Justin Williams

Joined: Sep 10, 2018 Last Active: Oct 01, 2022 iNaturalist Monthly Supporter since December 2019

Hello

I'm an amateur nature/photography enthusiast with a particular interest in arthropods, especially spiders. I enjoy macro photography because it lets us share the strange and beautiful intricacies of the natural world on a level that can't be seen with the naked eye. I feel that it can help bring some much-needed interest and admiration to these amazing and often-underappreciated animals that live all around us. At least it did for me. :-) I also hope to help document the wonderful biodiversity of Texas and my little corner of it here in Austin.

I do not have any formal education in entomology/biology but I have been casually learning about spiders for about 10 years. They are fascinating animals and there is always more to learn. I am pretty familiar with the common spiders of Eastern North America (especially TX/Southeast US) but everyone makes mistakes so please mention something if you disagree with an ID I suggested! I do often make a lot of IDs quickly and don't always leave comments, so please ask if you'd like me to explain why I chose a particular ID, I'm happy to explain. And feel free to tag me, but I can probably only help with the North American spider fauna.

Outside of spiders, I work in IT and am raising a daughter to hopefully appreciate nature as much as I do :)


An important note about identifying spiders from photos: When we attempt to place a generic or specific ID on an observation, we are making a best guess based on what we know about the external physical characteristics of different spiders. In science, spiders are generally identified by looking at the shape/structure of the genitalia under a microscope, along with other physical characteristics that are often not visible even in high quality macro photos - things like eye spacing, number/location of hairs on the legs, etc. In many cases there are several similar-looking species or even genera that are difficult to separate even with sharp photos. There are also many undescribed species that look similar to the ones we know about. iNaturalist encourages us to try and figure out exactly what kind of life form we have observed (which is good! curiosity is good!) - but when it comes to small arthropods like spiders, making a confident ID from only photos is often just not possible. This can be frustrating to people who follow popular taxa like birds and butterflies, but it's just a fact of life with many diverse groups of arthropods. So, please accept that it is often not reasonable to place a specific name on a spider just from photographs, and resist the temptation to try and "choose" a species.

Also, please take care when clicking the "Agree" button on someone else's ID (especially the Computer Vision / Auto-ID) - When you agree with an ID and make an observation "Research Grade" it is sent to the GBIF and made available to researchers, and bad data can frustrate scientists. "Research Grade" observations are also used to train iNaturalist's "Computer Vision" AI, so incorrectly-identified RG observations can reduce the effectiveness of the auto-ID algorithm for future observers. So, please don't think of the "Research Grade" as a personal badge indicating a high quality photo/observation - when you click the "Agree" button, you are indicating that you believe it to be that species, based on your personal knowledge or research. Again, when it comes to small arthropods, it's often not possible to determine the exact species without examining a physical specimen, and trying to force it can cause problems for the people who study these things. I thought this was worth a few words as it comes up frequently in conversation, so thank you for reading this bit!


If you like spiders too, check out my list of interesting spiders!

For a super great book on spiders and arachnids, check out Amazing Arachnids by Jillian Cowles

A comprehensive new field guide, out now(!): Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose

And a fantastic overview of spider families - Spiders of the World by the late Dr. Norman Platnick

Chat with me and other iNat users on the (unofficial) iNat Discord

Some of my favorite photographers on iNat: xx7trey, aperturesciencebydan, tshahan, wildcarrot, treegrow, yukioz, alice_abela, mhedin, jeffheard, kwiener, kyran2, jciv, jcowles

Helpful Austin/Texas Spider & Insect Resources:

Texas Spiders Checklist (TAMU)

Valerie Bugh's "Austin Bug Collection"

Travis County Beetle Checklist

Texas Entomology

Other Useful Links:

Spider Eye Arrangement Guide (BugGuide)

Glossary of Spider Terms (Wikipedia)

P.S. Almost all of my observations are from around my house in east Austin - If you are interested in any of my observations for research purposes, send me a PM. Same goes for use of any of my photos in books, field guides, websites, etc. - Please reach out and I will probably be happy to help.

P.P.S. Spider in my profile pic is a Hentzia palmarum jumper - they have the cutest eyelashes! <3

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