RIP Vic Fazio, long-time contributor and ornithologist, entomologist

Reposting from Facebook: Victor Fazio III has passed away at the age of 60 in his native Australia after a battle with lymphoma.

From his profile: “A 35 yr career ornithologist, the bulk of my career (26 years) was devoted to the recovery of the US federally endangered Black-capped Vireo. After mapping 7 breeding pair on Fort Sill M.R. in 1988, I left in 2013 with roughly 800 breeding pair within this portion of the Wichita Mtns of Oklahoma. When I taught entomology as a professor at Heidelberg College (Tiffin, OH) in the mid-90’s my research interests involved Odonata and Trichoptera. In Mar 2016, I returned to my roots in the Manning Valley, New South Wales, Australia.”

To help highlight how large his contribution has been to iNaturalist, here’s a tribute to him that he received in the last month by Australian moth-er Timothy Mesaglio. Vic’s comments precede:

"To my friends and family, it may not be apparent what I set out to do upon my return to Australia six years ago. After a 35 yr American career in bird studies, I wished a new challenge. And there was a promise to my father that I would somehow make a lasting contribution within Australian biology before I shuffled off.

“To my pleasant surprise yesterday a colleague, Timothy Mesaglio, put together this moving tribute summarising that very effort.”

On iNaturalist, moths are a big deal in Australia. Indeed, at the end of last month, we surpassed 400,000 Australian moth observations on iNaturalist, so there’s no better time to take a dive into this amazing group of insects.

As of early in the morning on 4 May 2022, 426,206 observations of moths in Australia have been uploaded to iNaturalist. These observations cover 5,479 species; although there are of course many undescribed (and undiscovered) species, the Australian Faunal Directory currently lists 10,432 Australian moth species, meaning we’ve already managed to document 52.5% of all described Australian moths. This number continues to grow at an impressive pace; in November 2020 it was 42.9%, and in December 2021 it was 49%, with almost 400 new species documented in the 5 months since. Moths make up almost 40% of all Australian insect observations on iNaturalist, and indeed constitute over 12% of all Australian observations across all taxa!

Although these statistics are certainly the result of an amazing group effort, with moth observations contributed by 10,807 users and identified by 2,767, one user stands head and shoulders above the rest, a titan of Australian moths on iNaturalist: Victor Fazio III.

Without Vic, the Australian iNaturalist moth community would never have reached its current lofty heights; no-one has done more for Australian moths on the platform. While his 137,261 identifications of Australian moths is incredible in its own right, this statistic becomes more amazing when you realise the second most prolific identifier has made 25,142 identifications, more than 100,000 below Vic. These identifications have been made for almost 5,000 users, representing a tremendous teaching effort and transfer of knowledge. Whether it’s micromoths just a few millimetres in length, majestic emperor moths, or the thousands of obscure brown ones in between, Vic’s knowledge is unparalleled. Indeed, the nature of moths truly highlights the breadth and depth of Vic’s expertise. In taxa such as birds or butterflies, it is typically easier to gain the knowledge to identify many species. In a hugely diverse group like moths, where thousands of species are fairly uncharismatic and look quite similar to each other, it’s much tougher to build the expertise to be able to confidently identify taxa from more than a handful of families or tribes, but Vic has managed to do exactly that.

But Vic is not just the go-to identifier for Australian moths; he’s also a tremendously prolific observer. He currently sits second on the all-time iNaturalist observers list of Australian moths, with 26,384 observations across 1,290 species. For any regular iNaturalist users, Vic’s observations are instantly recognisable: high quality photographs showing his trademark large mesh moth netting, most of them from around his home in the Manning Valley. Many of the moths photographed and uploaded by Vic represent the only photographs of those species on iNaturalist.

Vic has also written 27 journal posts on iNaturalist covering a broad range of invaluable topics, including taxonomic disputes and discrepancies, ecology, misidentifications, and BOLD. All of them are well worth reading.

