Interesting article on citizen science and vulnerable species

#1

https://slate.com/technology/2019/04/superbloom-california-nature-internet-collide-birds-poaching-science.html

Featuring at least in part a name recognizable in these parts.

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#2

Thanks for posting it! It’s interesting. There’s still little dierct evidence of harm happening, though it’s hard to get that information and there’s enough evidence that i think obscuring species at risk does make sense! There’s also little discussion of the conservation value of open data (when appropriate), which most of these articles miss in general.

It’s a strange world we live in.

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#3

This is the most important part of your thought in my mind. Open data and available data are not the same thing.

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#4

What do you mean? I think your definition of open data may differ from mine.

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#5

Open data is data available to any user to look at review, use as they see fit, redistribute etc.

Available data is collected, but accessible when a viable case can be made it should be seen.

The census may say that the average income in post code X, is 60,000 a year, that is open data. What the income of every single individual living in that post code is, is available data, but should not necessarilly be open data.

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#6

There’s very little discussion of the value of spatial open data on species occurrences. Things like inat are always portrayed as a net negative or else only useful for “outreach” rather than a powerful conservation tool available to a much wider range of Socioeconomic statuses than other similar tools.

I’ve got no interest in “available” data in this context because the gatekeepers are often biased or institutional in harmful ways. If I put the data on inat I want people to be able to use it. With the obvious exceptions.

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#7

According to the article, eBird uses a 20-kilometer radius for obscuring geolocation data. How does that compare with ours?

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#8

Almost the same, iNat uses a rectangle, not a circle, but is roughly 19 to 22 of boundary kilometers in north / south and then again in east/west depending on exactly how far from the equator it is. The location displayed to users of obscured locations is randomized to somewhere in that box

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#10

Sorry, you are right, it is roughly 22 km by 22km. Technically it is obscured by 0.2 degrees in both latitude and longitude. It varies because of course (as much as makes any difference) the distance between 2 degrees of latitude is always 111km, but it varies from 0 to 111 km between 2 points of longitude depending on how far from the equator you are.

I will correct the statement above.

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#11

@cmcheatle thanks for sharing this article- I had no idea people were poaching bluff lettuce.

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#12

just for reference, here’s eBird’s description of what they’re doing with data on sensitive species: https://ebird.org/news/sensitive-species-in-ebird/. i think it’s particularly interesting that they also have some guidelines asking users not to publicize certain observations in certain situations (ex. roosting owls): https://help.ebird.org/customer/en/portal/articles/1006789.

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#13

Since birding is so much further along in terms of number of people and time spent, it’s a good model for everything else in some ways. People share bird locations which has resulted in some harassment that needs to be dealt with, but also in a massive increase in interest in birds in the last decade (yes i know birders were around longer but it’s so much more accessible now). And now there are tons of conservation movements around birds, from special forestry and maple syrup production certifications that encourage bird friendly management all the way to vast preserves purchased just for bird conservation. I think what it shows is that the impact of movements like iNat… anything has upsides and downsides but the net effect is overwhelmingly positive. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t obscure things when there’s a good reason for it, of course. But it means it doesn’t make sense to second guess the value of what we are doing.

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#14

Birders also often go in groups, and they nudge people who break the rules. I agree birding is a good model demonstrating that more knowledge about natural systems brings out good things in most people. I belong to several facebook groups about wildflowers, mushrooms, etc., and when someone talks about harvesting they get friendly reminders about how not to have negative impacts – a lot of good peer pressure. There may be taxa (herps and orchids always cited) where collecting/poaching is disproportionate, but it’s still good to increase the number of non-disturbing observers and get them to think of themselves as a community.

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#15

good peer pressure = support and guidance on “the right way”

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