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Spotted Lanternfly Watch Underway in Fairfax County

Photo: Spotted Lanternfly, Stephen Ausmus, USDA

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va – While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County. To reduce the spread of this destructive insect the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service has expanded the spotted lanternfly quarantine to include an additional 18 counties and cities.

Fairfax County Forest Pest Management also is asking County residents to help slow the spread of this invasive pest by being vigilant about not moving spotted lanternfly life stages when traveling through known infested areas. The spotted lanternfly is known as a ‘hitchiker’ since it is often found near railroads and inside shipments of items such as produce.

The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven. In the Commonwealth the peach, apple, grape, and wine industries are most threatened.

Adults begin laying eggs in September and through the first few hard frosts. The egg masses are covered in a light gray colored wax that looks like mud when it dries.

Spotted lanternfly identification information with links to the quarantine area can be found on the Fairfax County web site Spotted Lanternfly. Please keep an eye out for spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County and report sightings to ReportSLF@fairfaxcounty.gov or to 703-324-5304. The popular mobile app, iNaturalist, is an effective and efficient method for reporting a SLF sighting.

How to Improve Your iNaturalist Photos to Better Help Scientists

Photo courtesy of Barbara J. Saffir

By FMN C.E. Hike Coordinator Barbara J. Saffir
(iNat username: DMVphotographer)

WHY USE INATURALIST? 

If you want to contribute to citizen-science while exploring outdoors, iNaturalist’s free, user-friendly app and website provides the best virtual toolbox. Your data will actually get used. Real humans are available to respond to problems. You can join projects and interact directly with other observers around the globe. Plus, it’s downright fun! And iNat is powered by a world-class team of experts at the National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences.

But before you start snapping pictures, learn how to improve your photos so your observations can be identified easier by iNat’s artificial intelligence, which, in turn, helps scientists more. Some helpful camera tips follow. But in some cases, it also helps to learn when you need to photograph specific parts of some critters or plants to identify them.

CAMERA

Whether you use a cell phone camera, a DSLR, a mirrorless, or a point-and-shoot, its best to learn your camera’s capabilities by practicing and by studying its manual.

APP OR WEBSITE?

Most of the time I photograph and upload directly from iNaturalist’s app because it’s faster, easier, and it’s the sole photo app I allow to use my location, due to privacy. Also, if I have cell service, I can identify observations in the field and upload them immediately — though I usually wait until I’m connected to a power source since those functions use a lot of “juice.”

However, instead of relying solely on unaltered photos uploaded directly from the app’s camera, your photos will be better if you tweak them first with a third-party processing program like Photoshop. In less than 60 seconds, you can often improve the composition (via cropping), lighting, sharpness, and more before uploading them to iNat. If you upload using your computer, you can batch-edit the dates and locations. The website is also better at identifying critters and plants because it gives you ranges and can confirm if observations of your organism have already been made in that county, adds a local science teacher who identifies thousands of iNat observations. She also recommends that you should only identify what you, yourself, can confirm. For example, she says if iNat suggests a “two-spotted bumble bee” but you’re only sure it’s a “bumble bee,” stick with that. Of course, beginners and/or casual users have to rely on iNat’s suggestions until they learn more.

BASICS FOR IMPROVING PHOTOS:

 1.        IN FOCUS:  Look at your photo right away and if it’s not in focus, take another until it’s sharp.

 2.      SUBJECT SHOULD TAKE UP MOST OF THE FRAME:  Get as close as feasible.  Crop your photos to cut out major distractions, such as other species, weeds, and sticks.  Don’t crop too much or it will result in poor resolution. Also, don’t waste your time using “digital zoom” on a camera because of its poor quality — unless you’re far away and you spot the Loch Ness Monster or Brad Pitt.

 3.      WELL-LIGHTED:  Keep the sun behind you.  Use flash or a flashlight if needed.

 4.      ADDITIONAL VIEWS MAY BE NEEDED FOR ID:  Sometimes a close-up detail of an organism’s features, such as its underside, bark, leaves, head, etc., is needed. (See below for iNat’s ID tips.)

