August 21, 2019

A Sea Slug Mating Ball in The Philippines - Observation of the Week, 8/20/19



Our Observation of the Week is this group of Hypseldoris iba nudibranchs, seen in The Philippines by @notdunroamin!

“In 2013, my husband and I decided to sell everything and travel,” explains Danila Mansfield, who goes by notdunroamin on iNaturalist. “We joined a number of citizen science projects, in Belize, South Africa and Timor-Leste, and very much enjoyed observing and assisting in conservation efforts.”

While she was always interested in nature, Danila says “my husband Chris, with his much deeper interest, really sparked more in me. We've taken several holidays focussed on nature and wildlife in a variety of places, and since we started scuba diving in 1996, our nature interests have become very marine focussed.” She recently took part in an underwater photography class in The Philippines, which is where she came across the nudibranchs you see above. But it didn’t start out that way.

“On one of my early dives during the course, I was observing and photographing a single Hypseldoris...adjusting my position and my strobe, and then I became aware that a second Hypseldoris was trundling along towards number 1,” recalls Danila.

When number 2 joined number 1, I took a few shots, then spotted number 3 beginning to gain ground. 1 and 2 were on a rock a few inches higher, and 3 had to climb up the rock face to join them. Then I literally fell about laughing, as I spotted number 4 gathering speed behind 3, and 4 actually barged past 3 and climbed up the rock to join 1 and 2, before 3 had made it! Finally 3 joined in, and there's the nudi party! By this point 2 or 3 other divers had joined me to see what I was so closely watching, so we shameless voyeurs continued to watch and enjoy the party! [See video slideshow here]

As I started looking into the natural history of this slug, I found out that it was described just last year by the California Academy of Science’s (CAS) own @tgosliner and @rebeccafay (among others). I reached out to Dr. Gosliner about the observation and this genus and, after adding his ID to the observation ("[H. iba] have a higher body profile and a more rounded hind end of the body than in H. variobranchia.”), he told me

The Hypselodoris group has a remarkable diversity of species and we have found that closely related species have similar but distinct color patterns. These are often cases of Mullerian mimicry where distasteful species often adopt a similar color pattern…

Often times mating individuals exude chemicals (pheromones) that attract other individuals and you will often see a mating aggregation like this. It is thought that if conditions are favorable for two individuals to decide to mate that it will be good for others in the area to also begin mating.

And according to CAS’s press release, two different looking individuals of this particular species were observed mating, and were originally thought to have been different species before genetic work was used to determine they were in fact, of the same species.

“I've only just become aware of iNaturalist, through a friend in a Marine Creatures group on Facebook,” says Danila (above). “I'm looking forward to checking out the observations, and trying to ID my own underwater photos.”

- by Tony Iwane


- Danila and her husband blog about their travels, check it out!

- Here’s a video of @tgosliner talking to an audience of visitors at CAS, and a short video about his passion for sea slugs.

- @rebeccafay also talked with Academy visitors about the Farallone Islands, and she doles out sage tidepooling advice here with @kestrel.

Posted on August 21, 2019 04:08 by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

August 20, 2019

Finland - iNaturalist World Tour

Finland is the 58th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour! The top three observers @juhakinnunen, @pihlaviita and @juhatuomola are all based near the capital of Helsinki - although @juhakinnunen's centroid is pulled north from many observations along the coast off the Gulf of Bothnia. Other top observers such as @kaiuosma are based out of Turku to the west. But most other top observers (e.g. @rorippa, @marsusram, @dominik_melisa, @tuomovirtanen, @mikkohei13, @jomku) have observations clustered near Helsinki. @mikkohei13 works out of the Finnish Museum of Natural History which is in Helsinki. Check out @tuomovirtanen's other nature photographs here.


The number of observations per month has been growing rapidly in Finland this year. This growth mirrors whats happening in Russia. @dschigel has done recent outreach in both Finland and Russia which is likely contributing to this growth.


