you haven't attended one of these gatherings before, you are most welcome! They are loosely organized and fun, very informal, and people can come and go as they please. The group usually spreads out and moves at a naturalist's pace. Impromptu picnics are known to occur. I don't think any of us are axe-murderers.

Here is the iNat project created to compile observations from these DC-area field trips.

Tagging recently active users & participants from previous field trips, apologies if you consider this spam. Please tag and invite others freely.
@treegrow @carrieseltzer @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @briangratwicke @judygva @botanygirl @belyykit @ashley_bradford @elliotgreiner @mellis @achang @jgingold @krosenthal @tminatbe @mmn_noriko @mdnaturalist @treichard @kestrelsparverius @gwh @lorax32 @lynnparsons @tkirk304 @lucareptile @jacobogre @kellykrechmer @annagypsy @kisaacson @etotin @yogagalen @eglaeser @mkoenig @nicocampalans @klthomasart @ecologyelise @lookandsee and a few folks who have posted observations from Caroline County MD: @cammie @naturelady @hholbrook @mikemq41

May 19 (Sunday) is the reschedule date if weather is very poor the day before.

Posted on 05 de abril de 2019, 09:35 PM by muir muir | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

09 de janeiro de 2019

muir's 2018 iNat Year(s) in Review

A very on-brand observation of the Centaurus Beetle (Augosoma centaurus), Congo.

I wrote a "Year in Review" in 2016, that sort of felt like my Christmas card to the iNat community, and really enjoyed reflecting on where I went, what I saw, and who I was with. Partly out of exhaustion (new baby), and partly out of the iNat team stealing my thunder with a very cool "Year in Review" stats page, I didn't write an annual review in 2017. With the current government shutdown, however, I have more time on my hands.


I made an observation every month in 2018, continuing a streak that dates back to February 2011 -- the year I joined iNaturalist. Now that I'm aware of this 94 month streak, I will be more conscious about keeping it up! In total, I posted 1,101 verifiable observations, with 539 taxa currently IDed. That's a big dip in activity and species for me -- I've been averaging about double that since 2012, and am now out of the top 500 of the most prolific iNat'rs. (For comparison's sake, and to note how much the iNat community continues to grow, you needed to post at least 1,640 observations in 2018 to crack the list of the top 500 observers. In contrast, 1,640 observations in 2011 would make you iNat's fifth most frequent observer.)


I changed home ranges in April 2018, relocating from Washington DC to Anchorage, Alaska. I was born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, but don't know the Anchorage area well, so it's been a pleasure to explore new trails and places. Westchester Lagoon replaces Huntley Meadows as my go-to nature place, but the Coastal Trail & Kincaid Park, Glen Alps trailhead, and Portage Pass in Whittier have become fast and convenient favorites.

About 80% of my observations and species were recorded in the United States. I made only one work trip internationally, to a park I've been to before (Nouabale Ndoki) in Congo Brazzaville, and mostly stayed close to home. In 2017, I traveled much farther afield, including Asia for the first time. I traveled to two Indonesian national parks in the southern tip of Sumatra, Way Kambas and Bukit Barisan Selatan, as well as the Bogor Botanical Gardens south of Jakarta, and a layover in Narita, Japan (which I wrote an iNat journal post about).

My other big trip of 2017 was joining the iNat-athon in SE Arizona. A big thank you again to BJ, Jay and others who helped set the itinerary through a series of spectacular places in and around the Sky Islands.


In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species photos that I took in 2017/18:

A forest elephant in Mbeli Bai, Congo, observed for more than two hours in its natural state. A real treat as I spend most of my work life reading about dead poached elephants.

An Appalachian salamander (Plethodon jordani) and a salamander found creekside in Tuckaleechee Cavern, both observed on an amazing four day trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

A pair of Cobra Clubtails (Gomphurus vastus), overlooking the south fork of the Shenandoah River. I attended the 2017 meeting of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas in Staunton, Virginia, and learned of several sites for gomphids and other Appalachian specialities. I miss seeing those gomphids.

While wading the Rivanna River looking for odes on a very warm day, I caught by chance a longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) leaping. What a cool fish.

Judy is one of my inspirations in DC, and when she posted a Riley's clearwing moth (Synanthedon rileyana) that I coveted, we organized a field trip to the same area. Incredibly, I observed the same species, which stayed long enough to get a single photo, and then proceeded to hug everyone around me. Ha, what joy!

