Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Fun of Being a Contributing Photographer

 Guest Contributor: Rosemary Taylor, Nature Photographer

As with many hobbies, one never knows where it is going to lead. In my case, a lifelong interest in the natural world, combined with a passion for photography, leads not only to increasing my own knowledge by getting better acquainted with flora and fauna through the lens of the camera, but also enables me to add to the learning of others by submitting images to the E-Flora BC/E-Fauna BC websites. At the same time, I benefit from images others have already submitted in any specific category, showing different aspects of the same plant, flower, bird or animal which I may not see for myself in the field. Unlike reference and i.d. books, excellent though they are, websites can show an unlimited number of images of the same thing, be it flora or fauna, so changes through various stages of growth, seasons of the year, and in a variety of habitats can all be included.

But, now that one has checked out the subject and learned much about it from the many images available, more gems of information await. The atlas pages (species page) on these sites are a source of almost unending knowledge and fascination.  Want to know where your subject can be found in B.C? Check out the many coloured dots which lead to a variety of databases. Remember, when submitting images, to add latitude and longitude and you will find a dot on the atlas referring to your photo. Need to know how the subject got its name? Hit the ‘Open all headings’ button and you can find this out for many groups. Have a yearning to dig deeper? There are references to further websites for both photographs and print sources. And when it comes to butterflies, about which I personally know very little, I can find out where the one I’m interested in can be found, what plants the larvae need, in fact its whole life history. This way I can discover that the ‘weeds’ around my garden should perhaps be left in peace if they are the favourite food of butterfly larvae, rather than wonder in a few years of ‘manicuring’ the landscape where all the butterflies have gone.

My own learning has greatly increased through my association with both E-Flora and E-Fauna. I love taking photos, especially in this digital age. And as a visual learner, by taking time to really appreciate an image once downloaded, I am more likely to recognize it and name it correctly next time I see it--whereas just to be told the name ‘in situ’ when out in the field will need hammering home many times before I remember it! But much enjoyment also comes from having a purposeful way of sharing photos with others - if images are just left languishing on a computer where no-one else benefits from them, much of their magic and value is lost.

In whatever way you learn, the more you know about the flora and fauna around you, their habitat, and role in the greater scheme of things, the more you will become interested in caring for, and conserving, the natural environment, be it a small patch in a garden, or in trying to save a precious piece of land from the ravages of development and destruction by those to whom natural areas are expendable wastelands waiting to be ‘improved’.

 A few of Rosemary's E-Flora contributions...

Fly amanita (Amanita muscaria)

 Big-leaf Maple Flowers (Acer macrophyllum)
Desert rock purslane (Calandrinia ciliata var. menziesii)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Incoming vascular plant species in BC: photo call

 Common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), photo by Diane Williamson

We are presently seeking photos for the provincial list of non-established vascular plants in BC. This list is compiled by Frank Lomer, research associate with the University of British Columbia Herbarium, with input from the BC Flora Committee, and is available on E-Flora BC.  Photos submissions of species on this list are welcome.

Non-established species in BC are species that have been confirmed in the province growing outside of cultivation, but are not yet fully naturalized (reproducing wild populations). They are often garden escapes (flowers and herbs).  The list is intended as a watch list for these species. Many could become invasive as they become established and quick management action may be needed to control this.

To view the list,  go to the link on the E-Flora home page (just under the search boxes) for NON-ESTABLISHED species, or go directly to the list using this link: http://tinyurl.com/dxp3std

Examples of non-established species include many familiar species, such as garlic, potato, common snapdragon, peanut and Mexican poppy.  Check the list--perhaps you have these species growing in your garden, or have seen them in a neighbourhood park or community garden.  Establishing a good photo set for them will aid in recognition, and allow us to watch for them.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Profile: Rick and Libby Avis, Citizen Scientists--Moths of BC

Citizen science is a growing component of E-Fauna BC and contributions by citizen scientists in BC (and sometimes from outside BC!) are significant. One example of this are the moth photo contributions by Rick and Libby Avis. Although they have sent in photos of many insects, including Robber Flies, Rick and Libby are particularly focused on moths and have been sending in geo-referenced photos covering many BC moth species.  Often, because of a lack of data for us to map, their photo records are the only dots on our distribution maps so far, so these are significant contributions to E-Fauna and species mapping in BC.