@juhatuomola is the top identifier and also leads in plants. @juhakinnunen and @pihlaviita are also simultaneous top observers and top identifiers in Finland. Its worth noting that @juhakinnunen and @pihlaviita are also in the top 100 identifiers across all of iNaturalist. @almantas, @ldacosta, and @borisb are top identifiers from elsewhere in Europe and lead in bird (@ldacosta) and insect (@borisb) identifications. Thanks to all the other Finland top identifiers!


What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Finland? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@juhakinnunen @pihlaviita @juhatuomola @kaiuosma @rorippa @marsusram @dominik_melisa @tuomovirtanen @almantas @ldacosta

We’ll be back tomorrow in Belize!

Posted on August 20, 2019 17:09 by loarie loarie | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 19, 2019

Algeria - iNaturalist World Tour

Today, we start Week 9 of the iNaturalist World Tour. This week will take us to Algeria in North Africa, Finland, Ireland, Croatia, and Serbia in Europe, Belize in Central America, and Vietnam in Asia.


The top observer, @karimhaddad is a naturalist and birder based in the Constantine area in the north eastern part of the country. You can read more about @karimhaddad in this Observation of the Week post featuring a sawfly orchid he spotted near Djimla. Nearly all of the top observers such as @salahtelailia, @walidsoukkou, @aissadjamelfilali, @bbaimene, @saraatailia, @bileltayar, @khaledayyach, @habib2, and @larbiafoutni have observations clustered along the Mediterranean coast from Algiers to the Tunisian border which is where the population density is highest in Algeria. The map is a bit misleading because many of these top observers have observations throughout the country, its just that the centroid of their observations is pulled towards this coastal area. There are a few observers with observations centroids in other regions, however, such as @kesami, @alidz31, and @the_pharmacist based near Oran. @djillali_tahri's observations are centered further from the coast relative to most observers. Some observers have only made observations in the interior Saharan part of the country including @kwara-n-ba near Tabelbala, @spocki and @bobswann near Tamanrasset, @awaf near Ghardaïa, @moses73 near Touggourtv and @andrasz near Tassili N'Ajjer National Park.


The number of observations per month jumped up mid-2018 and has stayed relatively flat around 1,000 to 1,500 observations per month since then - does anyone know what happened here? Its noteworthy that nearly all the top observers appear to be Algerians which isn't the case for a lot of other countries we've examined where most top observers are visitors from elsewhere.


Similar to top observers, most of the top identifiers are Algerians (e.g. @khaledayyach, @karimhaddad , @salahtelailia). @khaledayyach is the top identifier and also leads in plants. @karimhaddad leads in seven categories including plants and insects. Many thanks to other top identifiers such as @ldacosta, @rajibmaulick, and @ghassen.


What can we do to improve iNaturalist in Algeria? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@karimhaddad @salahtelailia @walidsoukkou @aissadjamelfilali @bbaimene @saraatailia @khaledayyach @salahtelailia @ldacosta @rajibmaulick

We’ll be back tomorrow with Finland!

Posted on August 19, 2019 22:21 by loarie loarie | 7 comments | Leave a comment

August 18, 2019

Sri Lanka - iNaturalist World Tour

It feels like Week 8 of the iNaturalist World Tour flew by. We end it in Sri Lanka! The top observer, @nuwan is a research associate and wildlife guard in Sri Lanka with observations across much of the country. Many of the top observers, such as @ahospers, @denis_m, @nickbelliveau, and @kinmatsu are visitors from elsewhere. Other top observers like are from Sri Lanka such as @shanelle97 who is currently studying at the University of Washington in the US. @amila_sumanapala, a PhD student at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, is researching Odonata. You can read more about @amila_sumanapala in this Observation of the Week post about a spider he observed in Malaysia. @chathuri_jayatissa is a zoololgy student and @sanjaya_kanishka runs the Snakes of Sri Lanka database. Don't miss this Observation of the Week post about a jungle cat seen by @markuslilje in Sri Lanka’s Uda Walawe National Park located towards the southern end of the country (where @kinmatsu, @chartuso and others' observations are clustered).


