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!

February is For Love and Family

For such a short month, February sure incorporates a lot of diverse celebratory days for Canadians across the country to enjoy.

  • Groundhog Day (Feb 2): the annual prediction of spring’s arrival
  • Chinese New Year (Feb 5): this year, the official beginning of The Year of The Pig
  • Louis Riel Day (Feb 18): a day honouring a Métis hero and pioneering Canadian politician

But what truly defines the month of February and the days of celebration contained within it is the fact these milestone dates are all about honouring things we love.

  • Love of Country: National Flag of Canada Day (Feb 5)
  • Love of Province: New Brunswick (Feb 18), Nova Scotia (Feb 18), Yukon (Feb 22)
  • Love of Family: Family Day (Feb 18)
  • Love of our Significant Other: Valentine’s Day (Feb 14)

February is a cold month that generates the warmest feelings for things we hold dear to our hearts.

Spend February With Those You Love

family playing outside in snow

At the Canadian Wildlife Federation, what’s closest to our hearts is inspiring Canadians to connect with nature and, in the process, develop a deeper appreciation for the wildlife and natural spaces that define our country the world over.

To do that, we offer some great programs that can be enjoyed throughout the entire month of February and, in some cases, throughout the entire year.

Live Life Outside With Your Family

For starters, creating CWF’s Below Zero initiative is our way of inspiring Canadians to enjoy the great outdoors even when temperatures drop below the freezing mark.

Our Below Zero site is full of great ideas you can incorporate into family time spent in Canada’s winter playground, along with a contest that could earn you a cool $500 toward skates, skis, snowshoes or even toboggans!

Family Exploration With iNaturalist.ca

kids following snow tracks

For those motivated multitaskers who like to be productive, we suggest you download our free iNaturalist Canada app available for all PC, IOS and Android devices. Use it to turn your next winter walk into a “citizen science” activity by snapping pictures of all the flora and fauna you see outside. By uploading your photos via the app, you’re helping to take inventory of species you find while contributing to an international scientific database. Now that’s a walk with a purpose.

Join (or Start!) a local WILD Family Nature Club

hiking outside cold

Finally, CWF’s WILD Family Nature Club program offers individuals and families opportunity to join like-minded outdoor enthusiasts in semi-structured activities outdoors. Check the website to find a club near you, or start your own. There’s no cost involved, just endless hours of fun connecting with nature.

Now that’s a reason to love everything about February!

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.

Putting Citizen Science in Action To Capture Canada’s “Nature Selfie.”

Imagine taking a photo of an unknown organism, posting it online and immediately having it identified by expert naturalists from around the world. iNaturalist is an online service that allows you to do just that.

With iNaturalist, you can submit observations of plants, animals and other organisms and share their location with naturalists on every continent. I have what some would call a healthy obsession with iNaturalist – it satisfies the nerd in me while also being a powerful tool for improving our understanding of natural history and helping us conserve the diversity of life on Earth.

Crooked-stem Aster
Crooked-stem Aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides), a species whose Canadian range was extended during BioBlitz Canada 150. Photo: Will Van Hemessen

In 2017, hundreds of Canadians were introduced to iNaturalist by participating in BioBlitzes across the country during BioBlitz Canada 150, a celebration of biodiversity in Canada’s 150th anniversary year. A BioBlitz is a focused effort to identify as many species as possible within a given area in a set amount of time (usually 24 to 48 hours). BioBlitzes attract naturalists with specialized knowledge of a variety of taxa: plants, birds, reptiles, dragonflies, moths, fish, you name it. It’s an opportunity for naturalists to rub shoulders with taxonomic experts, learn and share knowledge.

The main objective of a BioBlitz is to produce an inventory of species present in a target area. Many rare and endangered species have been identified during BioBlitzes. Similarly, some species with historical records in certain areas have failed to be captured, causing concern about their conservation status. Many of the BioBlitzes undertaken across Canada in 2017 were organized by local conservation groups to gather baseline data about newly acquired protected areas. Others focused on well-known protected areas and significant landscapes with long histories of monitoring, such as national and provincial parks.

