Do these observations have any merit

Forgive the cumbersome title – I’m not sure how to word this.

I am not a biologist, nor a scientist, nor a photographer, nor anyone really important. I’m just a lady with a little wild space in Mérida, Yucatán. During the pandemic, spending time in my little outdoor space became very important, and I started taking photos.

Due to border closures, my husband was stuck in another country with one of our sons, but during nightly Google chats, I would show him the day’s photos. He is the one who found iNaturalist for me, and so I began identifying the plants and insects in what I called the “garden” while I waited for them to be able to join us here, which almost two years later happened. Since I joined I have observed daily in my little wild space, with two forays to other locations (clearly marked, historical sites).

(Eventually the software produced an “ask”, and using the number stated for photo hosting, I calculated what I was costing iNaturalist and set up a recurring, annual donation. I am remiss though in not checking that this number is still accurate and adequate.)

But even if I am “covering my costs”, I don’t know if repeated, daily observations of I think probably banal insects and the occasional plant, bird, animal have any merit, and the recent outage makes me feel even more like I am draining an already overextended resource. 90% of my observations go unremarked, I have no actual followers (they are defunct accounts), and whn I have attempted to follow others, it has not produced a follow back, which I TOTALLY get! I’m not an expert, I have nothing to offer!

In short, I am considering deleting my account because it feels selfish to keep it. (I can torture people on Instagram with bad photos.) But because I am not a science person, I thought I would ask first, is there any value to these or have I, as I suspect, just been sucking up a resource I should not have been. (I am so so sorry.)

Best,
Lucy Cash

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Firstly, the recent outage had nothing to do with iNaturalist’s systems being overloaded or overextended – a vendor (Microsoft Azure) had an outage that caused downtime for iNaturalist and I imagine many others who use their service.

As far as followers, as far as I know there are no notifications when you follow someone, so they may not even realize you are following them! No worries there.

In my opinion there is absolutely value to documenting the wild things around you, even or maybe especially the mundane things that maybe a lot of other people overlook. This is citizen science that will theoretically live on in perpetuity, and those who come after you or eventually join iNaturalist in your general area may really appreciate what you’ve documented in years to come.

Keep it up and don’t feel bad :) Good to have you here!

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Your observations absolutely have merit. Your consistency is fantastic. You have built up a daily record of the kind of things that are often too easily overlooked. I definitely think you should keep your account and continue your observations for as long as you can.

Edited to add: You may not be a scientist but you are now officially an amateur naturalist.

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Totally agree — keep doing what you’re doing. Wish I could visit Yucatán some day.

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howdy lucy! i reckon i can’t speak for everyone, but i personally think there is value in uploading all species regardless of their rarity. of course it is fun to find and post a particularly beautiful or uncommon specimen, but citizen science projects such as inaturalist hold great value for monitoring all species. also, what may be very common in your area may be special and very interesting to someone else in a region without those species. i’ve never been to any part of mexico and though i live in the country directly north of y’all there are lots of neat little species that you probably see on a daily basis that i might never see in my entire life!

i have struggled too with feeling like i am just taking up space that someone else could be “using better,” but i now realize that by being interested in learning new things and sharing little snapshots of the biodiversity around me i am doing exactly what inaturalist was made for. there are experts on inat and obviously they do many wonderful things for the platform but inat was built to give the average person with an interest in nature a way to share the things they see. and that’s exactly what you’re doing :)

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I think we need every observation we can get from the Yucatan!

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Yes keep posting!!! I went through your page and you have gotten some wonderful insect photos. Especially since you live in an underrepresented (on iNat) part of the world. Keep sharing and learning! I have stumbled into undescribed species an I live in CO, I can only imagine what consistent images from your area may bring. I would even say iNat needs more people like you! As for the lack of comments they will likely come, but given your focus on bugs I would expect many to remain at a high taxonomic level. Sometimes an expert doesn’t even exist for certain groups of insects!

And certainly don’t feel any guilt for using a free resource. I donate as want to give back. But iNaturalist will want you regardless of what you post or how you use the site. It’s the beauty of citizen science projects.

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One of the great things about iNaturalist is that you’re not just posting photos, but building up a record of biodiversity in your location. It may be ten years before the right person stumbles across something you posted and goes “Holy shit, that’s a brand new undescribed species!”
This actually happens!

Or someone studying the impact of climate events or some natural disaster in the future can use it to compare as a baseline of how things used to be and how they’ve changed.

Never underestimate the value these things have - and often, it is the most mundane things that have the most value in the long run.

A slightly-off-topic example: we know tons about all the “unusual” events in history - the battles, the plagues, the lives of royalty - but very little about how actual ordinary people lived their day-to-day lives. One of the most valuable resources historians have is this one dude who worked as a clerk somewhere, really liked clothes, and kept a diary where he described in painful detail every single outfit he wore. I’m sure at the time he was considered incredibly boring for it, but it’s ended up being one of the most important historical records we have!

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Post them all! Photos from wide areas help make maps showing the geographic area where things occur. Photos from different times at one place help determine phenology – when things happen. When plants flower, when caterpillars are replace by butterflies, when birds come and go. Go for it!

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One way to pay back, pay it forward, is to help with identifying Unknowns. Start nearby, and then reach out to rural areas.
Please don’t delete - you will also disappoint all your identifiers!

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You are doing exactly what iNat was made for! Keep it up! Im doing similar and its really neat figuring out all the life we have around us :) i only have 8 followers and I do work in science field as well so don’t feel bad; and things sit un identified probably due to lack of local experts but the neat thing is you yourself are going to become the local expert! If you can find some books or publications with species in your region that can help ID and you can learn to “key things out” too (learn how to ID the flora or faunae you are looking at with identification keys), so that may be a way to keep learning because it could be likely that what you are observing is not even in the iNat database yet. Like was said, it doesnt matter if you dont have a background in science, you can still be a naturalist!

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Oh, please keep posting!!!

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Of course your observations have merit! And value too! The whole point of iNaturalist is building a database of all living beings observations as big as it can be, with the effort of every citizen. Citizen science should not be overlooked nor disregarded as it can be a huge (and cheap!) crutch to more formal scientific projects and studies. Keep them coming!

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Thank you all for your kindness. I confess when I finished typing the post, I was tearful. I just sometimes feel like I am whispering into a void and wonder if I am missing a message that while I appreciate iNaturalist, it does not feel the same.

Thank you too for your identifications and follows which because I have so few follows, I at least do see, hahaha. I am going to follow back, and while I will never be able to identify to a low level, I can confirm when you have seen a bird or a reptile or something with wings. (Go, me!) Am I wishing I had paid more attention in school? You bet!

From the wonderful comments, I learned a new word and concept (phenology!) which I very much like since people often ask if we actually have seasonal changes here. Now I will be able to add things beyond “slightly less hot”, “it’s more rain time”, and “Saharan dust”.

I would love to know the particulars (or any additional details) of the person @graysquirrel referenced as my younger son has Asperger, and history and clothes are where his particular extreme interests intersect.

Please all come visit this part of the world one day. We have lovely hotels awaiting which are extremely reasonable, ridiculously delicious food, and a lot of nature. Let me kn ow when you are coming and I promise to find you actual tour guides.

Thank you again for your good words. I will keep observing, since there is (or will be!) value.

With gratitude,
Lucy Cash

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I agree with everyone else. I enjoy landscape and Wildlife photography and when I am planning a trip, it always helps me to look at this site and see what animals have been identified in the areas I plan on going. Or, if I want to photograph a specific animal, this helps me decide where I should go based on areas with the most identifications. Keep it up!

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Every observation has merit! Whether it be a common insect, endangered bird, or invasive plant, it’s all data. Every observation proves that species “X” occurs in location “Y” on date “Z”. This is vital information for Inaturalist’s partners and scientific research. A lackluster plant could be the first sighting in 100 years or a new introduced species. Basically, if you see any species and you are not doing much, take a photo and submit it! Don’t ever think that “this photo is not good enough”. Every photo is vital information.

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This is not exactly a unique occurrence, most folks are significantly more conservative with who they follow and allow to follow back, this isn’t facebook, it’s about wildlife, not social connections with humans, generally.

and if your observation data is accurately recorded with locations, it yields A LOT of information about a persons whereabouts, habits and general behavior, many folks aren’t comfortable with sharing that to a stranger online…

iNat needs all the data it can get from anywhere south of the United States and Canada, where these networks of observers are much more prevalent than in Mexico, central, or South America, despite the abundance of biodiversity to be found in these places.

A good way to increase your “activity” is to start to contribute to IDs, if you don’t know your species, pull up the observation panel, search your area and begin to explore, you’ll often find tons of species that you see regularly but didn’t know the name or ID for, or at least the scientific name, ect.

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keep your account!!! i know it can seem intimidating sometimes with the amount of scientists, photographers, or “official” people that are on here, but i can assure you your observations are not useless or unwelcome. i myself am by no means an expert either. i have very little formal education in botany aside from a few college courses, and I’m trash at photography lol. i just like learning about plants as a hobby and posting random things i find outside. the point of inaturalist is for people around the world to post observations (any observations) to keep a record of biodiversity that can be accessed by anyone worldwide. its a great thing to be a part of, and an easy way to learn more about the world around us!

nature is for everyone, inaturalist is for everyone!!

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@itsmelucy glad you’ve been encouraged. Your insect pictures are fabulous and, as many people have said, consitent reporting of mundane phenomena is actually of greater value than exceptional things in many respects - and it is less common.

With respect to engagement, actually just under 50% of your observations are research grade which is not bad at all - especially when you are posting quite a lot of difficult taxa in a part of the world where many things are not well known. This actually makes the observations more valuable in my view even if it means less can be identified to species.

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A primary aspect of the site is to learn. It’s a site for people, which can include seasoned scientists but it also doesn’t. It’s a site for everybody.

When I first started using iNaturalist, I couldn’t identify most of the things around me. Making observations of common stuff helped me become familiar with those things. Now I ID a lot of those species for other people because a lot of the common stuff has a lot of observations, but aren’t all that intriguing to people who see them all the time. In other words, there’s a role for all of it on the site. Common stuff, rare stuff, pretty stuff, ugly stuff, captive stuff, IDing and observing all of those categories. Just by using the site and interacting with the world around you, you’re doing it right. If you want to branch out and do more, you can always do that, too.

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