Westchester Lagoon is one of Anchorage's most popular birding spots, and I'm grateful to now live in the neighborhood. Red-necked grebes (Podiceps grisegena) are present throughout the summer, nesting on floating veg and parenting attentively. These birds were gorging on fish (salmon?) fry, headed out into Cook Inlet. Waterfowl abound when the lagoon is ice-free, and I also found my first Lake Darner (Aeshna eremita), the state's largest dragonfly, there this year.

In Cook Inlet, but just a short walk away from Westchester Lagoon, I spotted a pod of belugas, which is always a special experience. These belugas are one of the few taxa in Alaska listed as Endangered (others with critical habitat in the state include the North Pacific right whale, the Western Steller sea lion, and the Aleutian shield fern. sources: USFWS & NOAA). Since I was born, the Cook Inlet beluga population has decreased by about 75%, and currently number around 330 individuals.

In the backyard, I have moose, snowshoe hares, some charismatic hoverflies, and this Northern Goshawk which landed feet away from me on my deck. I love to live this close to wild life, and have plans to make my yard more insect-friendly in the coming years.

In late August, on the first day of hunting season, I helped my cousin butcher a moose, north of Palmer. The papillae in the mouth, which help move the tough browse that moose consume in the right direction, were incredible to see up close. We eat moose meat a couple times a week now.

Finally, I took a short entomology course from Derek Sikes this summer in Denali, and learned of the existence of Elaphrus marsh ground beetles. Being a tiger beetle admirer (aren't we all?), I was fascinated by a look-alike group that patrols riverbanks to prey on insects caught up in the water. I was proud to find one near Campbell Creek Science Center, a place I'm hoping to spend more time at in 2019.

I have too many favorite observations from Indonesia and Arizona, so I "faved" a bunch of them and you can find them here and here, respectively. One of the less charismatic, but scientifically interesting things I shared on iNat from those trips was a psyllid that Chris Mallory recognized as perhaps the first known photo of the Metatrioza genus, and the first record since the species was originally described out of Tucson in 1944. Even when I'm wrong or ignorant of the significance of what I'm observing (which embarrassingly happens a lot!), iNat continues to be a source of joy that my wanderings in nature can contribute to something bigger than myself, finding and sharing things that pique the interest of friends, taxonomic specialists and land managers. Similar to the psyllid (which Chris returned to the site the following year to re-find), @groverbrown came across one of my turtle observations, and suggested that it may be a new Maryland state record, for a species that is expanding its range during climate change. State biologists and Jug Bay land managers are now on the look out to confirm its presence. I think about that a lot now in Alaska. Not so much about finding state records, but about the potential for each observation to be interesting to science and conservation in the future, particularly as alpine and boreal species shift and disappear and arrive in Alaska over the next 10-20 years plus.


Tagging people I enjoyed being outside with in 2017/18 (and hoping you don't consider this being spammed). DC-area: @judygva @carrieseltzer @treegrow @calopteryx @peggyo @jhammock @mellis @ashley_bradford @achang @lagin6489 @katzyna @mattluizza @guyfoulks iNatathon: @finatic @jaykeller @berkshirenaturalist @kueda @loarie @dloarie @matthew_salkiewicz @nathantaylor @psyllidhipster @sambiology @silversea_starsong @bogslogger Great Smokey: @reallifeecology DSA: @greglasley @pbedell Indonesia: @stsang @dewichristina. And a big THANK YOU to @borisb @treegrow @psyllidhipster @joshuagsmith @nlblock @johnascher @brucebennett @gwark @edanko @briangooding @jasonrgrant & @wongun for identifying a huge number of my observations over the past couple years. I invite all of you to Anchorage -- our home & Alaskan nature await you.

2019 Goals

-- Visit west of Cook Inlet
-- More tide-pooling
-- Mystery Creek road
-- Harvest a caribou
-- 500 AK species
-- Plan for Peru in 2020
-- Revisit my interest in predicting species occurrence and observations on iNat
-- Go outside with some AK iNat'rs, including @connietaylor @awenninger @mbowser @mckittre @gwark @brucebennett @jasonrgrant @paul_norwood @camwebb @jrfulkerson @dssikes @troydeclan some of whom I've met, and some I hope to in 2019

From my family to yours, Happy New Year everybody.

Posted on 09 de janeiro de 2019, 11:52 PM by muir muir | 15 comentários | Deixar um comentário