Switching to Reptiles

With over 10,000 photos of living organisms on my computer, it will be a huge job putting all my observations on iNaturalist. I may never get it done, but I want to get as many as I can online. I started out just doing the Chamaesyces (Euphorbia sect. Anisophyllum). All of the species except two that I have observed are now on iNaturalist (on one of those, I'm waiting for it to be described which will hopefully happen next year). I'm now switching my focus to my Reptile pictures because I feel like I can get a relatively large taxonomic chunk out of the way with a relatively small number of pictures (still well in the thousands) and because I feel like I have a decent grasp on them (I used to want to be a herpetologist). After that, I will either try to get mammals out of the way (because I have very few pictures of them) or go back to plants where I actually feel like I know a thing or two. I imagine the invertebrates will be last. It is a whole other world that I am reluctant to get into when I have so many others to add that I know.

Posted on January 01, 2016 04:50 AM by nathantaylor nathantaylor


Excellent! Those photos on your computer gathering digital dust are perfect for iNat! Looking forward to seeing you post these -- and yes, it takes a LOT of time, but it's so worth it. Thank you! :)

Posted by sambiology over 8 years ago

Using them for citizen science is what I wanted from the beginning. I have a lot from my time as a Texas Master Naturalist that have just been sitting there. Facebook didn't seem like the best of options because, although they got people interested in nature, they didn't contribute to the overall knowledge of the species I photographed. iNaturalist, ISpot, and Project Noah are the only three I have found so far that align well with what I want to do with my pictures. iNaturalist has proven to be the best from the data access point of view with my Euphorbia research. More importantly, iNaturalist has a comunity I have connected with. I want to see how the other websites work (and ID their Euphorbias for them), but iNaturalist is where I've started posting my pictures.

I want to be able to inform future naturalists of where the best places to contribute there data is. ISpot is more centered in Africa and Europe; iNaturalist seems more centered in North America (California Academy of Science); and Noah seems to be the most evenly distributed so far but has way fewer Chamaesyce observations than the other two.

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

you may get them all... i've got well over 10,000 observations on here, though most were made with the app, which is fast.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

I haven't played with Project Noah nor iSpot or EOL nearly as much as I have with iNat... I suppose those sites are also quite good, but like you, I have found that the community is so great here on iNat.

You'll especially find this as you post your herps -- the herpers here on iNat are really phenomenal. I hope you can add your observations to the "Herps of TX" project. @cullen @sandboa @gtsalmon come to mind as the "go-to" folks on reptiles and amphibians. :)

Posted by sambiology over 8 years ago

My observations is that project noah is more for pretty photos by casual users rather than people who want hard data and the ability to manipulate and use it. I also agree that the community isn't good. Not to say project noah is a bad thing but it doesn't sound like the way to go for you @nathantaylor7583 based on what you want. (to be fair i haven't tried to use project noah in many years). I haven't tried iSpot so can't speak for that but as others said it isn't used much in North America from what I can tell. it strikes me as more similar to inaturalist than project noah.

It also depends on taxa. iNat is wonderful for lepidoptera and reptiles, and good for plants. Fungi people are conspicuously mostly absent, i guess they have their own citizen science site. Birds show up on iNat pretty regularly but for lots of bird data especially without photos ebird is the way to go.

As for location, California, Texas, Ohio, and Vermont have big iNat presence, Canada is increasing, Mexico has good representation... most of Eurasia is underrepresented probably because people use iSpot.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

@charlie Thanks for the information. So far iNaturalist is the best website I have come across for what I want. Project Noah and iSpot aren't as well organised which makes it more difficult to get information from. I like the way EOL organizes things (a bit chaotic sometimes but no more than is to be expected with the number of Taxa it's dealing with), but I didn't know you could add observations to it. INaturalist isn't perfect, but it's a great website. I like it more than the other ones I've looked into.

I'll have to look into ebird as I haven't heard about it before. I'll still probably add at least one observation for each species as I like the way iNaturalist does life lists. I have also noticed the reptile experts. I particularly got some good comments from allopatry on my Aspidoscelis observations (which I am very poor at IDing).