The observations per month graph from Sri Lanka is bit distorted by the short term impact of students from University of Peradeniya's participation in an April 2019 event through the QuestaGame platform (which used to repost observations here for identification by the iNaturalist community). This temporarily increased the number of observations per month by about an order of magnitude, but doesn't reflect any actual growth in the iNaturalist community from Sri Lanka.


The top identifier overall and for birds is @sethmiller who is based in Bangladesh. @rajibmaulick and @aniruddha_singhamahapatra are two top identifiers based in India. @elaphrornis, who is based in New York but originally from Sri Lanka, leads insect identifications. @nuwan is a top identifier in addition to being a top observer and leads plant identifications. @amila_sumanapala is another top identifier and top observer. Thanks to everyone else identifying observations from Sri Lanka!


What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Sri Lanka? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@nuwan @ahospers @denis_m @nickbelliveau @kinmatsu @sethmiller @rajibmaulick @elaphrornis @aniruddha_singhamahapatra @amila_sumanapala

We’ll be back tomorrow in Algeria!

Posted on August 18, 2019 21:53 by loarie loarie | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 17, 2019

Turkey - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Turkey for the 55th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour. Here, the top two observers, @trcarlisle and @a_emmerson have observations centered along the southwest coast of Turkey. A cluster of top observers such as @sabi and @mark027 have observations centered near the coastal Lake Köyceğiz in the province of Muğla. There is a cluster of top observers such as @selini and @theturkologist with observations centered near the most populous city of Istanbul. Another cluster of observers is clustered near the capital of Ankara (e.g. @bsener and @nermin). @ieakinci's observations are centered near the city of Kahramanmaraş and @merav's to the west of Istanbul.


The number of observations per month in Turkey ramped up in 2018 and again in 2019.


@sammyboy2059 is the top identifier overall and for birds and mammals. @kastani, the second top identifier, leads in plants and arachnids. @ozgebalkiz leads in insects. Thanks to all the other top identifiers such as @sabi, @odtudedoga, and @tubacan.


What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Turkey? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@trcarlisle @a_emmerson @sabi @selini @merav @ieakinci @sammyboy2059 @kastani @odtudedoga @tubacan

We’ll be back tomorrow in Sri Lanka!

Posted on August 17, 2019 23:18 by loarie loarie | 8 comments | Leave a comment

August 16, 2019

Puerto Rico - iNaturalist World Tour

Puerto Rico - iNaturalist Tour Mundial

We're in Puerto Rico for the 54th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour! The top observer is @blueinferno with activity centered near the capital of San Juan where there seems to be the highest concentration of local users including @iveirizarry, @ritirene, @ricardocolonrivera and @mqzed. The next two top observers, @keishacharlene and @lvilla2962 are most active along the western tip of Puerto Rico near the University of Puerto Rico Aguadilla Campus. Both are involved @prsofia's Proyecto Playuela. Many of the top observers are visitors, mostly from the mainland United States including @drbh2o @rangertreaty50 @jbroadhead @mjplagens @billicbugslucas @annikaml and @botanygirl with activity centered in various clusters around island. A group of observers including @kent_miller and @fatroosterfarm have observations centered on the small island of Culebra to the east.

¡Estamos en Puerto Rico para la 54ª parada del iNaturalist Tour Mundial! El principal observador es @blueinferno con actividad centrada cerca de la capital de San Juan, donde parece haber la mayor concentración de usuarios locales, incluidos @iveirizarry, @ritirene, @ricardocolonrivera y @mqzed. Los siguientes dos observadores principales, @keishacharlene y @lvilla2962 son más activos a lo largo del extremo occidental de Puerto Rico, cerca del campus de Aguadilla de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Ambos están involucrados en el Proyecto Playuela de @prsofia. Muchos de los principales observadores son visitantes, principalmente de los Estados Unidos continentales, incluidos @drbh2o @rangertreaty50 @jbroadhead @mjplagens @billicbugslucas @annikaml y @botanygirl con actividades centradas en varios grupos alrededor de la isla. Un grupo de observadores, incluidos @kent_miller y @fatroosterfarm, tienen observaciones centradas en la pequeña isla de Culebra, al este.



