Top 10 Species Finds on iNaturalist.ca

iNaturalist.ca has reached 1 million!

iNaturalist Canada (also known as iNaturalist.ca) has hit a major milestone – more than 1 million verifiable observations in Canada. These confirmed sightings span from Canada’s East Coast to the western edges of British Columbia, and from Southern Saskatchewan all the way up to the most northern reaches of the country.

This proves that Canadians are interacting with nature using their smartphone or digital cameras to document and geo-locate wildlife in our vast country.

Canadians are also reporting some really cool discoveries.

Not only does this help provide valuable information for conservation, there are some interesting tidbits in there for all of us. Also, with iNaturalist’s auto ID feature you can hold a field identification tool in the palm of your hand.

To celebrate, let’s take a look at 10 fascinating species reported on iNaturalist Canada:

1. New Species to Canada!

Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones
Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones

The Paintedhand Mudbug. This is actually a species of crayfish, not a bug at all. Thanks to some hard work by Colin Jones from the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre the first ever occurrence of this species was recorded in Canada using iNaturalist.ca.

2. Carnivorous Plants

Purple Pitcher Plant and the Great Sundew. These carnivorous plants are not species from an exotic corner of the world. In fact they are entirely native to Canada and you can find one or both of these in every province and territory. Don’t be alarmed, they only feed on small insects!

3. The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch | Photo james_cwf
Monarch | Photo james_cwf

The Monarch Butterfly is the most reported species at risk on iNaturalist.ca with more than 4,400 observations! Only the Mallard, Canada Goose and Grey Squirrel were reported more times than this at-risk butterfly.

4. The Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker
Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker

This freshwater turtle is also probably one of Canada’s most unique. Found in only a handful of places in the country, its shell is flexible and leathery, as its name suggests, as opposed to the typical hard shell of most turtles.

5. The Fjaeldmark Dwarf Weaver

This arachnid is the most northern record of all the observations in the global iNaturalist system! It was recorded on a tiny island off the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – that’s over 2,100 kilometres north of Iqaluit!

6. Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman
Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman

Possibly the tallest herbaceous (non-woody) plant to be found in Canada, the Giant Hogweed grows up to 5.5 metres (that’s 18 feet)! But it’s not from Canada, thus an invasive species. It is also highly poisonous. Getting the sap on your skin can cause burns, kind of like poison ivy but much worse.

7. The Wood Duck

Wood Duck | Photo jaliya
Wood Duck | Photo jaliya

This dabbler is one of the most colourful birds we have in Canada. It can be found in every province, as well as in Nunavut.

8. The Cougar

Cougar | Photo by kokanee
Cougar | Photo by kokanee

Also known as the North American Mountain Lion, this feline is one of the more elusive animals in Canada and getting a photo at a safe distance can be tricky! A trail camera managed to snap a unique close-up of this feline.

9. The Magnificent Bryozoan

Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde
Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde

This is not algae. A colony of organisms — called zoids — forms a solid mass called a bryozoan. This one was found during the 2017 Stanley Park Bioblitz (as part BioBlitz Canada 150) and made headlines as “The Blob of Lost Lagoon.” There are only 34 of these recorded in iNaturalist.ca.

10. Ochre Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote
Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote

This heap of sea stars was recorded on the ocean floor off the western coast of Vancouver Island. iNaturalist.ca can be used anywhere — even under water!

Think of it as social media meets conservation science.

iNaturalist.ca is a place where users can upload sightings of what they’ve seen in nature. The community can then comment on the find and help with identifying the species. This adds to the growing database throughout the country to provide a clearer picture of Canada’s biodiversity. The information can then be used for conservation purposes, such as keeping track of endangered species.

Once you have the free app and an account, snap a photo of what you see in nature and upload. The built-in auto ID can recognize most species. The app works entirely offline, but you’ll need a data plan or wifi to upload any observations you’ve logged in the app. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can upload straight to iNaturalist.ca on your desktop computer (the image recognition works there too).

iNaturalist Canada is a member of the iNaturalist Network, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society, which means that this information feeds into an initiative to track biodiversity worldwide.

