Observation Tips - what counts? what doesn't?

Holy cow - we are doing a great job of collecting data observations so far! Give yourself a high-five!

This morning I wanted to share some tips for how to make our observations even better. iNaturalist provides some helpful information about "observations' and "organisms". Below are a few tips and links to a few others:

What Are Observations?
An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location. This includes encounters with signs of organisms like tracks, nests, or things that just died. When you make an observation, you'll record:
-Who you are - by having an iNat account
-What you saw
-Where you saw it
-When you saw it - the date of your encounter, not the date you post it to iNat
-Evidence of what you saw - photo or sound
More info can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started

Making Useful Observations

  1. Take identifiable photos: Photos of distant trees or speck-like birds will not garner much attention because they're usually hard to identify, so make sure you show your students how to fill the frame with your subject, perhaps using the phone or camera's zoom. Because smartphone cameras are designed primarily for photographing humans and landscapes (and, apparently, food), taking an in-focus photo of an insect or a plant is actually quite difficult. Using your hand to hold a flower or plant still can be helpful, but make sure the plant is not dangerous.
  2. Take multiple photos: Many organisms, particularly plants and insects, cannot be identified to species from a single photo. Show students how to take multiple photos from different angles (top, bottom, side, front, back), and/or photos showing different features of the organism. For plants it's especially important to take pictures of flowers or fruit. Photos of flowers or fruit AND leaves are the most helpful. Be sure to add multiple photos of the same organism to the same observation.
  3. Focus on wild organisms: Most students seem to focus on the cultivated plants and animals they can find near their classroom. That's totally fine, but in general, the iNat community is more interested in wild organisms, and respond more to pictures of weeds and bugs than to cultivated roses and hamsters in cages.

Wild/Cultivated/Captive Organisms
iNaturalist is primarily about observing wild organisms and creatures. If you do upload captive or planted things like house plants, garden plants, zoo animals, or pets, please mark them as "captive/cultivated" on the add observation screen. That helps make sure the range maps only represent wild populations.

How to Become a Better Identifier
At its core, iNaturalist is about making observations and identifications. Everyone can get outside and point a camera can make observations. But identifying observations requires some expertise. Learning to identify organisms is a lifelong journey of slowly becoming better acquainted with more and more critters. So don't feel bad if you can't identify as many observations as well as you'd like, the important thing is to remember that everyone can and should get started learning how to identify organisms!
Learn more here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/lets_id_some_arthropods

Happy exploring! And let us know if you have any specific questions about making observations.

WXXI Education

Posted by caradale1014 caradale1014, April 15, 2019 16:11


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