For my part, I participated on the ground in several BioBlitzes near my home in southern Ontario. But I also participated from afar by identifying thousands of observations submitted to iNaturalist during BioBlitzes across Canada, including the nation-wide Virtual BioBlitz. In total, I identified over 3,000  species’ photos. Why, you ask? Well, the answer is difficult to put into words. I’m a botanist and the biogeography of plants particularly fascinates me. During BioBlitz 150, I identified a handful of plant observations which extended the known range of those species in Canada. Hundreds of rare and endangered plant species were observed during the BioBlitz, including some previously unknown occurrences.

But my biggest reason for participating in BioBlitz Canada 150 was the satisfaction of sharing my knowledge with others. It’s encouraging to be thanked by naturalists across Canada for helping them identify species that eluded them. Some observations were particularly difficult to identify, leading to conversations with other experts until someone finally chimed in with the correct species. This collaborative element is another one of the reasons I love iNaturalist.

BioBlitz Canada 150

BioBlitzes are targeted to a particular time and place, and are somewhat narrow in scope. Nearly 40,000 wildlife observations of 7,510 species were made in iNaturalist during BioBlitz Canada 150. But the beauty of iNaturalist is that the BioBlitz never has to end – it is an ongoing, global BioBlitz that I encourage everyone to join and contribute to.

Join iNaturalist to contribute your observations and expertise.

The Importance of Observation

When was the last time you crossed paths with a wild animal?

It might have been more recent than you think. Whether you spend the majority of your time indoors, on the road, or even working outside, wildlife is never far away.

Working in conservation, I am often sent photos or told stories from family, friends and colleagues, of plants and animals that they come across. Receiving these photos and hearing the stories are always a highlight of my day, and I am continuously amazed by what people find when they take the time to look.

The most recent photo sent to me was one of a turtle crossing the road. A family member just happened to come across it while driving, helped it to cross the road, and was curious about what species it was. Imagine my surprise when I opened the photo to see a Spotted Turtle!

© Rodger Holden

These turtles are one of the most at risk freshwater turtle species in Canada, found only in Ontario, and are listed as an Endangered species. And the sighting came from an area with few records of this rare species, making the observation all the more important. I’ve spent the better part of my last two summers specifically looking for turtles and I’ve yet to see a Spotted Turtle in the wild.

It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be an expert, or have any sort of past experience, to go out and find really cool things in the wild. It’s never too late to start exploring what’s around you! There has never been a better time than now to get outside and learn to love the natural world. So check out your nearest field naturalist club, there are always fun events going on that you can take part in. And don’t keep those observations to yourself.  Submit your wildlife photos to iNaturalist (http://inaturalist.ca). We are particularly looking for observations of rare turtles for our Help the Turtles project on iNaturalist, but all observations are valuable.

You never know when an observation will help us to learn about a new location that a rare species inhabits.

Becoming a citizen scientist for BioBlitz Canada 150

We are official BioBlitzers! This past weekend we became citizen scientists and joined local naturalists, conservationists and specialists for the South Okanagan Bioblitz Canada 150.

Using the inaturalist.ca phone app we contributed to Canada’s national species inventory by taking pictures of plants, animals and insects and sharing them online. Our team of explorers identified over eighty different species during our leisurely walk through the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area and the White Lake Basin Biodiversity Ranch (Nature Trust BC) .

The Bioblitz was a really neat opportunity to walk alongside experts. My brain is practically bursting with all that we learned! The great thing about using the inaturalist.ca app is that I can go back to it whenever I need to remember species we identified (so handy!). If you want to follow me on inaturalist.ca, here is my profile.

During our BioBlitz-ing my son was very curious about everything, he asked lots of questions, and the experts were happy to answer all of them. Eventually the entomologist was his go to person and they spent the greater part of the day searching for butterflies and other insects. He discovered a fly that looked like a bee, a grasshopper with striped legs and plenty of other interesting insects. I think I may have a budding entomologist!

There are 35 BioBlitzes taking place across Canada in 2017. To learn more about BioBlitz Canada 150 and to find an event near you, visit BioBlitzCanada.ca.

Follow Josée for more outdoor family adventures:
On Twitter: @Backwoods_Mama
On Instagram: @thebackwoodsmama
On Facebook: facebook.com/okanaganbackwoodsmama

This post originally appeared on Josée’s blog, backwoodsmama.com.

BioBlitz Canada 150

Step up to the challenge for National Wildlife Week

Would you give nicotine to an animal? Would you drink beer infused with plastic pellets? Would you lure a robin to crash into your picture window?

