Can you see it now? The solution.

In the last journal entry, we described several scenarios where posting observations to iNaturalist can lead to undesirable results. In this journal entry, we'll discuss an easy way you can ensure your observations on iNaturalist don't do more harm than good.

For observations of species that are vulnerable to poaching or persecution, or from places you would prefer to keep underwraps, the easiest thing to do is adjust the 'Geoprivacy' setting of the observation. Three options are available:

Open - everyone can see the coordinates (unless the species is threatened - more on this later)

Obscured - public coordinates are shown as a random point within 10 kilometres of the true coordinates. True coordinates are only visible to you and the curators of the projects to which you add the observation

Private - Coordinates completely hidden from public maps; true coordinates only visible to you and the curators of projects to which you add the observation

You'll notice that curators of projects can always see the true coordinates regardless of the geoprivacy setting, so please make sure you only add your sensitive observations to projects with trustworthy curators!

It's important to also note that coordinates are automatically obscured for all species that are 'Near Threatened' or worse according to the IUCN Red List. For iNaturalist.ca (not .org), NatureServe Canada (which includes the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre) has worked with iNaturalist to automatically obscure the coordinates of a number of other species. Currently that list includes all species that are rare to uncommon either nationally or provincially. That is, all observations of species with a national conservation status rank between N1 and N3, or a provincial/territorial rank between S1 and S3, has the coordinates obscured (for more on conservation status ranks, see http://explorer.natureserve.org/nsranks.htm).

Because the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre (MBCDC) sits on the board of NatureServe Canada, which in turn sits on the iNaturalist.ca steering committee, the MBCDC has significant input into which species get included on the 'automatically obscure' list. Some people have suggested that the current criteria obscure too many species, and some jurisdictions automatically obscure only those species that are most vulnerable to poaching or persecution.

Did you know about the 'Geoprivacy' setting? In what circumstances do you use it? What criteria should the MBCDC use for determining which species are automatically obscured?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Posted by manitoba_cdc manitoba_cdc, November 09, 2018 16:03

Comments

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Excellent couple of journal entries! Thank you for posting these.

Posted by sambiology about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Hi, this is Charlie from Vermont, a neighbor to Quebec but not Manitoba :)

I've been trying to poke at a certain auto obscuring issue that seems to be happening with Inaturalist.ca which is the obscuring of edge-of-range species that are 'rare' in Canada because they happen to have a range that ends near the border, but are extremely common to the south. In particular tree species such as white oak, bur oak, pitch pine, etc. I do a lot of spatial ecology work and it's been wonderful being able to watch Canada expand their iNat observations, except that a bunch of species I can't see the locations of! (the sort of ecology work I do, the obscuring makes the results mostly useless). I think we should err on the side of caution with any gray areas, but I would love to kind of prod a dialog where we could think about not obscuring plants in Canada that are very common just to the south as long as there isn't any other conceivable poaching risk (as with most trees which is where the spatial data is best anyway). The obscuring makes it a lot harder to use the data (even if we are granted location info it doesn't show up on the range maps) and doesn't serve any purpose (no one is gonna dig up white oaks and poach them when they are the most common tree 200 miles south of the border). I hope someday iNat adopts a policy based on actual risk rather than happenstance of where two boundaries intersect. I know it's a tricky issue, but if you all would be up for dialing down the obscuring of things that are common on the continent, it would definitely help out in a lot of ways! Especially if you can nudge Ontario a bit :) Thanks!

Posted by charlie almost 2 years ago (Flag)

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