Archive by Author | mwdenslow

The end of an era

Notes from Nature made a big transition back in May. Even though NfN 3.0 has been up and running we still had some unfinished business in terms of expeditions that weren’t completed on the old system. A few days ago we completed our last expedition from the “old” platform. This also means that this particular project on Notes from Nature will be retired for good.

Not to worry though we have lots of fun and exciting expeditions on our current platform! NfN is now organized around Projects so look around and explore expeditions that are available within each one. Remember that these Projects can be filtered by tags such as Plants, Bugs, Butterflies and so on.

We have some mixed feelings about all these changes. We are thrilled to move forward and continue to make improvements to NfN 3.0 (our current platform), but we had so many great expeditions, events and memories over the time that NfN 2.0 was running. The amazing Notes from Nature community completed over 1 million transcriptions and was visited by over 8,000 volunteers. We are so happy that the community is continuing to help us build this resource.  Thanks as well to our network of providers and our hope is that 3.0 is ultimately an easier and better experience for all involved.

With all that said remember that we still have some more upgrades to complete on NfN 3.0. For example, this includes a unified Statistics page, improvements to Talk, etc.

— With gratitude the Notes from Nature Team

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WeDigBio 2019!

The Notes from Nature team is very excited about WeDigBio 2019. The event will take place October 17 – 20.

wedigbio

To our amazing volunteers:

We hope you’ll save the dates and join us online or in person at one of the many events happening at that time.

To our collaborators and data providers:

It’s always a fun and exciting time for us as we get to work with lots of new and existing colleagues! If you plan to host an expedition this year let us know as soon as possible.

Note that Notes from Nature has recently gone through an upgrade. Previous data providers that we have worked with will utilize their existing Projects on our site. Other providers expeditions will go into a WeDigBio themed Project that we’ll start building very soon. We will plan to have all expeditions within the WeDigBio project complete within a month of the end of the event. We have lots of activity on the site and we always aim to keep our content fresh and have expeditions complete in a timely fashion.

— The Notes from Nature Team

Where the butterflies roam

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are well-known for their long-distance migrations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains spend their winters in Mexico, while those west of the Rockies head for the California coast. But there are others, like the painted lady (Vanessa cardui) and the California tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica) that also make annual treks over hundreds of miles in response to the changing seasons.

DotPolka Tortoiseshell Lassen 2005 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tortoiseshell migration at Lassen Volcanic National Park, 2005. By DotPolka CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

But other butterflies, like blues, coppers, hairstreaks, and metalmarks, hardly move at all. Individuals and their offspring may never leave a single meadow or dune for many generations. Their caterpillars often feed on a single species of plant found in a particular habitat many miles from other similar habitats. Some even have intimate relationships with ants, whereby the ants take the larvae into their nests and care for them. Because of these particular (and peculiar) life histories, many species and subspecies of butterflies in the family Lycaenidae have very restricted distributions and are listed as either threatened or endangered. One subspecies, the Xerces blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus xerces) that once lived in the coastal dunes of California, went extinct in the 1940s. Even the once common and widespread monarch has suffered massive population declines in the past two decades.

Xerces blue by Lucas Folglia

Xerces blue butterfly. By Lucas Foglia

New conservation efforts, however, are turning the tides for these imperiled imps of the sky. Captive rearing and release of threatened species of blues and checkerspots are establishing new populations to protect against local extirpation. Neighborhood programs to propagate native host plants have connected populations of green hairstreaks that were once isolated from each other. And concerned citizens across the country are planting milkweed to feed hungry monarch caterpillars.

EMEC463615 Callophrys dumetorum

Green hairstreak, Callophrys dumetorum

To aid this cause, our team at CalBug has been busy photographing butterflies in our collection. These historical records tell us how butterflies have responded to climate, land use, and other environmental changes over the past 100 years. With your help, we can map these changes over time and better focus our restoration efforts. And since we include the name of each species in the corner of each photo, and photos pop up in a random order, each new image is like a flashcard to help you learn to identify butterflies!

by Peter Oboyski

 

Images:

dotpolka https://www.flickr.com/photos/dotpolka/34311984/in/photostream/
Lucas Foglia, c/o Essig Museum
Specimen images, c/o Essig Museum

 

Notes from Nature – NYBG: New expeditions to uncover global plant biodiversity!

