How to encourage more participation and discussion in projects?

Hi all,

I’ve been hoping to get more discussion and participation in my new project. I’ve tried a few different things to get conversations going but I think the struggle is that a lot of people only use the mobile app and not the website so they don’t have great access to my journal posts. I’ll post the link here so anyone who wants to check out the project and provide some suggestions can feel free to do so. Thank you!

Mammals of the Quabbin · iNaturalist

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Hi, Brendan! Frankly, I think it’s hard to get conversations going in projects, partly for the reason you identified, that people mostly use iNat through the apps, not the website. I also think that many people (me included) are just too busy to look at every notification or every journal post that comes up in their dashboard.

But as a member of your project and somebody who lives locally to the area you’re targeting, I think I can offer some specific suggestions.

First, I’d like to understand why you want people to learn more about and document the mammals of the Quabbin Reservoir watershed. Sure, it’s a great place and quite enormous (for a small state like Massachusetts), but why the Quabbin and not, say, one of the big State Forests or state Wildlife Management Areas? Are there particular questions about the mammals you’d like to answer? Or are you “just” hoping to get people hooked into exploring the Quabbin and learning more about its biodiversity? Which is a perfectly good reason in my book, by the way.

Second, you might want to reach out to the biologists working at the Quabbin and see if you and project members can contribute to answering questions they may have about the mammals in the area. I’ve been coordinating with some of the biologists about moth trapping and moss collecting, and I’ve found them to be very helpful and enthusiastic. Let me know if you want their contact info.

Third, you might want to consider working through the local bird clubs (Athol Bird and Nature Club, Ware Nature Club, Hampshire Bird Club, etc.) to set up joint presentation or field trips. Those groups all have lots of members who spend time in the Quabbin and might want to contribute to your project once they know about it.

I hope these ideas help. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

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Another option is to see if there are relevant groups on Facebook (even iNat promotes itself there)

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I gather that you are already using the project Journal post function? You may want to @ some of your most active contributors within your next journal post, and also try to make the post more personal, in an effort to get more feedback.

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Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice @lynnharper. I went to school in Amherst and live close by the Quabbin Watershed and I’ve never connected with a natural area like I did with the Quabbin. I think it started with a passion for moose and knowing I could find them there. Eventually I was looking for many different types of mammals including beavers, bobcats, and river otters which I had many memorable experiences with. The Quabbin is the one part of Massachusetts where I’ve felt is the most reliable area for mammal sightings.

My reason for this project is exactly what you mentioned: to get people interested in exploring the Quabbin and learning more about its biodiversity. Along with this inspiration has come many questions about the mammals inhabiting the watershed. For example, what does moose movement look like in a calendar year at the southeastern most part of their range? I did a side a project where I uploaded location data to a private google earth file of every publicly documented moose sighting I could find, and color coded the location marks by season.

Anyway, I appreciate the effort in your response and these are some great suggestions. I will consider reaching out to state biologists to see if there are questions that citizen scientists could help answer. Thanks again!

concise text based data modeling can sometimes drive up engagement. a journal post showing the top observations, of say, moose in different places within the area allows you to @ the top observers of moose in each area so that they can read the journal post.

I imagine the lone observer of a moose in Carlisle is pretty excited to have seen a moose there and would also be excited to see that observation celebrated in a journal post…

the top observers in the quabbin might enjoy seeing their observations of moose listed together to compare and contrast against the moose observations in the other areas…

and the top observers in the state might enjoy seeing the percentage of sightings in protected areas relative to sightings in the state as a whole…

It’s hard to compare and contrast all of this without concise, text based, data modeling. Not that any of the comparing and contrasting should be seen as a competition. Unless of course, friendly competition inspires people to preserve more space for the mooses**.

** i am not an expert on mooses. i do have some experience with human factors, software design, and data modeling.