What do you think is the most interesting observation on iNaturalist Canada? Head to iNaturalist.ca to check out what people are recording and then paste a link to the observation’s url in the comment section below!

URGENT: Help Protect Ontario’s Endangered Species Act

The deadline for public comments is March 4, 2019.

The Ontario government is reviewing its Endangered Species Act. But so far, the review appears to focus on making the act more efficient for economic development rather than improving outcomes for wildlife and habitat. Your voice can make a difference. But you must speak up now!

The Ontario Endangered Species Act is a last line of defence against extinction in an era that scientists have termed the sixth mass extinction on the planet.

Canada’s wildlife depends on innovative regulations, policies, and programs that make conservation of species at risk the primary goal.

Stronger and more effective action is the key to protection and recovery of Ontario’s endangered species and providing clarity for business, not building further holes in the Endangered Species Act.  The Act already contains exemptions and permits for industry and the need for permits has been removed entirely for some activities that negatively impact species at risk.

The government wants to hear from people on four aspects of protecting endangered species that they pose as challenges to economic development.

Here’s what we think:

1. Landscape Approaches

We support recovering species by looking at the entire landscape and taking actions that will contribute the most to improving habitat and protecting species from harm; however, care must be taken to ensure the individual needs of each species are still taken into account. There are situations where a species-specific approach is still warranted.

2. Species Listing Process and Protections

The ability of the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) to determine the status of species, independent of government, is essential to the proper functioning of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Improved communication and transparency in all aspects of species assessment and protection is warranted to provide clarity for the public and business.

Habitat loss or degradation is a primary cause for species decline. Automatic protection, combined with clear communication on where impacts can and cannot occur, would protect species while providing certainty of what to expect for economic development.

3. Species Recovery Policy and Habitat Regulations

Delays and inaction are detrimental to species while at the same time providing little economic certainty since business is uninformed of the parameters under which they must operate.  What is needed for species and economic development is for government to focus resources on quickly providing the framework for protecting habitat and taking action.

4. Permitting Processes

We are in favour of consistent application and streamlining of decisions, which must also include decisions to deny a permit for an activity that would harm a species or its habitat. Permits allowing harm to endangered species or their habitat poses considerable risk so need to come with strict conditions. Extinction is permanent.

What you can do

Let the Ontario government know you want strong protection for Species at Risk in Ontario, which means a prioritization on conserving species at risk and the habitats they depend on through improved implementation of the Endangered Species Act in its current form.

Post your comment on the Environmental Registry by March 4, 2019
Post Your Comment

You can use all or part of CWF’s position as outlined above or craft your own response.

Protect Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Protect Wildlife. Our economy will benefit by clear regulations, swift responses and improved communications, not by delays and exemptions in applying the Ontario Endangered Species Act, which is a critical backstop against extinction.

Find out more about endangered species in Ontario and CWF’s conservation efforts:

WANTED: Giant Lacewing! Report to iNaturalist on Your Nearest Device

We need your help to track down the Giant Lacewing (Polystoechotes punctata).

Giant lacewing wanted poster
Download and post on your favourite social media channel!

The Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) are looking for this elusive species. It is an insect that kind of looks like a cross between a fly and a moth.

The experts at COSEWIC will be assessing its status. We are looking to citizen scientists to report any potential observation of this species to iNaturalist Canada.

i-What?

iNaturalist is a wildlife observation reporting tool that anyone can use. The free mobile app for Android or iOS is easy to use. Or you can add an observation directly on the website at iNaturalist.ca.

It’s very important that a good photo is submitted along with the observation since experts will need this to confirm the species. Equally important is the location you saw it, which the app will automatically add if your phone’s GPS is turned on.

What, Where and When

The Giant Lacewing was once widespread in Canada and beyond. However, it hasn’t been seen in the eastern parts of North America since the 1950’s. But the experts are optimistic it still exists here, just that it hasn’t been seen or reported. Here’s what to look for:

  • A mostly black insect that is between 2.5 to and 4 cm centimetres (about 1 to 2.5 inches) long
  • Mottled wings, which are held tent-like over the insect’s body
  • Most likely to be found in more remote areas
  • Attracted to artificial lights, such as light posts, outdoor restrooms and buildings.
  • Most common time of year to spot one is mid-June through to early August.

