Six years ago I created an account on iNaturalist, a fairly sophisticated app at the time but without much content of interest – at least for me. I submitted a handful of observations and then got distracted by other responsibilities.
I re-engaged the application this spring, in the hopes that I could get good data regarding gall phenology and localities. We need galls for our newly-funded NSF project, in part because we are growing our phylogeny data set for Cynipidae but also because we need fresh (i.e., living) material for transcriptomes and histology. iNaturalist is now a lot more sophisticated and includes thousands of observations that are relevant to my interests. Wow! What a difference a few years makes. Check out this search for spiders or this one for Cynipidae. And it’s not just the content that impresses me, it’s the communities, the projects, and the ability of the system to suggest an ID (often scarily accurate!) based on what occurs locally and how your photo compares to others. I’m hooked now and try to add observations daily.
My new routine is to leave my porch lights on and document what’s there in the morning. I’m hoping that this small-scale effort can serve as yet one more way of monitoring the dramatic insect declines I wrote about yesterday. Check out this beautiful Io moth I saw today and submitted to iNaturalist (observation 28210007):
I’ve also been collecting exemplar specimens for the Frost and practicing my Lepidoptera preparations. Man, am I out of practice. I prepared something like 20 medium-sized moths during this sort session, and it took me FOREVER. They look pretty darn good, though, I must say, and I found the process of pinning and spreading to be meditative … cathartic, even. I managed to add a new family to the collection—Depressariidae—with this bird turd-looking moth, unless we have some already in there under Gelechiidae. I’m also learning my Geometridae, which seems to be the dominant moth family at my house! Here’s a dark-banded geometer, which I failed to collect: