Top 10 Citizen Science Observations of 2021

What’s happening in iNaturalist and what’s in it for you?

by David Cook, NANPA Conservation Committee Volunteer

In 2021 NANPA created regional collection projects in iNaturalist where members can load their observations of the natural world.  The projects are valuable resources for nature photographers; you can research the types of species found in a specific geographic area at a specific time of year, for example, to help you prepare for a photo trip.

NANPA’s Umbrella Project summarizes all of the regional collection projects, so we dove into the data to share an end-of-year snapshot with you. In 2021 the NANPA iNaturalist projects recorded 19,016 observations of 5,354 different species from 82 observers in 38 different states across the U.S.!

Screenshot from NANPA’s Umbrella Project Dashboard in iNaturalist
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Citizen Science Decodes the Pecking Order

Photo of a bird perched on a tree limb singing. The unassuming song sparrow ranks in the middle of bird hierarchy at feeders. © Frank Gallagher
The unassuming song sparrow ranks in the middle of bird hierarchy at feeders. © Frank Gallagher

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Many NANPA members are engaged in citizen science projects. Others are unfamiliar with the idea, how they could participate, or what difference they could make. Along comes a fascinating story in the Washington Post about a large-scale, citizen-science effort that’s given ornithologists important new insights into bird behavior.

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Finding Rare Species during a BioBlitz

Photo of an alligator or caiman head above the water looking at the camera.. Something was observing me back. © Judd Patterson
Something was observing me back. © Judd Patterson

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

A BioBlitz is a great opportunity to get out into nature and observe all the species of plants and animals (and fungi) that inhabit an area, whether that’s a local park or meadow or someplace you have traveled. During a BioBlitz, participants observe, photograph, and upload their observations to iNaturalist. During NANPA’s recent Nature Photography Day BioBlitz, more than 9,000 observations were logged, covering more than 3,000 species, 97 of which were threatened. The date contributed by participants becomes available to scientists and researchers—a true citizen-science project. We’ve profiled several participants (here, here, and here) already. Today, we turn our attention to Judd Patterson, who works for the National Park Service and pursues nature photography in his spare time. He logged observations of several rare and/or threatened species.

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Unusual Butterfly Nets Photographer Bioblitz Prize

Photo of a colorful butterfly on a bush. The Dury's Metalmark that won the award. © Cathryn Hoyt
The Dury’s Metalmark (Apodemia Duryi) that won the award. © Cathryn Hoyt

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Nearly 10,000 observations were made and more than 3,000 species observed during NANPA’s Nature Photography Day Bioblitz. Nearly 100 of those species observed were classified as endangered. A bioblitz is an event created to find and identify as many species as possible in a given area over a limited period of time. All observations are uploaded to an iNaturalist project. Cathryn Hoyt won the Judges’ Choice Award for her photo observation of a Dury’s Metalmark, a species of butterfly found in the US Southwest.  

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Rare Plant Heroes

Herbarium Specimen
Herbarium Specimen

Editor’s Note: Michelle A. Butler received NANPA’s 2015 Janie Moore Greene Grant.  At that time, she was a student completing her Master’s of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. She was then working on a photo-documentary thesis project to raise awareness about the condition of birds in the Americas. It highlights the habitats needed for nesting, wintering and migration and calls for conservation efforts that citizens can make to help protect these essential components to our ecosystem.

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PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECTS: Citizen Science and the Bio Blitz Concept

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Bio Blitzes appeal to citizen scientists of all ages

Story and Photographs by Kevin Fitz Patrick

I remember coming to my first NANPA Summit in Corpus Christi and being overwhelmed by the Art Wolfes and the Robert Ketchums. Although I had been a nature photographer for more than 25 years, I had been working in a small part of the Appalachians most of the time. I had not been to Africa or South America. I hadn’t even been outside North Carolina, so how could I say I was a real nature photographer? Then I met Susan and Richard Day, nature photographers from Illinois who, at the time, shot mostly on a 63-acre property. It was then I realized that it was not about how much of the world you covered but how much you loved the place you photographed. I remember Susan telling me that it was about your niche. Finally, as I start my 70th year—my 46th as a photographer—I can name my niche!

I am a conservation and Bio Blitz photographer. The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) is an attempt to document and identify all biological species living in a defined area. The effort in the Smokies has become the prototype for species inventories worldwide and has inspired the Bio Blitz; 24-hour species inventories conducted by professional scientists in collaboration with public volunteers. The volunteers can include school children, their instructors, families and even their grandparents. Continue reading