Some of Vic’s most valuable contributions are less tangible with respect to his personal stats. One of these is his tremendous generosity with his time and his endless patience. I have lost track of the number of times that I have tagged Vic to look at my moth observations, so I can only imagine the number of times he gets tagged by every other user as well. And for each and every tag, Vic always responds, either with an identification or a thoughtful comment pointing me in the right direction. The second is the great number of taxonomic discrepancies and pervasive misidentifications that he’s resolved. On countless occasions, Vic has uncovered a species which has been misidentified en masse across iNaturalist, determined the correct identification, and then passed on this knowledge to other users. These corrections are crucial for improving the quality of data on iNaturalist (and by extension, the ALA and GBIF, into which these data flow). The third is the huge impact Vic’s identifications (and observations) have had on iNaturalist’s Computer Vision. A few years ago, uploading an Australian moth and trying to use the CV to suggest a species was a dead end unless you had observed something very common (think Scopula rubraria) or highly distinct (think Cosmodes elegans). Now, there are ~700 Australian moth species that can be offered as suggestions by the CV!

Across all taxa, Vic sits 2nd on the list of all time identifiers for Australia, 6th for all time observers in Australia, and indeed has the 56th most identifications out of any iNaturalist user anywhere in the world (out of almost 250,000), having made an incredible 203,098 identifications. Vic is one of the most important, prolific and recognisable contributors to iNaturalist, having been part of the platform for more than eight years. Here’s to Vic.

I’ve only met him at mothing events, but his passion was obvious. I remember his truck getting filled with midges as he was testing out a new lighting setup. He will be missed!

Here’s a link to his iNaturalist profile where you can see just how much data he has contributed to this site:

https://www.inaturalist.org/users/13444

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My condolences to his friends and family.

What a huge accomplishment he helped! I used to live in Central Texas, where the vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers are celebrities in the conservation community.

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Ahh, crap. I’ve never interacted with him, but have seen his name at the top of several moth leaderboards. Somehow, I found his ‘avatar’ comforting. Condolences to his family, and I regret the loss of such experience and knowledge. I hope he was not in pain.
Oh, @briantinker , Welcome to the Forum (I forgot when I answered).

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Here’s a paper he co-authored last year in support of using iNaturalist for moth data collection and analysis:

“We show that the iNaturalist platform serves as an effective means to document and digitally curate biodiversity values at a locality, whilst providing complete data transparency and enabling broader community engagement of citizen scientists. We recommend the use of iNaturalist for future moth inventories, and as a resource for follow up meta-analyses of regional moth diversity and distributions.”

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.11.07.467659v2.abstract

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It doesn’t feel like there’s ever been a time I haven’t known Vic on iNaturalist. He has always been a huge help with my Australian observations, particularly moths. A wealth of knowledge, passion and dedication, spanning several different schools of biology, which is a feat not many can speak for, especially in professional experience. Lately he’s been working on moth research in his home state, an understudied subject range that he’s been devoted to for the past several years. He will be sorely missed.

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Sad news. I didn’t know him personally but he was active in documenting Odonata records from my general area of the US on iNat and Odonata Central where I often ran across his name.

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Rest in peace.

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In case anyone has trouble with the pdf, here’s the projects used to aggregate all the observations for the paper:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/moths-at-the-school-for-field-studies-australia
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/veranda-moth-er-for-a-year

Diversity studies on moths in Australia are rare, presenting various shortfalls in knowledge that impedes and understanding of their biodiversity values and their conservation. In particular, the Wet Tropics of Australia deserves attention, given the paucity of systematic moth surveys in the region and its World Heritage Area status. To fill this knowledge gap, we conducted a study to observe moths on 191 nights over a main one-year survey period at an upland rainforest locality, and uploaded all observations on iNaturalist. We also compiled other incidental observations in the general locality by other observers and observations outside the survey period. In total, we document 4,434 observations of moths represented by 1041 distinct moth morphospecies [my goodness, all at one site! emphasis mine]. Of these, 703 are formally named species of moths, 146 to genus and 255 to higher taxonomic designations above genus level.

