They came, naturalists all. Inspired through online communications they trekked to the Thicket’s woods to view and count, to share knowledge and to discover. Using the online social network and app iNaturalist approximately 29 citizen scientists snapped pictures and sound recordings and uploaded them to the cloud.
Some came as generalists, appreciators of all nature. Others were more specific. One searched for Euphorbia, a plant with milky white sap. A medical scientist with a Swedish and Texas accent is fascinated with birds and moths. A crime scene specialist loves to photograph insects and see their eyes through the lens of her camera. A Texas City chemist prefers to photograph birds but does bugs too. A father and son spend time outdoors to look for terrestrial snails. Others take pictures of plants because they do not move. Many were fascinated with odonates- dragonflies. Some used fancy equipment, others just a cell phone. One, a retired teacher is a wow person. She is good at spotting exciting marvels and never photographs anything, just points.
Herbert Young, Big Thicket National Preserve’s Chief of Resource Management, welcomed the travelers. They came from Dallas, Houston, Dripping Springs, Longview, Big Bend, Waxahatchie, Lubbock, Austin, Baton Rouge, and Little Rock. They came excited, ready to explore and soon made discoveries, some by their feet. Sam Kieschnick of Texas Parks and Wildlife and leader of the crew encouraged, “Don’t just focus on one organism. The challenge is to observe things you don’t know. Observe plants, bugs, expand your iNaturalist observations and have fun exploring.”
Chuck Sexton, retired Wildlife Biologist from US Fish and Wildlife Service, shared, “iNaturalist is the avant-garde of Citizen Science, and I am addicted.” He is excited because this new and novel app enables amateurs to connect with experts to identify species. It provides a manageable database that is available for researchers in formal settings as well.
iNaturalist is available free online at www.iNaturalist.org and as an app. The app is used just for data collection and the website is more for the social network. It is international. It allows every day people to contribute to knowledge of biodiversity in the natural world through their recorded observations and facilitates learning through networking.
The data collected from the registered participants automatically uploaded to the Big Thicket map, and the weekend was a great success. On Oct. 14-16 the iNaturalist aficionados observed and identified 554 species with 1314 observations. This number is sure to grow as many participants are still uploading their observations. To view all of the observations from this weekend, go to http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2016-national-parks-bioblitz-big-thicket-mini-bioblitz.
This bioblitz is part of a larger effort coordinated by the National Park Service (NPS) to celebrate the NPS Centennial. Observations will be used to share stories of scientific and personal discovery and inspire even more people to go out and Find Their Park!
Submitted by: Mary Catherine Johnston, email@example.com, 757-288-0190
Edited by Sam KieschnickShare on Twitter Share on Facebook