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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - 2014-03-27

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APNEP Joins iNaturalist

By Marie English, Education and Outreach Assistant

March 27, 2014

Now that spring is finally here and talk around the water cooler is abuzz with plans for outdoor adventures and exploration, APNEP is excited to announce the launching of its first iNaturalist (iNat) project. iNat is a website and optional application used to capture and record observations or species sightings in nature. The goal of APNEP’s project page is to collect observations of plants and animals found in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Region. APNEP needs the involvement of citizen scientists on iNat to make this project successful. When iNat members share their perfectly-captured nature photos, they are helping to record N.C.’s natural resources and fill gaps in species data collection. 

What is iNaturalist? 

Anyone can become a naturalist with iNat! With an easy-to-use website and smartphone app, iNaturalist has become one of the most advanced forms of citizen science. It brings together all types of nature enthusiasts including scientists, hikers, photographers, birders, kayakers, fishermen, students, and  many more. iNat is a place where users can record what they see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world. Users record the “when", “what”, and “where” of the species they encounter while exploring the natural  world. If enough people record their observations, it would be akin to a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers could use to monitor changes in biodiversity over time.

 

                                   NC NHP botanist, Misty Buchanan, surveying species of the Roanoke River floodplain.                                                     

There are over a half million world-wide observations recorded on iNaturalist.org. The observations posted to iNaturalist are displayed in both a web map and an individual “life list.” Each user establishes a profile, which provides opportunities for social networking, linking to other social media, and scientific discussion. There are four main aspects of the website that are designed to encourage involvement and information transfer: (1)  Place Pages, (2) Guide Pages, (3)  Species Pages, and (4) Project Pages.

  •  Place Pages provide a species guide, current observations, and basic information about a particular geographic place. Searching Place Pages at the county scale is a great way for an aspiring naturalist to become acquainted with the species in his or her area.
  •  Guide Pages are designed to teach people about the species they can expect to find in a particular area and can serve as field guides for many different topics like coral reefs, lichens, suburban areas, state parks, or Great Lake fishes.
  • A user can learn about species from all over the world and their taxonomy using the iNat  Species Pages. The iNat  Species Pages let you search by kingdom, phylum, class, etc. to see how species are related and organized taxonomically.
  •  Project Pages help collect observations on a specific project or topic. Anyone can set up a project page for the purpose of data collection, outreach, and/or education. For example, the APNEP project page will be a collection of species observations found in APNEP counties. This data may be helpful to managers making future conservation decisions, tourists visiting the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, or local communities interested in discovering what’s in their own backyard. 

    Extent of APNEP project area on iNat. 

    Who is using iNat? 

    One very appealing feature of this application is that all ages and all interest levels can participate in activities on iNaturalist – you don't have to be a botanist or an ornithologist to join! The extent of involvement varies by project or activity. For example,  leaderboards are established for very involved users who have recorded hundreds of observations, but there is also a place for the interested teacher that would like to post just a few observations of local plant species for a student activity.  Curators are volunteers with taxonomic knowledge interested in a larger role on the iNat website. Curators are responsible for maintaining the taxonomic data on the site, which improves the overall accuracy and reliability of the observational data. This greater reliability is the feature that makes the data also useful for higher level scientists or researchers and land managers.

     

    Atamasco lily (Zephyranthes atamasco).

    Why is iNat important?

    iNaturalist is an educational tool in so many ways. It promotes scientific literacy by providing easy access to information on plants and animals. It also provides opportunities to share outdoor encounters with one another in a fun way. A great feature of iNat is that observations recorded by citizens can serve as research quality data after thorough review and verification by multiple users or experts. Once two people have verified the species, the observation becomes research grade. This data is extremely useful to scientists with limited resources and large study areas.

     

    NC NHP zoologist, Harry LeGrand, recording observations. 

     

    APNEP needs your help identifying species within the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed - in your backyard, school yard, etc. Create an account today and get your species life list started! To learn more about iNat through step-by-steps guides and video tutorials, check out APNEP's iNaturalist initiative page. Another useful link is the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program's homepage. The Heritage Program serves as an information clearinghouse   of the rarest and most outstanding elements of natural diversity within the state! Like iNat, the Heritage  Program tracks species and communities within the state, to help inform conservation decisions. Explore these pages and you might be inspired to initiate your own species tracking through iNat!

     

     

     

     

     

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