Archive by Author | mwdenslow

Happy Anniversary


It has been a year since we launched the new version of Notes from Nature or what we sometimes call “NfN 2.0.” The new platform has been a big improvement for us, providing the opportunity to really bring a range of new expeditions up and online, and to connect to more people than ever before. We hope NFN2.0 has been something in which you’ve been excited to take part!

In the past year, over 281,000 images have been transcribed by 3,641 registered volunteers. We have completed 64 expedition from a variety of expeditions groups. We added fossils, butterflies, aquatic insects and even brought back fungi to the site.  We hope to have new and exciting expeditions to bring forward in the next year, including more phenology exhibits and new groups.  There are some exciting new developments on transcription improvements, field book contents, and how we organize our expeditions, that should also come online in the next year.  We can’t wait for Y2 for NFN2.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Zooniverse team and all of the specimen image providers that we work with, but most of all the site wouldn’t be a success without a dedicated group of volunteers. We sincerely hope that you all find value in working with us and we remained committed to providing a valuable experience for you.


The NfN Team

BOON herbarium thanks you!

Our “Plants have all the anthers! Pt 1” was a great success! We appreciate everyone’s hard work. This first expedition contained over 780 specimens, which is no small feat. As the title suggests, this was is just the beginning! Soon our new expedition will launch so keep an eye out for “Plants have all the anthers! Pt 2”. Feel free to follow the BOON Herbarium on Facebook or Twitter to keep track of all the exciting discoveries and events we have going on. The BOON Herbarium thanks everyone for their time and effort for making Notes from Nature such a success for all herbaria!


A botany class out exploring at Appalachian State University

— Jordan Willet, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, U.S.A.

Editor’s Note: BOON is the official acronym for the herbarium at Appalachian State University. A resource called Index Herbariorum compiles the acronyms for the over 3,000 herbaria around the world.

More Tennessee Ferns

Our maiden Notes from Nature expedition: “Ferns and Fern Allies of Tennessee, Part 1” was a great success! The fruits of your labor are already accessible on the SERNEC data portal.
Deserving special mention are our top 3 transcribers, each offering over 200 transcriptions to the project. On behalf of everyone using these data, Thank You!
1: tinkapuppy
2: JennaChappell
3: cmbaleke
     Also, a big thanks to everyone who contributed. We have already managed to update 2,000 Tennessee specimen records in the UCHT and TENN collections and we’re just getting started.
     Today we’re introducing the continuation of our fern expeditions with “Ferns and Fern Allies of Tennessee, Part 2” including specimens from Tennessee Technological University (HTTU), University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TENN), and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UCHT). Please, join us as we introduce these historic collections to the information age!
Caleb Powell — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Moths III complete

Thank you citizen scientists for helping complete the third expedition digitizing over 1000 images of the spectacular underwing moths! During this expedition you saw numerous specimens from Louisiana that were collected over the last 60 years. With this information, researchers can begin to examine their distribution changes, changes in flight times, changes in host plants, and impact of climate change during the last century.


Photo by Lary Reeves

Be on the lookout for one more expedition of underwing moths. After that, we will be switching to a new type of moth, and will begin posting photos of new moth species for future expeditions. Maybe you will notice the differences!

Stacey L. Huber

McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History

Cambrian fossils (aka loads of trilobites!) from western North America


Image: John Sibbick, Natural History Museum, London.


The Cambrian period was a time of some really bizarre looking critters and so many originated at this time (about 540 million years ago) that it is often referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion.” This period of the evolution of life saw some really bizarre body plans that transformed a simple environment dominated by cyanobacterial reefs and microbes into one of very highly ornamented and unusual critters. Douglas Fox describes this landscape of rapidly changing animals in his 2016 Nature article and gives us a good overview of the role that ocean water oxygen levels played in allowing for more complex life forms to develop and flourish.

Trilobites are a very common fossil to be found throughout the Paleozoic, but the Cambrian was where they dominated the seas that covered most of North America for many millions of years. Trilobites are arthropods and frequently molt their exoskeletons in order to grow. Most fossil remains of trilobites that we have today are fossilized exuviae, or the cast off exoskeletons instead of the actual animal itself, as the external shell is discarded to allow for the animal to grow.

Trilobites are an exceptional component of the history of life on our planet; indeed, they are among the most successful animals in the history of our planet. Join us for this second expedition to transcribe labels from Cambrian fossils of western North America. Our last expedition focused on plastotypes (plaster molds of type specimens from around the world) and these fossils here are the real deal. Many of these fossils are trilobites, but keep an eye out for our own Anomalocaris and other bizarre Cambrian fossils!


Copyright Nature Publishing Group, used with permission.

WeDigFLPlants Focuses on Spring in Florida’s Forests

Thank you to those who helped us complete the “WeDigFLPlants’ Dogwoods and Tupelos of the Florida Panhandle” expedition! That takes the WeDigFLPlants project to over 18,000 transcriptions in 10 total expeditions.  You can see the distribution of collection locations for those transcribed specimens on our cool new heat map at
Dogwoods and tupelos are prominent in Florida’s forests at the moment, along with the subjects of our two new expeditions:  viburnums, blueberries, and hollies. Those plants and the buzzing, whirring, crawling visitors to their flowers make this a fun time to be out hiking, biking, or kayaking. Florida is home to six species of viburnums and relatives (the family Adoxaceae), 32 species of blueberries and relatives (Ericaceae), and 15 species of hollies and relatives (Aquifoliaceae). The specimens in our new “WeDigFLPlants’ Spring-flowering Shrubs and Trees from the Florida Panhandle” expedition are each curated either at the University of West Florida’s Michael I. Cousens Herbarium or Florida State University’s Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium. Those in the “WeDigFLPlants’ Blueberries of the Florida Peninsula” are curated at the University of Central Florida Herbarium.
Join us on these two new WeDigFLPlants’ expeditions!

Austin Mast, Florida State University

Unlocking Northeastern Forests: Complete!

Rhododendron arborescens (Pursh) Torr. / “sweet azalea”

Congratulations NfN volunteers for completing the New York Botanical Garden’s first expedition targeting vascular plants of New England!! Through your heroic efforts to catalogue over 2,300 specimens, scientists everywhere will soon have access to our complete historic collection of 300 different species of Oaks (Fagaceae), Blueberries & Rhododendrons (Ericaceae) found throughout the Northeastern US. That is no small feat, and you all deserve a tremendous round of applause!!

Or, more appropriately … *VIGOROUS RUSTLING OF LEAVES*

Fortunately, this fantastic success is only the beginning. NYBG staff and volunteers have prepared and photographed many more preserved specimens of other New England plants, which are now in need of examination by citizen scientists! Look out for the next phase of our project, Unlocking Northeastern Forests: Nature’s Laboratories of Global Change (Part II), and share in helping to advance our collective understanding of local, natural ecosystems–their historic baselines, and progressive shifts over time.

— Charles Zimmerman, New York Botanical Garden

%d bloggers like this: