Journal archives for July 2019

July 06, 2019

Hiding Comments on iNaturalist

The iNaturalist community continues to grow and, as we brought up in a previous blog post about Community Guidelines, that does mean more instances of iNaturalist users posting objectionable content or otherwise behaving poorly (although this is still a small fraction of behavior on iNat).

Site curators previously had the ability to delete any comments by another, but we are now limiting that ability, at least on observations, to simply hiding objectionable comments. This was proposed and discussed in the iNaturalist Forum here.

Now, if a site curator finds that a comment (and this includes comments attached to identifications) is insulting, obscene, hate speech, or clearly spam, they can hide the comment (although they must provide a reason for their action). Let me give you an example of how this works. I should probably state that the comment here is not something that should be hidden, and the stated reason for hiding it is facetious, but I thought it best to be use a non-offensive comment as an example here.

A hidden comment will look like this to everyone who is not the commenter, a site curator, or an iNaturalist staff member:

The commenter, site curators, and iNaturalist staff will see this:

If they click on “Show Hidden Content,” they will see the comment, who created it, which curator hid the comment, and the curator’s stated reason for hiding it. Anyone will be able to see the Moderation History link, and the commenter will also see the Contact Support link.

Comments will not be hidden on mobile apps until we update the mobile apps to support this feature. That should be soon.

The commenter will not be able to delete or edit their comment while it is hidden, and iNaturalist staff are the only ones who can unhide a comment. The commenter (or another curator) can reach out to help@inaturalist.org if they believe the comment should not be hidden. iNaturalist staff will need to provide a reason for unhiding the comment.

We believe this new functionality is an improvement over the current system for the following reasons:

  • Deleting another user’s content is a pretty consequential action. This allows site curators (without whom iNaturalist would cease to function - thank you curators!) to hide objectionable comments on observations without deleting it.

  • It improves transparency. The commenter, site curators, and iNaturalist staff can see who hid the comment and why they did so. 

  • There have been some users who will make an offensive or insulting comment, then delete or edit the comment once the intended target has seen it, or once it has been flagged. This should prevent the majority of these cases, and leave a record for staff or curators to investigate if needed.

  • A visible indicator of a hidden comment can provide context to discussions. For example, in this observation there is no indication that jimjohnson’s comment is in response to anything. 

If you are not a curator and you see a comment which clearly violates iNaturalist’s Community Guidelines (especially those under the Suspendable Offenses category), please flag the comment so a curator can take a look, or email help@inaturalist.org. The hiding functionality currently only applies to comments on observations, but it’s possible we will expand it to other types of content, such as entire observations, IDs, comments on flags, etc. And as with any feature, this is subject to future changes, updates, or perhaps even deprecation.

If you notice any bugs, please notify us on the iNaturalist Community Forum.

Posted on July 06, 2019 00:56 by tiwane tiwane | 11 comments | Leave a comment

July 08, 2019

Sea Slugs on the Elkhorn Slough - Observation of the Week, 7/7/19

original(1)

Our Observation of the Week is this Navanax inermis sea slug, seen in the United States by lmkitayama

“At work they call me the Slug Queen,” says Lauren Kitayama, an Assistant Manager at Kayak Connection in California. “Daylight permitting, I paddle once a week before work on the Elkhorn Slough. A couple of years ago, if you'd asked any of the local guides they might have said there were 5 species of sea slug on the slough. Last year I documented 27!”

The slug seen above was one of twenty Navanax inermis she spotted that morning, and said they were mating on the sea lettuce near the dock at work. “They are one of my favorite slugs,” she says,

They are large enough for people to appreciate, and so absolutely beautiful! I love using them to get people excited about the unloved slimy things that live in the ocean. One of my goals is always to show people something they never even imagined existed on the planet, and Navanax are a great opportunity to do that. As a kayak guide I work with a lot of school children, and love having the chance to inspire them to protect and appreciate the natural world around them.

While nudibranchs are the most commonly known order of sea slug, the Navanax inermis belongs to an entirely different order: Cephalaspidea, or the headshield slugs. Most members of this order, including the California Aglaja, do have a shell, but it is usually either tiny or internal. Navanax inermis are large slugs, growing anywhere from 2.5 to 10 inches (6.35 - 25.4 cm) in length, and they prey upon other gastropods and even small fish!

image (6)

Lauren (above) earned a Masters in Marine Conservation from the University of Miami (FL), where she focused on the impacts of marine debris. “I am zealous about protecting the oceans from plastic...[and] someday I hope to work for the UN attacking the plastic pollution problem in Southeast Asia.” For now, however, she says she loves her current job, and tells me 

My favorite thing is to see something I've never seen before. "I don't know" is my favorite answer to the question, "what is it?" I think that's how this whole slug thing started. They are beautiful, and most people would never look for them/see them without a guide. For whatever reason my slug observation skills are great. Can't find my keys half the time (or the sunglasses that are on my head), but a 9 mm sea slug hiding in a patch of kelp... no problem.

With my ecologist brain, I am excited to continue documenting slugs on the slough to see if a temporal pattern emerges (when are particular species showing up? Are they predictably in the same locations year after year?) I try very hard to get a photo of every species I see every week so that I can continue to document their presence/absence on the slough.

- by Tony Iwane.


- Check out Lauren’s Litter Mermaid projects and blog!

- And her sea slug observations.

- Watch a Navanax inermis eating a California Seahare.

- And watch a pair mating!

Posted on July 08, 2019 01:56 by tiwane tiwane | 6 comments | Leave a comment

July 21, 2019

An Odonate Researcher from Sri Lanka Photographs a Spider While Looking for Birds in Malaysia - Observation of the Week, 7/21/19

original

Our Observation of the Week is this Gasteracantha diardi spider, seen in Malaysia by @amila_sumanapala!

Amila Sumanapala first delved into bird watching when he was thirteen years of age and was growing up in Sri Lanka. “By late teens my interest had broadened to include a wide range of faunal taxa,” he says, “[and] I joined several volunteer nature organizations in the country such as the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, Young Biologists' Association of Sri Lanka and Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka and developed my capacity to become a researcher and a conservationist.” He is now a postgraduate researcher at the University of Colombo.

It was his original interest in birds that brought Amila and some friends to Malaysia, where they attended the Fraser's Hill International Bird Race. “My friend Kasun first observed the spider and showed it to me,” he recalls. “We recognized it to be a Gasteracantha species but it was different from what we have observed previously. So we photographed it hoping that we would be able to identify it later and we could do that thanks to INaturalist.”

Also known as spiny orbweavers, memebers of the genus Gasteracantha are found around the world as far north as the Korean Peninsula all the way to the southern tip of Africa. Gasteracantha diardi range through much of the islands of southeast Asia, and like other members of their genus, only the females are large and have spiked abdomens. Despite their diminutive size, Gasteracantha spiders spin quite large orb webs, and they decorate them with tufts of silk. It is presumed these tufts make the web easier for birds and other large animals to see and thus avoid, saving the spider from the onerous task of fixing a damaged web.

While Amila photographed a spider while on a trip where he looked for birds, his main area of interest is actually Odonata, or the dragonflies and damselflies. In about 2009 he developed an interest in them, and tells me 

Most of my colleagues at that time did not know much about odonates, thus I started observing them by myself and studying them in detail using the available literature. This has now become the main interest in my life as a biologist and I am conducting various research on their taxonomy, ecology and biogeography. I also authored a field guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Sri Lanka in 2017. My postgraduate work is also on the damselflies of Sri Lanka.

IMG_3839

While he joined iNat in 2014, after hearing about it at the Student Conference in Conservation Science, Bangaluru, Amila (above, doing field work in Sri Lanka) says he’s only been using it regularly for about the last four months, “currently trying to document the insects I observe around the country using photographs and understanding their distribution patterns. 

I started using INat to get identification support on the insects and other invertebrates I observe and photograph during my field work and it has been a great support in my work thanks to all the identifiers in the community. This has motivated me to record more and more biodiversity every time I'm out in the field and share it on iNat. I also contribute as an identifier, especially for Odonata and other major insect groups observed in Sri Lanka and India.

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.


- Check out this array of Gasteracantha species!

- Here’s a photo of a male Gasteracantha cancriformis. Note the lack of spikes.

- You can watch a Gasteracantha finish here web here. Note the little tufts of silk on the spokes.

Posted on July 21, 2019 23:19 by tiwane tiwane | 8 comments | Leave a comment

July 25, 2019

iNat Happy Hour in San Francisco - July 26, 6-8 pm

Bay area folks, please come on over to The Brew Coop in San Francisco this Friday, July 26th, from 6-8 pm to have a drink with your fellow iNatters - it's actually fun to meet in person! Details can be found on our Meetup Event page here: https://www.meetup.com/iNaturalist-Happy-Hour-SF-East-Bay/events/263267707/

Tagging some people here, feel free to let others know: @metsa @tomv @rebeccafay @kestrel @kschnei @dpom @gyrrlfalcon @anudibranchmom @hfabian @damontighe @nmcnear @leftcoastnaturalist @leptonia @merav @leslieflint @ocean_beach_goth @mazer

Posted on July 25, 2019 00:41 by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 29, 2019

Japanese Wireweed on a Chiton in Canada - Observation of the Week, 7/28/19

Our Observation of the Week is this japanese wireweed, seen in Canada by bclarkston!

“I grew up on the seashore of Vancouver Island, literally dragging dead things home washed ashore by the latest tide so I could study them,” says Bridgette Clarkston, “I've had a deep interest in seaweeds, our marine plants, since I was little and I continue that passion today.” Bridgette is currently a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, where she is a member of the botany department, and tells me “in my spare time, I try to fit in research about our local seaweed species, involving my undergraduate students whenever possible.”

Earlier this month, Bridgette was helping out some biologists who were sampling transects by downtown Vancouver (“my job was to help them identify the different species of seaweeds”) when she came across the above japanese wireweed, which is growing on the back of a chiton. As its common name suggests, this plant originates in Japan but has become established in much of Europe and along much of the eastern Pacific, including, of course, Vancouver. It can tolerate large ranges of both salinity and temperature, and while it likes to anchor onto rocks and other surfaces, it can create hazardous conditions for boats when large mats of it are broken free.

Bridgette (above) say she’s new to iNaturalist but is “absolutely loving it.” She does collect seaweeds and dries them to make herbarium specimens, and explains 

Seaweeds preserved in this way will be around for many, many years but it does take a long time for the information about that seaweed to become publicly available in the herbarium's digital database. With iNaturalist, I can still preserve the pressed seaweed in an herbarium, but I can also instantly share the observation with the whole world and share lots of photos of the seaweed "in nature". I love that.

She and one of her students are using iNaturalist to document seaweeds in the Greater Vancouver area this summer, and says this type of survey hasn’t been undertaken in over thirty years. “We eventually hope to publish the results of our work in a scientific journal, but for now, iNaturalist allows us to instantly share what we find with the general public,” she tells me. “I plan to use iNaturalist with my students in future courses to continue documenting our local seaweed flora.”

- by Tony Iwane


- Bridgette is the co-author of Pacific Seaweeds, check it out here.

- This is not the first Observation of the Week involving a chiton and another organism: behold the chiton crab!

Posted on July 29, 2019 04:46 by tiwane tiwane | 6 comments | Leave a comment