The number of observations per month in Puerto Rica is quite jagged with peaks higher than 250 observations per month stretching back to 2014. This indicates that this is mainly due to activity from visitors. But there seems to be more organic, sustained growth since 2018. Many of the local top observers such as @keishacharlene, @lvilla2962, and @ritirene have affiliations with the University of Puerto Rico, I'd be curious to know how iNaturalist is integrated, if at all, into the University and if thats driving this recent growth. Likewise, top observer @iveirizarry's academic affiliations are with Rutgers and their observations coincide with the Spring 2019 Rutger's Personal Bioblitz organized by Rutgers professor @vilseskog.

El número de observaciones por mes en Puerto Rica es bastante irregular con picos superiores a 250 observaciones por mes que se remontan a 2014. Esto indica que esto se debe principalmente a la actividad de los visitantes. Pero parece haber un crecimiento más orgánico y sostenido desde 2018. Muchos de los principales observadores locales como @keishacharlene, @lvilla2962 y @ritirene tienen afiliaciones con la Universidad de Puerto Rico, me gustaría saber cómo se integra iNaturalist, en todo caso, a la Universidad y si eso está impulsando este crecimiento reciente. Del mismo modo, las afiliaciones académicas del observador superior @iveirizarry están con Rutgers y sus observaciones coinciden con la Primavera 2019 Rutger's Personal Bioblitz organizado por el profesor de Rutgers @vilseskog.



The top identifier overall and top insect, herp, and arachnid identifier is @ritirene who recently finished her PhD at the University of Puerto Rico. @joshuagsmith, based in Colorado, is the second top identifier and top bird identifier. The mysterious @greenline is the third top identifier and the top plant identifier. There are alot of beaches in Puerto Rico and thus a relatively high proportion of crustacean, bivalve, and fish observations with identifications in these categories led by myself (@loarie), @susanhewitt, and @maractwin respectively. Many thanks to other top identifiers such as @jbroadhead and @john8.

El identificador superior en general y el identificador superior de insectos, herpes y arácnidos es @ritirene, quien recientemente terminó su doctorado en la Universidad de Puerto Rico. @joshuagsmith, con sede en Colorado, es el segundo identificador superior e identificador superior de aves. El misterioso @greenline es el tercer identificador superior y el identificador superior de la planta. Hay muchas playas en Puerto Rico y, por lo tanto, una proporción relativamente alta de observaciones de crustáceos, bivalvos y peces con identificaciones en estas categorías lideradas por mí (@loarie), @susanhewitt y @maractwin respectivamente. Muchas gracias a otros identificadores principales como @jbroadhead y @john8.



What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Puerto Rico? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

¿Qué podemos hacer para que más personas usen iNaturalist en Puerto Rico? Comparta sus pensamientos a continuación o en este hilo del foro

@blueinferno @keishacharlene @lvilla2962 @drbh2o @rangertreaty50 @ritirene @joshuagsmith @greenline @jbroadhead @john8

We’ll be back tomorrow in nearby Turkey!

¡Volveremos mañana en Turquía!

Posted on August 16, 2019 20:52 by loarie loarie | 5 comments | Leave a comment

Honduras - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Honduras for the 53rd stop on the iNaturalist World Tour - and apologies for the delay posting this, we were tied up celebrating 25 million observations today. The top observer is @oliverkomar, a professor at Zamorano University which is located not far from the capital of Tegucigalpa (other top observers like @danielnavarro1 are also based near here). @denilsonoz's observations are clustered in the region around Lake Yojoa which is a large lake between the cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. @anniebeez and @tomdriscoll's observations are also clustered here. @ericvandenberghe's Honduran observations are scattered throughout the country but there's a large concentration on the island of Utila off the north coast of the country. @neild's observations are also clustered on this island. @hermes is a botanist with observations centered in western Honduras in the region around Celaque National Park. @djm has observations clustered in several regions around the country. @alexanderr's observations are clustered in the mountains to the west of San Pedro Sula. Don't miss this Zombie Ant Fungus observation seen by @jonathan_kolby in Cusuco National Park near here that we featured in an Observation of the Week post.


