Analyzing Beetles’ Flower Use Through Digital Samples

Wasn’t sure about the best place to share this recent study.
“By replacing physical samples with multimedia assets from iNaturalist to explore the unique flower use of two beetle species, a team of researchers has unveiled an innovative, efficient, and cost-effective approach to ecological investigation. By the research team’s estimation, their study is the first to use a dataset derived from citizen-science photo observations to address species-specific behavior and ecological questions.”


Cool! I did something similar earlier in the year, though restricted to MS. This dashboard contains much of the data: Flower-visiting beetles of Mississippi (

Here’s some background info on the dashboard: Flower-visiting beetles of Mississippi - Overview (

I also analyzed the flower color preferences and created color-coded pie charts for several species, which I have on my PC.


Cool study, but

is a weird claim to make by the authors, as it’s not even remotely close to being true


Yes, I was like “wait…”. I also couldn’t find anywhere they had acknowledged iNat users or posted their dataset…

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Did you take a look at the paper, or just the ET article? The paper (link at bottom of article) references iNat (31 times :) as well as other community science d-bases.

For this type of research I wouldn’t expect them to reference individual users or observers given the sheer number.

Good point, maybe contact the authors to ask how they can defend that claim?

Yes, I did read the article.

iNat observations are mostly (though not exclusively) licensed under Creative Commons licenses which require attribution of the observers.

Posting a dataset is a best practice for using iNat data specifically as it changes frequently (observations are deleted, identifications change) and more generally as it supports the goal of open, reproducible science. Posting a dataset would also generally fulfill the requirements of the CC licenses for attribution as it would include the users and the license info. It is also super easy to do (<5 min of effort). I think it says something when researchers don’t take minimal easy actions to acknowledge the work of citizens scientists. I could not even find a broad statement like “We thank the users of iNaturalist who contributed observations and identifications” or similar in the paper, which the great majority of papers that specifically use iNat data that I have read have included.

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