Experts from Canada and around the world are using iNaturalist to keep track of where species are found. This is a valuable opportunity for anyone to contribute directly to species conservation decisions — like this assessment of the Giant Lacewing.

turtle mobileNot Just Lacewings

Any observation of wildlife — animals, plants, fungi, molluscs and fish — is a valuable contribution to the knowledge of Canada’s biodiversity. Plus with iNaturalist.ca you can keep track of what you’ve seen and search the map for what others have found. iNaturalist can even help you with identifying what you’ve seen with its instant auto identification feature.

Learn more about iNaturalist.ca and other ways to connect with wildlife.

 

Everyday citizens track over 400,000 plants and animals in Canada

Ever wonder what that plant is growing in your backyard, or what animal is leaving those tracks in the snow? Not only are people satisfying their curiosity, we can also contribute to the conservation of these small wonders we see outside every day.

This is precisely what thousands of Canadians have been doing on their own and as part of Bioblitz Canada 150 over the past year using iNaturalist.ca. The website and associated app allows us to take a photo of a species and document the location in a central database to be used by all Canadians, researchers and the public alike. What’s more is the latest addition to the platform incorporates photo recognition software to help identify what you’ve just seen – and it’s shockingly accurate!

This initiative is taking off; people are using their smartphones and digital cameras to document their observations. Since 2015, when the iNaturalist Canada app was created, users have documented over 400,000 observations. And scientists are taking notice.

This has built an unprecedented database of species occurrences throughout Canada which can help answer key questions related to biodiversity. For example, between 2014 and 2016 the number of Monarch Butterflies reported in iNaturalist.ca hovered between 57 and 77. In 2017, despite now being named Endangered by experts, this jumped drastically to 1,052. Arguably this could be due to an increase in people using iNaturalist.ca rather than more Monarchs, but the upswing is consistent with what experts are saying was a good year for Monarchs.

Thanks to these documented occurrences in iNaturalist.ca we can track occurrences to see if they fare as well next year. We can also see where and when these butterflies were in Canada to help plan for planting native plants, including milkweed, to help them survive.

Interestingly, most range maps for this species end along a line from the Gaspé to Lake Superior to the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg and onwards to Vancouver island. We’re seeing in iNaturalist.ca that there are credible occurrences (with photos to vouch for it) in areas 50 kilometres to nearly 100 km north of this. With this information we can study whether this species is shifting its range as a result of climate change and, more importantly, allows scientists, communities and conservation organizations to make decisions for Monarch conservation. This is particularly timely, since Canada has entered into a tri-National agreement with the U.S. and Mexico to address the declines in Monarch populations.

BioBlitz Canada 150
Results from BioBlitz Canada 150.

There’s more to iNaturalist.ca and the organized 24 hour species inventory that we call a BioBlitz. It’s a place where I keep a record and list of what I’ve come across while hiking, walking in town or exploring with my family. It’s also how I contribute to a larger initiative like one of the 35 events that took place across the country in 2017 for BioBlitz Canada 150.

Moreover, I know that what I’ve just recorded will be useful to others and help conserve what I’ve taken the time to photograph. And then there’s the online community of over 10,000 Canadians and counting, among which are some of the leading experts in their field. These like-minded people are what makes iNaturalist.ca tick. Scientists truly couldn’t gather the amount of data that we have through iNaturalist without help. That’s why the program is so remarkable. Every day Canadians are contributing meaningful data to the scientific community.

I’ve personally learned a lot about species identification and what to make sure is captured in a photograph to make it easier for others to identify. For example, when you’re taking a photo of a crayfish, it’s critical to capture the ridges along the snout (actually called a rostrum). Who knew? For most species identification, scientists can garner more information with a close up photo than a picture taken further off in the distance.

So if you’re curious about what you’ve seen outside or want to make a contribution to conservation, have a look at iNaturalist.ca. The app is available for Android and iPhone and it’s free.