 5.      ADD SCALE IF NECESSARY:  Use your finger, a ruler, a penny, etc.

 6.      NOTES:  You can add notes to your observations, such as the number of plants or critters observed.  You can also add that you shot a video if anyone wants to see it.

7.      MISCELLANEOUS:  Clean your lens before photographing. Check your battery.  Use your foot, your chest, a tree, a fence, or another solid object as a makeshift tripod to prevent the camera from shaking.  For plant photos, bring a piece of cardboard for a backdrop and to block the wind. Join iNat projects to share your finds with people who care about them most.  Join local bioblitzes, such as City Nature Challenge each spring and Fairfax County Park Authority’s occasional bioblitzes.

INATURALIST’S PHOTO TIPS:  To pinpoint certain species, such as mushrooms, flowers, turtles, snakes, and birds, it’s best to learn about those subjects independently to know what kind of details are required to clinch an ID of specific species.  For example, with birds, it helps to photograph the entire bird, and to document important details, such as its color, shape, size, beak, behavior, habitat, and feather field marks (such as an eye ring or bars on its feathers) with photo(s) or in notes. https://www.inaturalist.org/guides/2465

PHOTO TIPS FROM RUTGERS UNIVERSITY:  The photo below shows how a plain background works best for identification purposes.  Click here for Rutger’s full presentation: https://botanydepot.com/2020/07/27/presentation-how-to-photograph-plants-and-more/

Lena Struwe and Peter Nitzsche, Rutgers University

DISCOVERY TIME:  So now that you’re prepared to contribute better photos to help citizen-science, the only question is: “Where should I go hunting for nature today?”  You don’t even have to venture far from home.  Fairfax County has more than 400 parks along nearly 1,000 miles of paved and dirt trails. Maybe you’ll even discover a whole new species.  This year, Virginia Tech discovered a new species of millipedes on its own campus.

Celebrate National Moth Week! Workshop and Survey with Judy Gallagher

Io moth by Judy Gallagher

Thursday, July 29, 7:00 – 8:00 PM (Online via Zoom)
Field Trip: Saturday, July 31, 8:30 PM –10:30 PM Lorton, VA
Fee: FREE, but registration is required

You all know something about butterflies but you probably don’t know much about their cousins, the moths. Did you know many adult moths eat nectar but others don’t eat at all as adults? Join Judy to learn about the mysterious world of moths, and gain some information about identifying them.

On the outing, they’ll set up a black light to attract moths and use field guides and iNaturalist to try to identify them.  They’ll set up an iNaturalist project to keep track of the moths they see.

Brought to you by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.

City Nature Challenge: the results are in!

Article by FMN Ana Leilani Ka’ahanui & Stella Tarnay, both of Capital Nature

Nature nerds celebrate! The results are in for the global City Nature Challenge and our region rose to the occasion again. Out of 419 cities in 44 countries, the DC Metro Area ranked:

• 2nd for observers: 2,002
• 2nd for observations: 43,295
• 8th for species: 2,977

How did Fairfax County do? 11,916 iNaturalist observations of 1,610 species were made by 488 observers. There were 588 people that lent their expertise to make identifications. These results were an improvement over 2020 where 7,750 observations were made of 1,249 species by 391 observers. There were 10 more identifiers last year at 598. See the top ten species identified in Fairfax this year.

Capital Nature along with dozens of area partner organizations hosted over 30 virtual and in-person trainings and events, culminating in a virtual ID Party and a Celebration. Participants shared their favorite discoveries including unexpected flower sightings, five distinct sightings of hog-nosed snakes, a persnickety groundhog and alien-like eggs of a Spiny Assassin Bug. We’re pleased to say that the native mayapple topped the list as the no. 1 species observation, leaving the invasive garlic mustard far behind. For details on all the species that were discovered, visit the project on iNaturalist.

Virginia Bioblitz 2020, September 26th

When: Saturday, 26 September 2020. Virtual Kickoff event at 9:00am (check website for Zoom link)
Where: Anywhere in Virginia
What: Use iNaturalist to find as many species as you can for at least 30 minutes
You can find more information and register at the Virginia BioBlitz website.
Please spread the word to your family, friends, students and neighbors (see publicity flyer). Help record many species in our beautiful state.

