Feb 16, 2018
Everyone at Humboldt State now has the ability to be a citizen scientist by adding to a growing online collection of species spotted on campus.
A red-breasted sapsucker alights near the HSU Library.Wildlife Professor Jeff Black and colleagues recently added the general boundaries of HSU to iNaturalist, a free website and app from the California Academy of Sciences that allows users to upload photos of plants, mushrooms, birds, insects, and other wildlife. Administrators of the site will help identify the species—a handy feature for anyone needing help to ID everything from a turkey tail mushroom in Arcata to a saltwater croc in Australia.
In addition, the date and location of the wildlife report is available for others to browse, adding to the growing understanding of what flora and fauna naturally occur on campus.
Black—who’s been running a citizen science project spotting otters on the North Coast for more than 20 years—says having a community of observers makes for a more complete picture of the natural environment. No one researcher can be everywhere at once, after all.
Students in Black’s wildlife courses will begin using the app this week, adding to the more than 300 observations that had already been logged in the app’s Humboldt State University boundary before Black established it.
Black learned of iNaturalist from community member and “iNaturalist enthusiast” Elizabeth van Mantgem, who has teamed up with local elementary schools to use iNaturalist as a learning and motivational tool. Biology Professor Erik Jules encouraged the set up of an iNaturalist boundary in the Arcata Community Forest as well, Black says, expanding the local opportunities for citizen science.
In addition to building a body of observations that student and faculty members could use in future research, Black sees iNaturalist as a tool for new students to immediately explore what the local environment has to offer. It also encourages students to be observant and make a practice of identifying species that surround them.
To get started, create an account at iNaturalist.org and search for Humboldt State University in the “Observations” tab to see the 176 species that have already been identified on campus. Then start submitting your own!
A project of the California Academy of Sciences, iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature.
It’s also a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. You can use it to record your own observations, get help with identifications, collaborate with others to collect this kind of information for a common purpose, or access the observational data collected by iNaturalist users.
Learn more at iNaturalist.org.