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To help highlight how large his contribution has been to iNaturalist, here’s a tribute to him that he received in the last month by Australian moth-er Timothy Mesaglio. Vic’s comments precede:

To my friends and family, it may not be apparent what I set out to do upon my return to Australia six years ago. After a 35 yr American career in bird studies, I wished a new challenge. And there was a promise to my father that I would somehow make a lasting contribution within Australian biology before I shuffled off.

To my pleasant surprise yesterday a colleague, Timothy Mesaglio, put together this moving tribute summarising that very effort.

Original posting on Australian Butterflies and Moths

On iNaturalist, moths are a big deal in Australia. Indeed, at the end of last month, we surpassed 400,000 Australian moth observations on iNaturalist, so there’s no better time to take a dive into this amazing group of insects.

As of early in the morning on 4 May 2022, 426,206 observations of moths in Australia have been uploaded to iNaturalist. These observations cover 5,479 species; although there are of course many undescribed (and undiscovered) species, the Australian Faunal Directory currently lists 10,432 Australian moth species, meaning we’ve already managed to document 52.5% of all described Australian moths. This number continues to grow at an impressive pace; in November 2020 it was 42.9%, and in December 2021 it was 49%, with almost 400 new species documented in the 5 months since. Moths make up almost 40% of all Australian insect observations on iNaturalist, and indeed constitute over 12% of all Australian observations across all taxa!

Although these statistics are certainly the result of an amazing group effort, with moth observations contributed by 10,807 users and identified by 2,767, one user stands head and shoulders above the rest, a titan of Australian moths on iNaturalist: Victor Fazio III.

Without Vic, the Australian iNaturalist moth community would never have reached its current lofty heights; no-one has done more for Australian moths on the platform. While his 137,261 identifications of Australian moths is incredible in its own right, this statistic becomes more amazing when you realise the second most prolific identifier has made 25,142 identifications, more than 100,000 below Vic. These identifications have been made for almost 5,000 users, representing a tremendous teaching effort and transfer of knowledge. Whether it’s micromoths just a few millimetres in length, majestic emperor moths, or the thousands of obscure brown ones in between, Vic’s knowledge is unparalleled. Indeed, the nature of moths truly highlights the breadth and depth of Vic’s expertise. In taxa such as birds or butterflies, it is typically easier to gain the knowledge to identify many species. In a hugely diverse group like moths, where thousands of species are fairly uncharismatic and look quite similar to each other, it’s much tougher to build the expertise to be able to confidently identify taxa from more than a handful of families or tribes, but Vic has managed to do exactly that.

But Vic is not just the go-to identifier for Australian moths; he’s also a tremendously prolific observer. He currently sits second on the all-time iNaturalist observers list of Australian moths, with 26,384 observations across 1,290 species. For any regular iNaturalist users, Vic’s observations are instantly recognisable: high quality photographs showing his trademark large mesh moth netting, most of them from around his home in the Manning Valley. Many of the moths photographed and uploaded by Vic represent the only photographs of those species on iNaturalist.

Vic has also written 27 journal posts on iNaturalist covering a broad range of invaluable topics, including taxonomic disputes and discrepancies, ecology, misidentifications, and BOLD. All of them are well worth reading.

Some of Vic’s most valuable contributions are less tangible with respect to his personal stats. One of these is his tremendous generosity with his time and his endless patience. I have lost track of the number of times that I have tagged Vic to look at my moth observations, so I can only imagine the number of times he gets tagged by every other user as well. And for each and every tag, Vic always responds, either with an identification or a thoughtful comment pointing me in the right direction. The second is the great number of taxonomic discrepancies and pervasive misidentifications that he’s resolved. On countless occasions, Vic has uncovered a species which has been misidentified en masse across iNaturalist, determined the correct identification, and then passed on this knowledge to other users. These corrections are crucial for improving the quality of data on iNaturalist (and by extension, the ALA and GBIF, into which these data flow). The third is the huge impact Vic’s identifications (and observations) have had on iNaturalist’s Computer Vision. A few years ago, uploading an Australian moth and trying to use the CV to suggest a species was a dead end unless you had observed something very common (think Scopula rubraria) or highly distinct (think Cosmodes elegans). Now, there are ~700 Australian moth species that can be offered as suggestions by the CV!

