Field Book Update

As many of you are already aware, we have recently encountered some glitches with one of the Notes from Nature features called the Field Book. The Field Book is the place where Notes from Nature users can look at their personal statistics and the badges they have earned. We are very sorry about this glitch, but the good news is that we have a solution that deals with this problem!

Now each Notes from Nature Project will have a dedicated Field Book. The Field Book will collect information about your work and it will be organized by specific Projects, such as Southeastern U.S. Biodiversity or CalBug.

Your Field Book can be accessed using the link at the lower right of each Project’s landing page. The Field Book contains things like recent classifications, links to your Favorites and weekly statistics. The badge section not only contains the badges that you have earned, but you can also see your remaining badges (which are ones you are still working towards) and your progress towards them.

Your Field Book will show general statistics that reflect previous effort. However, the Field Book will be collecting information for things like time or decade badges starting now. While we acknowledge that this solution is not perfect, this is the best we are able to do right now. We still have the goal of a Notes from Nature wide Field Book that reflects all effort across our many Projects, but this capability will have to wait until we have additional developer resources.

We greatly appreciate everyone’s efforts on all of the Notes from Nature Projects. Thank you very much for all that you do!

The Notes from Nature Team

Kalmia, Lyonia and Chimaphila!


We are embarking upon this expedition not just because of Kalmia, Chimaphila, and Lyonia’s beauty, but also to enable work study students to work remotely during a time of college classes moving online. However, one does not have to be a work study student to work on this project. If you just love databasing, love pretty flowers, and/or are partial to North Carolina plants…this is the expedition for you!

All three of these plants are in the blueberry and heath family.  They differ noticeably in size from one another. From the wee Chimaphila at 5 inches tall…to the waist high Lyonia….and all the way up to the sub-canopy Kalmia. Enjoy these plants while databasing and, sometime, take a hike in the wilds of North Carolina and visit these plants. Chimaphila blooms in June. Lyonia blooms midsummer. Kalmia is usually in full bloom on Mothers’ day, so go looking for them and take your mum! We thank you for taking the time to database these specimens with us and take a walk on the pretty side.  The data from these plants help researchers from around the world view our specimens! Cheers!

You can find this new expedition the Southeastern U.S. Biodiversity Project on Notes from Nature.

— Shanna Oberreiter,  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Notes from Nature Update

Dear NfN Community,

It’s a difficult and uncertain time for many people around the world. We hope that this message finds everyone safe and healthy. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the status of the platform during this time for use by students away from the classroom, for employees working remotely and so on. If you are one of the fortunate ones who is safe at home, well stocked, connected online and has some extra time on your hands, know that NfN is always open.

We have lots of expeditions to work on. There are currently 15 active expeditions in 6 different projects at this time. We even have a new and exciting project coming related to terrestrial parasites.

As always please feel free to ask questions or simply introduce yourself on Talk.

The Notes from Nature Team

Year end updates

You may notice some changes to the Notes from Nature webpage rolling out this week. The main Notes from Nature page is called the Organization landing page and takes users to all the Projects that are hosted on the Notes from Nature site. The updates related to the Organization model were outlined in a post back in May.

You can now see Active, Paused and Finished Projects. In addition, you can hide and show the details of those sections.

At Notes from Nature, we are particularly excited about another update that the Zooniverse is working on. It is a new page that will let you dive even deeper into an Organization’s statistics which will again show us statistics across all Notes from Nature Projects and expeditions. That page will be rolled out in early 2020.

If you have comment about the changes we encourage you to post in the Notes from Nature Talk Chat board.

— The Notes from Nature team

Calling all naturalists: We’re surveying salamander stripes!

Do you know what’s the most abundant terrestrial vertebrate in some areas of the United States? It’s not a species of mammal or bird, but  an amphibian! The Eastersn Red-backed Salamander is only a few inches long, but in some parts of its range its biomass outweighs that of white tailed deer. Despite how abundant they are, you’ve probably never seen one before as they live under rocks, logs, and in the soil of eastern deciduous forests. An interesting feature of this abundant salamander is its variation in color. When a plant or animal displays two or more color patterns (or morphs) this is known as color polymorphism. The Eastern Red-backed Salamander displays two color patterns, which are known as the “striped morph” and the “unstriped morph”. The striped morph has a red stripe running down the center of it’s black back, and the unstriped morph is uniformly black. 

Striped (left) and unstriped (right) morphs of the Eastern Red-backed Salamander.


Because of their abundance, the Eastern Red-backed Salamander is a well studied animal among biologists. Many individuals have been collected and deposited into museums over the last century, and thus, these collections provide an ideal opportunity for biologists to ask a series of questions on the evolution of this salamander. However, research is currently limited by the fact that the morph color was not indicated when salamanders were deposited into collections.

So that is where we need your help!  First of all, this new expedition is not as simple as looking for a red stripe.  When you preserve a salamander in alcohol for 50 years, which is how they are usually stored in museum collections, the once vibrant color disappears. However, the stripe doesn’t fade to black, it fades a lighter shade of pale.   So we are hoping you can help us find the striped morphs and sort them from the unstriped morphs. The crazy thing is that it isn’t like there are a few hundred or thousand of these Plethodon specimens in Museums.  One collector who deposited his collections in the Smithsonian actually collected nearly 100,000 salamanders.  We may not get around to photographing all of those, but your help with this batch both helps us move the science forward and it helps us with potentially developing machine learning approaches so that we can eventually automate stripe detection.  

With help from amazing citizen scientists, once we have color morph information from photographs, we can then use this data to ask unanswered biological questions. For example, we can see if the frequency of the color morphs has changed over time and if they do, we can test if there’s a relationship between the change in color morph frequency with changing climate. In addition, we can see if there’s a relationship between a particular color morph with particular ecological setting. Ultimately, this information will contribute to our growing knowledge of the relationship between color variation and diversity. 

For more information on the Eastern Red-backed Salamander, we suggest you check out AmphibiaWeb: 

Another blog post on the Eastern Red-backed Salamander by an amazing undergraduate student (Kyle Brooks) that previously worked with the author and also contributed photos for this post and the Notes for Nature project. Thanks, Klye! 

And finally, another project we could use your help with: 

WeDigBio 2019 Appreciation


WeDigBio 2019 was a major success! Notes from Nature received over 27,000 transcriptions during the four day event period. We even had two days with over 9,000 transcriptions and broke our previous daily record.

We want to thank the WeDigBio organizers, all the event hosts and most of all the volunteers that participated onsite or online. A special mention goes out to Notes from Nature volunteer am.zooni who is always willing to help in so many ways. We also want to thank the Zooniverse team for always keeping things running smoothly during times with such heavy site traffic.

We finished 5 expeditions during the event, but we still have lots of great expeditions that need attention including plants, butterflies and bees.

You can learn more about the WeDigBio event by checking out a paper published last year.

— The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio 2019 Day 4 summary

We closed out WeDigBio day 4 with 2,967 transcriptions! That put us at 27,060 transcriptions for the entire event. This surpassed all of our previous years for this event!

There are still many great expeditions to work on! Two are currently above 90% and could use some effort to help bring them to completion. Those are WeDigFLPlants’ Buckeyes, Sumacs, and Citrus of Florida and Fresno State Herbarium (Part 1).

Thanks to all for making this another huge success.

— The Notes from Nature Team

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