Metric for irreplaceable contributions to a project

We often call attention to the person who contributes the most observations to a project, or the most species, and these stats are built into projects. But there is no easy way to identify the person who found the species which no one else found, that is to say, the person who contributed the biggest boost to the species count for the whole project. How about an additional metric which tells you how many species each observer found which no one else observed? It could be called “Irreplaceability”. It would encourage bioblitz participants to focus on finding something interesting and obscure that no one else would document, rather than getting one dandelion and one dog footprint and one white clover to boost their personal species count.

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That sounds great, but I think it would usually be the same person as the highest species count which is often also the person with the most observations. I am in the top two in one or both categories at 5 of my most visited parks. Normally I focus on arthropods, especially spiders, but during a bioblitz I shoot everything. Since spiders are not such a popular subject, I have many first observations for the area.

The “Irreplaceability” list would also change as other people observe the same thing. If I find something really interesting, I show people if I can and they often post it to iNat as well. So that new species could go from 0 to 2 or 3 observations quickly.

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@pete_woods Welcome to the forum! I think this would be a fun idea. Even if it changes a lot, that would motivate people to find a new unobserved species.

I have reservations about this.

Firstly, I’m not a fan of the “gamification” of observing. I know there are some that are though, so each to their own I guess.

Secondly, the iNat data can be used in many ways, such as studying how and why people observe, not just what. As an example, we have here in New Zealand a project run annually called the “Great Kereru Count”. Basically a single species of bird that is easy to spot and identify… you look at the range maps from those projects and we see that kereru seem to be very abundant around peoples houses and roads and hiking tracks etc. That data can be scaled with population data to get accurate distribution maps. If we change how people record their observations, eg getting them to explore native bush and not along established tracks, then we lose the ability to scale that data. Or at least we lose the ability to scale it consistantly over the range of years because of the change in how the observations are made.

For me, iNat is about the encounter between the organism and the person, and the range data etc is just a bonus. We can look at what and how people are observing, and measure actual shifts in how people are valuing and experiencing the environment, whereas creating artifical value such as medals and rankings isn’t going to create actual value. By this, I mean that the participant is going to make more observations, and of more species… but when it comes to voting in the next election, are they going to hold ecological values at the forefront of their voting decisions? When it comes to organisations making applications to clear fell native forests, are those iNatters going to have formed a strong enough connection with the species and environment to actually want to take action to protect it?

The “bioblitz” as a mechanism for engaging more participants is an interesting one. Of the dozen or so that I have been involved with, most are of the type where there is a hiss and a roar of enthusiasm, and then afterward interest dies away significantly. For some, there seems to be a core group of participants that go on to make other observations, both at the location of the bioblitz and elsewhere as well… and of course I am not takling about the regular participants that show up each time, just the “new participants”.

The latest bioblitz I was involved with was a particularly successful one of the latter form, and I reflected on the differences quite a bit. Of note, there was a celebrity “bug-man” involved, and that created quite a level of enthusiasm on the day, but most notably for me it was the “story telling” nature of how he interacted with everyone. At the end of the bioblitz, he looked at the chart of species counts, and literally said “you know what, none of this really matters. I’m just so glad that I got to introduce you to some of the neighbours that I bet you never knew you had, and there are a lot more out there, believe me!”. The focus was very much on the “encounters”, and much less on the “counts”.

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