Help iNat phenology/ life stage charting (even if not expert!)

That’s a very nice idea and a good excuse to keep hanging around on iNat even after you have uploaded all your observations and identified everything you can ;)

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As I look for caterpillar parasitoids for my project I’ve been annotating butterflies and moths with larva/alive. Today I did some in Denmark and Finland.

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On the Android app you don’t get the option to select phenology/life stage when adding the observation. You have to add the observation, wait for it to upload, then go into it again and update it. I always try to remember to do it, but I do miss a few.

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I made a tutorial for doing this using the Identify page: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/using-identify-to-annotate-observations/1417

After I upload a batch of observations I try to annotate them right away before I forget. Here’s the URL I use. Just replace tiwane with your username:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?reviewed=true&quality_grade=needs_id%2Cresearch&user_id=tiwane

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I try to do some of those when I can and when I am feeling relaxed. But I have to admit that I am slightly annoyed that it always takes so long to add those annotations. Not sure, if this is a problem of iNat. Might be due to my internet connection. When I select an option for one of the annotations, it takes some seconds to log them in. I also cannot select more then one annotation at once, as when the site is finished updating, it only recognizes one of the annotations I made. This means, filling out the three annotations that are possible for most animals I upload takes me between 6 and 10 seconds each time, sometimes longer… does not sound like much, but waiting through this for several observations in a row is a pain in the a…

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I have found that, at least when doing annotations from the Identify tab like tiwane posted, I don’t actually have to wait for the site to load and tell me it’s added the annotation for it to be registered. So I’ll hit the “flowering” annotation hotkeys and then arrow to the next observation while it’s still loading and it will still get marked correctly. That helps save a lot of time. I do agree that it’s annoying to do from an Observation page though, especially as you said when trying to add multiple annotations and having to wait so they don’t get overwritten.

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Like @ekmes says, if I’m using the keyboard shortcuts, I’ve found that while visually I don’t see the all of the annotations appear, they’re always saved correctly.

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Yes, that seems to work. Will try to adjust my workflow accordingly :-)

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But yes, I agree it’s a bit frustrating to not see everything save when you want it to.

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I had never really noticed annotations. Thanks for pointing this out - I’ll try to complete. For plants - phenology, how do you handle a plant that shows multiple phases at once - example budding and flowering or flowering and fruiting? Do you add a row for each item that shows in the observations?

Once you add a plant phenology annotation, you should see another blank one pop up, in case you need it.

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The phenological stage is assessed for the whole plant. The presence of the most mature part is an indicator of what stage the plant has reached. For example, Solanacea will often have buds, flowers and fruits on the same plant at the same time. The plant presenting the three would be at the fruiting stage. You could google tomatoes and growth stages to find a handy chart of the scenario you described. In my field, agronomy, we use detailed phenological stages which descriptions are standardized. I would suggest in case of doubt on how to assign the proper stage to a wild species, look for a cultivated plant which presents similar a growth pattern. For example, if what you are looking at is a tree in the Rosacea family, like a hawthorn, check the phenological stages for apple trees.

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I get it that for precise studies, precise definitions of phenology are needed, but i think what iNaturalist is after with the phenology charts is something a good deal more general, like “over what months could you expect to see flowers on this plant”? After all, it’s not even taking geography into account, so these are very general trends. If a plant has both fruits and flowers, it’s fine to say both are present.

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I created this project, which collects all European insects with life stage annotations.


Clicking on the link in the project description, the Identify module opens, displaying all insects still lacking annotations.

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I think the plant phenophase identification system on INat is precise enough and works just fine (anyway the French version I interface with). But I can see why picking the right phase can be confusing at the beginning. Folks can see flower buds, flowers and fruits at once and they have to choose between options like flowering and fruiting. Which is why I suggested to look at charts where the phases are visually illustrated. There are many of them for cultivated plants.

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I select all the phases that are appropriate, so if a plant has flower buds and open flowers I choose both options. Is that wrong?

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That’s what I do.

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I use that info to sort photos. Is my fruit from That Plant?

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Thanks @tiwane and @mariejoseegarand! For the one plant I did, I used the approach marie mentions. Makes sense to me.

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It should simplify your work with plants which have an indeterminate growth and will display buds, flower buds and fruits until the frost kills them. I dont think there is a system of reporting that is both simple, perfect and easy to interpret for every plant species.I can see why phenological networks have people reporting observations like buds, flowers etc… At times vegetative and reproductive phases can overlap. In agronomy, if there is a need to know or to record precisely the phase for a crop, we use standardised scales. The most widespread, the BBCH-scale, is divided in main growth phases and there are indictators when you enter them, for example, you end the inflorescence emergence and enter the flowering phase when the first flower opens. Botanists must have a tough job harmonising how to report phenological phases with so many wild species with peculiar life cycle.

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