iNaturalist: East Coast vs. West Coast
Move over, hip hop. Make room for the naturalists!
I’ve started my own silent war against the west coast on iNaturalist.org!
iNaturalist is a relatively new site, but absolutely captivating. It allows people to log their observations and sightings of all of our planet’s diverse species. It’s like WineLog… only you are getting drunk on nature! iNaturalist is also cooler than WineLog because it links into Flickr so you can easily reference Creative Commons photos of the species you’re logging as well as embed your own images into your observation.
When I joined the site yesterday, the map on the front page was fixated on California. Sifting through the lists of observations, it does appear a vast majority are in California, which makes sense as the founders are from California.
So I went ahead and entered some of my spottings. With a few well-timed chestnut-related entries today, the tide has changed! Now when you look at the map on the homepage, it is dominated by Virginia!
Ha, ha! Take that, California!!!
The possibilities of this site are amazing. I believe I’m going to use it to document all my American Chestnut and Paw Paw encounters… or tree tumors I’d like to revisit in a few years. Just as researchers are currently using Thoreau’s journals to compare bloom dates of spring flowers or old photographs from family albums to see when trees leaf, all the information aggregated in this site by ordinary folk with seemingly ordinary fauna and flora may one day prove to be a valuable resource.
But, imagine a couple of years from now, with millions of people pinning millions of sightings, providing additional information and then having the community agree on the ID? How about ecologists putting in all their field survey data (at least after publication if not before)? How about everyone who participates in the Christmas bird hunt? What an incredible database that will be! Something that one can search with machines, build and test models, and use the results to test ideas about, for instance, effects of weather events (hurricanes, fires, floods, El Nino, etc.) or broader weather changes (e.g., Global Warming).
There is one more potential I find inspiring. The ability to take over the home page map! Tomorrow I’ll diligently check the site again and if need be, I have a number of observations ready to bring the map back over to the East Coast. Muahaha.
More telling– After my flurry of trips this fall, I was very much coveting some down time. Now suddenly, I feel the urge to travel once more. I want to go out and concentrate a number of sightings in one place so instead of focusing the map on a state, I can target a town.
Can you imagine loading up iNaturalist one day and being greeted by Crapo, Maryland? Or Yeehaw Junction, Florida? There is always good ole Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Oooh maybe I want to hit Newfoundland and see what kind of fauna like Dildo.
With iNaturalist, the sky’s the limit!