The number of observations per month in Honduras has been ramping up since 2018. Its unclear what accounts for the peak in October, 2018 - or maybe this can be interpreted as a dip during the Christmas season? @oliverkomar's outreach to students through projects like Jardín Botánico de la EAP Zamorano have surely contributed to this growth.


The mysterious @norman-espinoza is the top identifier overall from Honduras (and the top identifier of birds). Top observer @oliverkomar is the second top identifier and leads in 5 of the categories (insects, plants, reptiles, arachnids, and fungi). @maractwin is the top fish identifier and has contributed many identifications to observations made by scuba divers around the Honduran islands. Many thanks to top idenfifiers @derick327 and @denilsonoz for contributing their local expertise, and thanks to all the other top identifiers from Honduras!


Relative to Mexico to the north and Costa Rica to the south, Honduras and its immediate neighbors often look like 'dark spots' on maps of biodiversity occurrence records. This makes observations from this relatively poorly studied country all the more important. What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist and generating biodiversity records in Honduras? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@oliverkomar @denilsonoz @ericvandenberghe @hermes @djm @anniebeez @danielnavarro1 @norman-espinoza @derick327 @maractwin

We’ll be back tomorrow in nearby Puerto Rico!

Posted on August 16, 2019 03:10 by loarie loarie | 2 comments | Leave a comment

August 15, 2019

25,000,000 Observations!

Today we've reached 25 million verifiable observations! Here's a time lapse video that shows when and where these observations were created going all the way back to launch in 2008. You can follow along with the total observation count as it grows.




At the end of 2018, when we reached 15 million observations, we wrote a blog post where we visualized what these observations would look like if each dot represented 100,000 observations. We've updated those figures below. We now have 250 dots: each row represents 1 million observations and each little block represents 5 million. The unfilled dots represent the 100 new dots since the last analysis.




iNaturalist observations now represent over 230,000 distinct species! That's 40,000 more than last time which, for perspective, is approximately the combined number of all bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. We now have nearly 10 million plant observations and 6 million insect observations. We've passed 1 million fungi observations since our last analysis.

iNaturalist continues to have a strong North American bias, but we now have 2.5 million observations from Europe, nearly 1.5 million observations from Asia, and over 1 million observations added to Oceania, Africa and South America since our last analysis.

We ended up adding just shy of 8 million observations in 2018. As of today we've added nearly 10 million observations in 2019 and are on track to add another 6 million or so by the end of the year.



The core stats we show on the explore page are the number of observations, the number of species that these observations represent, the number of observers, and the number of identifiers. The graphs below show how these 4 stats have increased over time.




It is noteworthy that the number of species has also continued to increase rapidly. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) recently wrote a blog post about citizen science contributions to the GBIF archive. Their analysis shows that while there are other citizen science efforts that are generating more observations for a group of taxa (e.g. eBird for birds) or for a particular place (e.g. Artportalen for Sweden), iNaturalist stands out as the only global citizen science contributor that is generating observations of hundreds of thousands of species.

We're accumulating new species more and more rapidly - currently around 5,000 new species a month. But this growing rate is driven by the growth of new observations. It's actually getting harder to observe new species. Currently, about 1 in 400 observations represents a new species, but this rate is dropping over time. It will be interesting to see how iNaturalist continues to accumulate new species as they get rarer and rarer!

These 25 million records have a broad reach. iNaturalist data via GBIF has been cited over 340 times, which is just a fraction of the over 2,000 times iNaturalist is mentioned or cited in publications.

Thanks to every single person who helped us reach this 25 million milestone! And thanks to everyone who has donated to help us continue to improve the platform.