In documenting BC's moth species, Rick and Libby take photos throughout the province. But they also focus on their own backyard in Port Alberni:  "We have been amazed by the  number of species in our back yard - over the last six years we have documented over 600 species of moths on our property... many moths are readily attracted to light, so we began by leaving our porch light on overnight, then subsequently graduated to a black light."

Rick and Libby have almost 1000 photos published on E-Fauna, making them one of our biggest contributors.  But this isn't all they do. They are active collectors and have been sending voucher collections into the University of Guelph to be used by the BOLD program for DNA analysis. And they have been contributing to several other websites, including BugGuide, the Moth Photographers Group and the Pacific Northwest Moth site. 

Like many citizen scientists, Rick and Libby came to this documentation of species in BC from other occupations.  Rick is a retired math and physics teacher with North Island College and Libby was a planner with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.  Today, though, thanks to continuous hard work and much interaction with experts, they are now experts in moth identification (and in identification of many other species), and are making significant contributions to the knowledge base of BC moth diversity.  

As for why they do this, Libby says:  "We feel strongly about the importance of citizen science which we feel is a “win-win” both for interested amateurs and also as a means of widening the overall knowledge base for the province. The advent of digital photography and the internet have been a god-send to people like ourselves living in smaller communities where there is otherwise no ready access to academic resources or professional expertise. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the help we have received from experts on websites like E-Fauna, Bug Guide, the Moth Photographers Group and the Pacific Northwest Moth site – and in turn, with their assistance, we have also been able to contribute to the environmental knowledge of our area. We feel it is particularly important to post to those websites, so that we leave a permanent record of our findings in the Alberni Valley – one which others may build on in the future."

Vancouver Dart (Agrotis vancouverensis), photo by Rick and Libby Avis

Fireweed Clearwing Moth (Albuna pyramidalis), photo by Rick and Libby Avis

If you would like to be a citizen scientist like Rick and Libby, and help us map species on E-Fauna BC, just send in your photos with location coordinates that we can map. You can get location coordinates easily from Google Maps.  Just find your location on the map, and right click on it.  A little menu pops up. Click on 'What's here", and location coordinates will appear in the search box.

Land Snails and Slugs Now Being Updated

 Oregon Forestsnail (Allogona townsendiana), photo by Robert Forsyth

In addition to working on his own web site (Molluc.ca), land snail expert Robert Forsyth is currently updating the land snail and slug pages on E-Fauna BC.  This includes expanded species descriptions, habitat information and distribution information.  The updating is ongoing, and the following species have now been updated: 

Pacific Sideband (Monadenia fidelis)
Grovesnail (Cepaea nemoralis)
Idaho Forestsnail (Allogona ptychophora)
Oregon Forestsnail  (Allogona townsendiana)

Visit the Land Snail photo gallery to view Robert's scientific photo illustrations of BC's land snails.  Visit Mollusc.ca to learn more about Land Snails of Canada and BC.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Updated Checklist of the Cladocerans (Water Fleas) of BC now available

 Water Flea (Alona affinis), photo by Ian Gardiner

Ian Gardiner and Gordon Green have now updated the Checklist of the Cladocerns (Water Fleas) of BC on E-Fauna BC.  View the updated checklist here.

In introducing water fleas, Gordon says: "Cladocerans are small crustaceans belonging to the orders, Anomopoda, Ctenopoda, Onychopoda or Haplopoda.  Commonly called water fleas, due to their small size and jerky swimming motion, cladocerans are extremely abundant in most freshwater habitats.  There are a few estuarine species but this group has not been successful in the oceans.  Some species are planktonic living in the open water of lakes, while others live on or near the bottom or on aquatic vegetation.  Some species are found primarily in small ponds or saline lakes which lack fish predators."

Read the rest of Gordon's introduction to the Cladocerans of BC.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New E-Fauna Atlas Page: Oriental Greenfinch

Thanks to Rick Toochin, we have now added an atlas page to E-Fauna BC for the Oriental Greenfnch in BC.  Read Rick's comprehensive write up on this species here.  The Oriental Greenfinch is an eastern Asian bird that has been reported only once in BC (May 27, 2009 at Francois Lake, outside Burns Lake in Northern British Columbia) (Toochin 2013).