To broaden the discussion, I also use Symbiota for my specimens and the occasional observation if it's of a species they don't have many pictures of. It seems more closed off and doesn't have much of a way to interact with other people involved. And, they like to limit the observations to specimens unless the pictures are good quality. The website isn't really set up as well for general observations like this is but works great for the information it deals with.

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

@sambiology I missed your comment about the Herps of Texas project. That's actually how I learned about iNaturalist. A speaker was talking about it at a TORCH meeting held at Sul Ross. It probably took me a year or more to start looking into it to figure out what it was all about. After I spent days attempting to ID all the Euphorbia sect. Anisophyllum observations on here, I was hooked.

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

I don't think it's that easy to just add observations to EOL, you have to go through some sort of process. Though you could talk to them, they might be open to it.

Ebird uses different methodology, instead of entering whatever you see in nature, you do a set walk or visit a site and then list how many of each bird species you see. It's more systematic. Someone else could do a better job explaining it though, i don't really use it because I don't know enough birds to do so and also because i dislike waking up early. (not mandatory for ebird but that's the kind of misery birders like)

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

It looks like observations from iNaturalist can be added to EOL (http://eol.org/info/making_observations). I may have to try this out sometime.

The ebird methodology you mention does sound less appealing. Since I'm not really a birder (more like someone who likes to photograph birds occasionally) I should probably stick to iNaturalist. I'll still check it out just to see what it's like, though.

The more I learn about iNaturalist, the more I love it. I had no idea that it was partnering with EOL!

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

yeah sorry if i was confusing about that. an iNaturalist observation with research grade automatically goes to EOL unless you set the license so it can't (I think).

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago


For Reptiles and Amphibians there is also another good option besides Inaturalist. Herpmapper.org is an international herp citizen science database that has a couple of advantages over inat. One is that data is only shown (publically) to the nearest county to reduce the chances of poachers using the database for localities. Inaturalist will obscure/hide locations but not by default. Inaturalist is better if you have unknown species to post for identification.

Herpmapper currently has about 70K observations from the US, and a thousand or so from Australia, India and Mexico with a lot of other countries represented in lower numbers. They have an active facebook page where you can get questions answered from the admins very quickly as well. They also create better lifelists, etc. if that is something you like (I do!).

You can also import csv files into either (inat or herpmapper) to be able to transfer data from one to other. You might check it out.

I am a curator for Inat's Herps of Texas project and a taxonomic advisor for Herpmapper so I am actively involved in both projects.


Posted by sandboa over 8 years ago

Does herpmapper share with EOL? I recognize why people don't all want to use the same site, but it always seems a shame when the data is fragmented. Though I'm not sure how county-location-level data would work there. And I'm glad iNat doesn't do that to location data - if it did i would probably not use it. Makes sense to obscure location for some organisms but I mostly look at plants anyhow. I wish people would just stop being idiots and poaching, etc.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

The list of Herpmapper partners with whom they share data is here - http://www.herpmapper.org/partners. Of course, the database is only two years old and the partners list is growing continually.

I didn't explain the county-level-only part very well. The county-level-only view is only for display to the public on the internet. So people can't use your records as a place to seek out a rare species or a species that is collected commercially.

Partners get access to GPS coordinates of data and, of course, you can see your own data down to the GPS level on a map.

One other feature of Herpmapper that I like is the ability to export all or part of your data as a kml file which you can open directly in Google Earth (each icon will link to your herpmapper record). You can use that in Google Earth for a variety of things. For example, I exported my data for two species of frogs for Texas and made a map of where I had recorded Gray Treefrogs (Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis) to help me understand their distribution near me in Central Texas (Pink is H. chrysoscelis, green is H. versicolor)- http://m2.i.pbase.com/o9/15/915115/1/159426502.21yHqqSQ.Gray_Treefrogs_map.PNG

I was also interested in my records for two species of Leopard Frog and exported the data from Herpmapper to make this map - http://m3.i.pbase.com/o9/15/915115/1/154672403.9NgJ5Ek9.leopard_frogs_0414.jpg

Agreed about the poaching issue. But it isn't just citizen science databases at the heart of the problem - http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/01/poachers-using-science-papers-to-target-newly-discovered-species


Posted by sandboa over 8 years ago

I'll keep Herpmapper in mind. If it's that easy to transfer data, it is probably worth it in an effort to make the data more available. I'll look into all these.