Posted on August 15, 2019 21:08 by loarie loarie | 62 comments | Leave a comment

August 14, 2019

Namibia - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Namibia for the 52nd stop on the iNaturalist World Tour where we've arrived from nearby Botswana. The top observer here is @alexdreyer based out of the arid Maltahöhe district of Namibia south of Windhoek. The locations of people on the map below (which represents the centroid of their observations within a bounding box around Namibia) is a bit misleading here since people covered so much ground. For example, @martin_weigand activity is centered west of Windhoek but his observations are actually distributed up and down the Western half of Namibia. @peter_erb and @wolfachim's observations are in a grand arc from the Caprivi, through Etosha National Park and south to Windhoek. @jurga_li's observations range from Etosha National Park in the north down to the southern tip of the country. You can get a sense for what Etosha has to offer from this Observation of the Week post featuring a waterhole sighting by @jerrythornton. Etosha is relatively arid but is still a woodland ecosystem typical of much of the African savannah. In contrast, this Observation of the Week post about a @Peringuey’s Adder sighting by @robert_taylor gives a sense for the more arid parts of the country among the dunes not far from Walvis Bay.


The number of observations per month has been ticking up since 2017 roughly following whats happening in Botswana. I suspect the drivers are also similar which I speculated about in the Botswana post yesterday. Like in Botswana, the Southern African community that moved to iNat from iSpot a few years ago appears to be the source of most of the activity from Namibia.


@alexdreyer holds both the top observer and top identifer positions, he also leads in half of the categories including plants and insects. @alanhorstmann is the second top identifier and leads in birds and mammals. Thanks to other top identifiers in Namibia such as @tonyrebelo, @colin25, @martin_weigand, @wynand_uys, and @johnnybirder!


What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Namibia? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@alexdreyer @martin_weigand @peter_erb @wolfachim @jurga_li @colin25 @happyasacupcake @alanhorstmann @tonyrebelo @johnnybirder

We’ll be back tomorrow in Honduras!

Posted on August 14, 2019 20:24 by loarie loarie | 1 comments | Leave a comment

August 13, 2019

Botswana - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Botswana for the 51st stop on the iNaturalist World Tour - part of a Southern Africa duo (we'll be in Namibia tomorrow). The top observer is @botswanabugs based on the Eastern side of Botswana near the second top observer @tuli, a retired botanist and insect enthusiast. @robert_taylor, an ecologist based in northern Botswana, has activity centered near the Okavango Delta region along with @ricky_taylor, @joachim, and @dewald2. @muir, now based in Alaska, did research in the Kalahari in a previous life where his Botswana observations are centered. There is a cluster of top observers in the 4-corners area (@craigpeter, @echo-lawrence, @supergan). The 4-corners area is where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe meet and is gateway to some iconic parks like Chobe National Park and sights like Victoria Falls.


The number of observations per month jumped towards the end of 2017. This coincides with when the Southern Africa community formerly on iSpot joined iNaturalist as described here. But its a bit odd because migrated observations from iSpot had their original iSpot creation dates preserved, so its unclear exactly why the rate of newly created observations jumped up here. There have been some home grown activity in Botswana such as this Okavanga Fishes project orchestrated by @tshepibotumile thanks to short lived funding by JRS and the heroic volunteer efforts of @robert_taylor. You can read more about @robert_taylor in this Observation of the Week post about a sighting of his from Namibia.


Most of the top identifiers joined iNaturalist with the arrival of the Southern Africa community described above including @alanhorstmann who is the top identifiers overall and leads in leads Botswana bird IDs in addition to having expertise in southern African plants. @colin25 is the second top identifier and leads fungi, @beetledude leads insects, @wynand_uys leads in arachnids and fish, and @alexdreyer leads in plants. This move was orchestrated by @tonyrebelo, an ecologist at SANBI and also a top identifier in Botswana. Other top identifiers in Botswana predate the arrival of this community including @jakob who's been a dominant force in the African community on iNaturalist since its early days and @johnnybirder an ecologist originally from South Africa now based in the US. Many thanks to other top identifiers such as @calebcam and @ldacosta.


What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Botswana? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@botswanabugs @tuli @robert_taylor @joachim @dewald2 @alanhorstmann @colin25 @johnnybirder @jakob @tonyrebelo

We’ll be back tomorrow in nearby Namibia!

Posted on August 13, 2019 18:44 by loarie loarie | 11 comments | Leave a comment