NYBG - Notes From Nature-2

For over 125 years, the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) has served as a crucial resource for researchers around the world seeking to study and conserve plant biodiversity. Through projects dedicated to discovering new species, documenting regional floras, and deciphering complex evolutionary relationships within the plant kingdom, thousands of scientists have helped build our collection of 7.8 million specimens — representing the largest natural history archive of plants in the westen hemisphere. Now, plant lovers everywhere can support future scientific exploration at our institution by helping to document our specimens!

Virtual Herbarium Image

This specimen of Gentiana catesbaei “Elliott’s Gentian” was collected in 2016 by Wayne Longbottom, a former amateur naturalist turned active contributor to the NYBG herbarium.

Each NYBG “virtual expedition” will target a subset of our extraordinary collection to accomplish unique research objectives. Some projects will be dedicated to exploring particular geographic regions or specialized habitat types (such as alpine areas), and documenting plants that have been discovered there. Other projects may follow along on the expeditions of notable plant collectors in order to chronicle significant historical specimens. Lastly, we’ll aim to investigate evolutionary relationships and biogeography by cataloging all the occurrences of specific groups of plants scientists know are closely related. All the extraordinary new digital-datasets that citizen scientists help create will contribute profoundly to our understanding of the living planet and open new avenues for investigating long-term patterns in biodiversity change.

Virtual Herbarium Image

NYBG specimens frequently document occurrences of rare native species, like this carnivorous “pitcher-plant” Saracenia purpurea, collected in 1981 from Adirondack Park in New York State.

Citizen scientists who participate in Notes from Nature – NYBG will learn how to interpret natural history specimens and gather research using a variety of online tools to overcome challenges with deciphering historic collection labels. One of the most important resources for puzzle-solving will be the very database we are working to create, the C. V. Starr Virtual Herbarium, where we openly share all currently available data about our specimens. Your mission will be to help fill the gaps in our knowledge using the collections we have already digitized as a guide!

Virtual Herbarium Image

NYBG’s collections are not limited to land plants! This specimen of marine algae represents a separate branch of the tree-of-life, and demonstrates a more challenging hand-written collection label.

Most NYBG expeditions feature a comprehensive workflow designed to capture every essential detail which scientists routinely use: including precise geographic location, date, and collector information. For newcomers to natural history specimens and participants who are looking for a faster-paced activity, Notes from Nature – NYBG will also host “US State Spotter” expeditions, featuring a simplified workflow intended to efficiently capture basic geographic data about our specimens. Keep a lookout for other project types in the future as we experiment with new approaches for including the public in gathering scientifically relevant information from our renowned botanical collection!

Click to join our virtual expeditions today! 

Then discover The Hand Lens to learn more about the fascinating stories told by NYBG specimens.

–Charles Zimmerman, William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, New York Botanical Garden

 

“Islands in the Sky”: Alpine flowers and Climate Change

Diapensia_Photo 41450788, (c) bigjonel, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

Diapensia lapponica is an alpine specialist, growing only above treeline on mountains in the northeastern US. Photo © bigjonel

In the United States, alpine environments located above the trees on mountain peaks provide important habitat for Arctic tundra plants. Unique species grow under extreme conditions within these isolated “islands in the sky” which are rarely found elsewhere south of the Arctic circle. Alpine plants’ reliance on these high-elevation environments also makes them especially vulnerable to climatic change, which can dramatically impact the area and ecological functioning of alpine communities.

To understand how alpine plants are responding and adapting to their changing climate, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) have teamed up with citizen scientists around the world to track geographic distributions and seasonal changes in these alpine species. Since 2004, AMC has been monitoring the timing of plant seasonal events like flowering and fruiting in conjunction with weather conditions. This is the study of phenology. Long term phenology data is a useful tool to quantify plant responses to climatic change and to identify which species might be most vulnerable to a shifting climate. To understand mountain phenology, researchers need a lot of data from different mountain ranges, elevations, and from many points in time. Fortunately, using herbarium records from the New York Botanical Garden, AMC researchers will be able to continue this investigation using historic records of alpine species collected during the past 200 years.