If the answer is NO, you need to take action now, because you may be doing these things without even being aware of it.

National Wildlife Week (April 9-15) is your opportunity to step up and take the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s seven-day conservation challenge. Let’s spring into action for species at risk.

Sunday, April 9

Butterflies

Please pledge to plant for pollinators. Most of the seeds and flowers grown in Canada have been treated with pesticides made from nicotine. These chemicals (known as neonics) are plant and water soluble. They are toxic. They are systemic. There are currently nine varieties of neonics used in Canada. While most of the buzz is about bees, earthworms, aquatic insects, flower bugs, butterflies and birds and bats may also be impacted by these pesticides. Canadians need to be cautious, and buy and grow neonic-free products that are native to their areas. Help raise awareness and join CWF in pledging to plant for pollinators and nix neonic pesticides. Look for the CWF pollinator plant kits coming to retailers across Canada this May. The seeds in the kits are free of neonics.

Monday, April 10

Plastic Pollution

Reduce your plastic footprint by using natural products which are free from microplastics.  You may have heard about efforts to ban microbeads, miniscule plastic particles found in cosmetic products, but these microbeads in face scrubs are only a tiny part of the plastic problem. Microplastics are also part of synthetic clothing and wash out through your laundry making their way down the drains into the water supply. They are later found in products such as beer, table salt and honey  – and wildlife such as fish.  You can reduce your load of plastics on the environment by using your own environmentally friendly grocery bags, refilling your own water bottle and wearing clothing made of natural products.

Tuesday, April 11

Bird

A shocking 25 million birds are killed by colliding with windows in Canada each year. You can help by closing your curtains or putting decals on your windows. Participate in Bird Impact Reduction Day (B.I.R.D.) on April 11 by following our steps to helping birds dodge the glass dangers in their flight paths. Otherwise they may crash into your windows and the impact of this collision may cause internal bleeding. The stunned bird may fly off a short distance, making you think they survived the crash, but they will more likely die of brain damage a short distance away. Sad but true and easily preventable.

Wednesday, April 12

Now that you’ve taken some steps to protect wildlife at your home and office, it’s time to get outside and enjoy nature.  Visit WalkforWildlife.ca to dedicate your outing to one of the iconic species featured on Canadian coins. Join team polar bear, team loon, team caribou or team beaver. Your next walk could deliver big change if you register for CWF’s #WalkForWildlife.

Thursday, April 13

It’s treat day! Watch all the vintage Hinterland Who’s Who wildlife videos and the new beaver vignette on HWW.ca. There are about 60 videos in the popular series, which started in 1963. Share your favorites on social media using #ConservetheWonder. Make your own wildlife videos if you want to step it up. Spoofs are welcome.  😉

Friday, April 14

iNaturalist

Download the free iNaturalist app to record and share wildlife sightings. There are 115,000 observations online already and your pictures will help add to a national database of biodiversity. It’s a snap. You can connect through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or other choices through iNaturalist.ca.

Saturday, April 15

Turtles

Now you’re cruising…so slow down and watch for wildlife! Make your weekend getaway positively memorable by staying on the lookout for animals and avoiding accidents.  Many species have to cross the roads, from turtles to deer and moose, so drive carefully and take time to enjoy National Wildlife Week.

Thank you for taking the seven-day conservation challenge. Share all your images and pledges on social media using #ConservetheWonder. Even the smallest steps can make a big difference for wildlife.

You are invited to turn this seven-day challenge into a lifelong commitment to living in harmony with nature. You can also step up the challenge to higher levels of activity depending on your interests and abilities.

For more information and to get involved visit NationalWildlifeWeek.org.

Bat Citizen Science Opportunities

little-brown-bat

Would you like to be a citizen scientist and report your bat sightings? If so, there are a number of ways for you to get involved!

If you live in Manitoba or Ontario, UWinnipeg’s Bat Lab is asking the public to report the locations and sizes of summer bat colonies. Just go to Neighbourhood Batwatch to register a colony that’s on your property.

Previously, I posted a blog about bat citizen science projects for many provinces in Canada. Be sure to check it out by clicking here!

You can also report your wildlife sightings, including bats with inaturalist.ca. There’s even an app for your smartphone!

Be sure to check out CWF’s HelpTheBats.ca program where you can make a bat pledge, get involved in a Guinness World Record and more!