As for EOL, I haven't noticed any of my research grade observations on EOL. I've particularly been looking at my Euphorbias because many of them have very few observations (E. golondrina only has 1 or 2 and 3 of mine are research grade). I don't know if it just takes time or whether I have to actually do something to put it on there.

All this information is quite interesting. Biodiversity portals interest me because of how useful they can be.

As an update, I'm down to Amphibians and three genera of lizards (Holbrookia, Sceloporus, and Phrynosoma). These three are the genera with the most observations (I specifically have many pictures of Holbrookia maculata, Sceloporus undulata, and Phrynosoma cornutum as all three are common where I live).

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

they only import the data to eol every once in a while - maybe once a month.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

@sandboa, do you recommend using locality security for herps and list the county? If so, specific species, or all? If specific species, which ones? I usually deal with plants that, honestly, not many people want to poach. I don't really mess with cacti that much which might be a different story (and even then, they are usually the very common ones. What about National Parks, State Parks, etc.

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

@nathantaylor7583 i am not sure about anything specific to herps but you can set your observation to obscured or private and it will obscure the location automatically. I'd recommend against intentionally mapping it in the wrong place as it creates bad data! You can choose to let projects see your obscured locations - so you may want to do that for trusted projects like Herps of Texas but I don't recommend letting random projects you don't trust access that info!

iNaturalist automatically obscures species of concern. I'm not sure if the list of herps is robust enough to fully take into account poaching so you may choose to obscure on your own.. but for plants in most cases any species that is rare or subject to excessive collection will automatically obscure. Of course it's always a good idea to manually obscure if you aren't sure if it might be an issue or not - like certain orchids or cacti that aren't rare but might still be a target.

National parks often do use iNaturalist, so see if they have their own project. I don't think you need to change what you obscure there.

Not to derail... i look forward to seeing what @sandboa has to say too.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

The question of whether and when to obscure locality information is a thorny one. I obscure data when:

It is a species susceptible to collection/disturbance/harm (nesting birds, animals with small home ranges, species of commercial value)
Is the habitat susceptible to disruption? Posting a sighting of an common species from sensitive habitat might lead to others going there to look for the species.
Would other people be likely to use my sighting to go see/photograph/collect this species and if so, would that be detrimental in some way?
Does the land owner want their land posted with specific coordinates?

That said, I never put in incorrect coordinates. I always put in the correct coordinates but then set the record to obscured or private as needed. Deliberately putting in wrong data doesn't protect species or habitats, it is just bad information.

Remember, project curators and those with appropriate authority can still see your specific locations.


Posted by sandboa over 8 years ago

That makes sense... good point about private property, one I did not mention. If I enter iNaturalist records from private property I always obscure unless I am sure the landowner is OK with it being shared or it is along a public easement (road, trail, navigable river).

Lots to consider, I'd say overall I only obscure 5 to 10% of my observations but my main interest is plant and ecosystem ecology so I post a lot of common plants for the purposes of mapping their range... don't need to obscure those except in the private property case mentioned above. If I were mapping herps I'd be obscuring more, I think.

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

Very good points. Thanks for the input! This is a complicated issue that requires quite a bit of consideration. I originally only had one or two obscured localities (one of which I consider very sensitive, and fascinating, even though it is only considered a variety at this point), but have since obscured several others (almost entirely herps) that I'd rather not have someone use for poaching. It is annoying that naturalists and scientists have to even consider obscuring data (it can impede learning and hinder scientists), but I suppose it is necessary.

Posted by nathantaylor over 8 years ago

yeah, i get really frustrated that some people are so selfish and stupid that they use science data to poach or collect. Someone should set up a honeypot situation to trap them and throw them in jail

Posted by charlie over 8 years ago

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