The Virginia Academy of Science (VAS) is organizing a Statewide BioBlitz, Virginia BioBlitz 2020, to promote exploration, discovery, citizen science, and conservation. Join them to survey the biodiversity in every part of the Commonwealth. This is a virtual event facilitated through iNaturalist, so, you can join from home or anywhere else in Virginia! This event is open to anyone willing to spend some time outdoors, explore biodiversity and learn more about species living around you. All it requires is registering online, downloading the iNaturalist App into your smart phone, joining the Virginia Bioblitz iNaturalist project, and reporting species around you! You can also participate without a smart phone just using the iNaturalist website, so long as you have a way to take and upload digital photos.

If you have any questions, please contact the organizers at the Virginia Academy of Science. This event is not organized by the Virginia Master Naturalist program.

Fairfax Master Naturalists, obtain service hour credit in the catalog under: C001: Virginia Bioblitz Days.

From Atlas Obscura: How to Help Scientists Without Leaving Home

Gaze out the window or at your computer, in the name of data

BY JESSICA LEIGH HESTER

Atlas Obscura readers are spending time at home to stay safe and healthy, so the organization is sharing ways you can be awestruck anytime, no matter where you are. 

“THE NATURAL WORLD DOESN’T SLOW down just because humans have to. Outside, buds burst from branches; high, high above them, distant objects traverse the solar system. And while the world keeps going, science does, too. If you have a computer, a phone, and a window, you can help with these citizen science projects.”

Check the article for scores of links to citizen science projects you can do from home. Then, if you are a master naturalist, check the service or continuing education calendars to see which are approved for credit. If you don’t see them, please be kind and add them to help your fellow naturalists get credit for making the world a better place.

How to identify plants on iNaturalist

Are you thinking about supporting the City Nature Challenge? Here’s a super easy-to-follow-video to learn how.

No need to say more–just watch.

Lead 2019 City Nature Challenge for FMN

Excited about Citizen Science and using iNaturalist to record your observations? 

You can lead FMN’s participation in the 2019 City Nature Challenge!       

What’s involved?  You decide.  Here are some suggestions.  

  • Join the monthly City Nature Challenge coordination phone calls:
WhenWed Jan 23, 2019 2pm – 3pm Eastern Time – New York
Where605-472-5436, access code 908439#
  • Set up opportunities for FMN to participate
    • Chapter hike on using iNaturalist to take good pics for ID (The Nature Conservancy will lead)
    • Public info programs on City Nature Challenge & using iNaturalist (Fairfax libraries will sponsor)
    • Observation events on City Nature Challenge weekend (Fairfax County parks will sponsor)
    • Identification parties post CNC weekend (Fairfax libraries will sponsor)
    • Join with ARMN-sponsored events   
  • Earn service hours working from home
  • Recruit FMNs to help as needed

Sound like fun?  Contact Marilyn Schroeder: masnaturalist@yahoo.com

City Nature Challenge–Save the dates, 26-29 April 2019

Citizen scientists throughout the Washington DC metro area will be participating in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, a competition among 130 cities around the world to find and document the diversity of species. No experience required—just a mobile device and a love for nature. Participants will make observations of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app (for Android or Apple).

Why get involved? By participating, you’ll not only get out and see some great urban nature, you’ll help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of our region (and the planet).

Great video to share

Find out how it works!

See the results from the 2018 City Nature Challenge.

 

 

Coming Soon: The City Nature Challenge! 27-30 April

Citizen scientists throughout the Washington DC metro area will be participating in the 2018 City Nature Challenge, a competition among 60 cities around the world to find and document the diversity of species. No experience required—just a mobile device and a love for nature. Participants will make observations of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app (for Android or Apple).

Why get involved? By participating, you’ll not only get out and see some great urban nature, you’ll help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of our region (and the planet). City Nature Challenge contributors are invited to join the species ID event at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum on Monday, 30.

To sign up for an event, create an event, and learn more, click here.

To download the flyer, click here.