We all spend a lot of time in the bush, walking and observing the natural world around us. Many times we will stop and look more closely at the plants or animals we find. Sometimes there is a surge of excitement at finding something we have never seen before or finding an old friend who hasn’t been around for a while. All these observations will remain purely anecdotal unless we take the next step and record them in one of the scientific databases so….
Why Record Observations?
• It helps define the distribution of species.
• It helps measure changes in a species distribution due to such factors as habitat change and climate change.
• You can add to the knowledge of a species by documenting behavior, breeding and food preferences.
• You may (almost certainly will) find rare or poorly known species.
• Observations of rare or threatened species contribute to the conservation of those species.
• Very occasionally you may find something that is way outside its normal range or even new to science.
• It helps track the presence of invasive species that represent a threat to our environment and agricultural systems.
How we do it
The Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club has a project set up on the iNaturalist platform which collects all sightings within our region. This helps our club to update information about the natural environment including our website Castlemaine Flora (Wild plants of the Castlemaine District). We can also use these data in our projects. We encourage you to use iNaturalist to record your observations.
These records flow to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) where confirmed sightings are available for research and conservation management.
From time-to-time there will be other projects where we will encourage you to also record observations. This may be via the platfoms mentioned here or by specific applications such as FrogID.
For some key invasive species we also encourage people to record their sightings on Feralscan, run by The Center for Invasive Species Solutions, either via the website or an app on your phone. In our region Feralscan is particularly interested in Deer, Foxes, Rabbits, Feral Cats, Feral Pigs and Common Mynas. FeralScan asks a few questions about your sighting and uses the information to track invasive species and monitor the effectiveness of control measures.
Should you find wild plants, particularly natives, that are incorrectly named or not on our Castlemaine Flora website, or animals that are not included on our local checklists on this website please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
iNaturalist is a citizen science platform designed to collect and store observations of living organisms. Globally it is supported by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic while in Australia it has the backing of CSIRO and the major museums through the ALA platform.
To use iNaturalist you need to signup and create a logon in the same way as you would for many other websites. Once you have your logon you can upload your observations.
What is an observation?
An observation is a photo or sound recording of an organism living in the wild i.e. not domestic animals or garden plants with an accurate date and geographic location.
Loading an observation
Observations can be made and loaded from your smart phone using the iNaturalist App from your phone’s app store. Alternatively you can use your camera or sound recorder to make observations and load these via the iNaturalist website.
When you load an observation you should add an identification however this can be at a very high level e.g. Plant, Insect, Mammal, etc. There is automatic image recognition that suggests the ID but use this with caution as it has a strong northern hemisphere bias. Regardless of its bias, the image recognition is useful for finding a higher level identification such as Family or Order for your observation. You must also add the location if the GPS on your phone or camera has not recorded it by dropping a pin on the map provided.
There is a lot of information available on the use of iNaturalist. This youtube video is a good tutorial for people just starting out with iNaturalist.
From time-to-time our club runs training sessions on iNaturalist that provide enough information to get people started. Watch for these, they will be advertised in Castlemaine Naturalist, through our eNews and at our meetings.
Birdata is the citizen science database managed by Birdlife Australia for recording the presence and number of birds at a site. You can enter bird lists for a survey (2ha, 20minute preferred) via their website or phone app. Once entered, survey data are available for research and conservation purposes. This is our preferred database for bird-related data.