This is where citizen scientists come in! Our researchers need lots of help to collect data from recently digitized herbarium records of alpine species and other mountain plants. Specifically, we need help documenting when, where, and by whom each historic plant specimen was collected from the wild. Anyone with a computer and access to the internet can participate in this project by joining our virtual expedition on the Notes from Nature crowdsourcing platform. From there, you can view images of preserved plant specimens, interpret and transcribe key details from their collection labels, and report directly to scientists at the AMC and around the world who will use your data to understand and help protect these unique alpine plants.

Join our expedition to uncover historic records of alpine plant biodiversity!

While hiking in alpine areas, you can also provide valuable data for this project by capturing pictures of flowering species along the trail. The AMC is tracking current and future effects of climate change by gathering flowering and fruiting time data with the help of hikers with the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project on iNaturalist:

–Charles Zimmerman, William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, New York Botanical Garden

Long Beach and LA Herbaria bring us more plants!

California State University herbaria at Long Beach and Los Angeles have teamed up once again to bring us exciting new specimens from California and beyond. Explore the world of dainty sunbonnets, lanky loosestrife, graceful meadowfoam, and fantastic phlox as you help these two small collections capture critical biodiversity data.

Gilia_pic

Data from our first California Phenology Network expedition are already served live in our growing data portal. The CAP Network thanks all the dedicated Notes from Nature volunteers for their contributions toward liberating these data for immediate use in research, conservation, and education. Maybe keep track of a favorite specimen or two during this next expedition; in a few months, you may find your hard-earned transcriptions loaded and ready to empower new discoveries.

Katie Pearson

Capturing California’s Flowers

The California Collections Network is excited to introduce a new Notes from Nature expedition for one of our partner institutions, the Fresno State Herbarium at California State University, Fresno!
This expedition contains plant specimens largely from Fresno County, California. Fresno County, just below the geographic center of California, stretches 130 miles across the Central Valley, encompassing portions of the Coast Range to the west and the Sierra Nevada Range to the east. The county has an elevational range of 47 meters on the Valley floor to 4,153 meters in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and this enormous elevational gradient includes a great diversity of ecosystems, including low-elevation vernal pools and alkali sinks, riparian corridors along the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers, foothill chaparral and grasslands, and high-elevation coniferous forests and meadows. It is also the most agricultural productive county in the United States, and the location of the 5th largest city in California (Fresno), with a total county population of almost a million people and a growth rate of ~0.8% per year. As population pressure increases in the Fresno area, and climate change raises temperatures while decreasing water availability, native habitats all over the county are facing unprecedented threats to their continued existence.
Phlox speciosa

Phlox speciosa is a Sierra Nevada wildflower with a wide elevational range (500-2400 meters), and poorly-understood phenology. Photo: Kate Waselkov. 

 

The Fresno State Herbarium was established in 1925 and contains ~40,000 plant specimens dating from the 1890s to today, with a special concentration on high Sierra Nevada ecosystems by the former Fresno State Biology professor Dr. Charles H. Quibell.  This expedition allows you to contribute to our historical understanding of Fresno County ecosystems, especially those high-elevation habitats particularly threatened by climate change, to establish baseline 20th century data at each elevation for species presence and phenology (when each plant species blooms or sets fruit). Ecologists and evolutionary biologists will be able to use this data to predict the response to climate change in our area by different taxonomic and functional groups of plant species, and develop better plans for conservation and habitat restoration.
Fritillaria pinetorum DSC_4209-27

Fritillaria pinetorum grows at high elevations (1800-3200 meters) on granitic slopes in the Sierra Nevada range. Photo: Chris Winchell.  

To discover plant life from this area and help us document how it changes with time and space, visit our Notes from Nature project, Capturing California’s Flowers and click the “Fresno State Herbarium” expedition. Thank you for your support!
— Katherine Waselkov, California State University, Fresno
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