Across all taxa, Vic sits 2nd on the list of all time identifiers for Australia, 6th for all time observers in Australia, and indeed has the 56th most identifications out of any iNaturalist user anywhere in the world (out of almost 250,000), having made an incredible 203,098 identifications. Vic is one of the most important, prolific and recognisable contributors to iNaturalist, having been part of the platform for more than eight years. Here’s to Vic.

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Sad news. 60 is way too young!

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My sincere condolences to Victors family and closest friends, he will be greatly missed in so many areas, as a great human being, a skilled long-time contributor and ornithologist, entomologist.
Many times I have conversed with him with our various identifications for ourselves and others on iNaturalist. He has left behind a greatly appreciated legacy with all that he created, contributed, corrected and published as an iNaturalist and the other roles and projects he undertook. Thank you for your time, efforts, teachings, friendship and comradery as a fellow iNaturalist you shall be remembered with respect and fondness and appreciation. Farewell Vic Fazio lll, dear colleague and internet friend and fellow iNaturalist, I will miss our discussions and learning opportunities with you.

@briantinker welcome Brian to iNaturalist me as well, Thank you for posting this acknowledgement and notice about Vic Fazio, much appreciated from @karenweaving62 Karenweaving62

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A tremendous loss, and a tremendous legacy. Vic was able to identify so many moths from my remote corner of the country, many of them the first records on iNat or the first live images etc. His contributions to iNaturalist will continue to help entomologists for decades to come.

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Vic is the reason I have posted 13 000+ moth observations on iNaturalist. I still remember the first IDs, after I’d uploaded tiny plain grass moths and he ID’d to species immediately. Those initial IDs and many others soon after really spurred my interest and has resulted in so much learning for me. The seemingly endless diversity of the group and tiny details needed to differentiate are difficult to master and the vast majority of the species I now know are as a direct result of conversations with or ID’s by Vic. There have been 5,919 IDs in fact, many with comments, explanations or advice (almost half of my 13K observations).

I will miss you Vic and very much appreciate all the hard work and time you gave on a personal level as well your broader legacy on iNat and beyond. Thankyou!

I’m sad.

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Perhaps one of his best legacies - passing on the knowledge.

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Wow, he did some impressive work! I have no doubt that he will be remembered fondly, as he should be. Rest in peace :heart:

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I am so sad. Vic has been such a mentor for me. I have only been mothing for about three years now but due to the time and effort Vic has spent on me I have come to enjoy an amazing interest in iNat and moths mostly. He has always been there, never made me feel any question was beneath him and always managed to teach me more. Not knowing he was ill I send him a query only a few weeks back and he managed to still help me however told me he had not been well. I had missed his presence already and was hoping he would recover. This news is such a loss to us all. We need more humans like Vic on this planet.
Thanks Vic

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DianneClarke

2m

Such terribly sad news. Vic had such an amazing knowledgeable of moths and patience with those of us trying to learn more and leaves an enormous gap. I first encountered Vic on Bowerbird before it faded away and we transferred to iNaturalist so he has been helping me many years. You will be sorely missed Vic. You most definitely kept your promise to your father.

Condolences to your family

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Welcome to the forum! From what I know, yes, we do.

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If someone has a photo of him in the field, might be nice to post that to iNat as a Homo sapiens record and a memorial. I’ve done that for three of my friends who were excellent naturalists and died way too young.

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Sounds like someone who spared no effort in contributing as much and as often as he could to conserving and cataloguing the majesty of all nature’s creation on offer, a bird of many a feather here amongst our community
May he Rest in Peace knowing that he left a legacy which will persist long into the future :pray:
Thoughts go out to his Family and Loved ones :heart_decoration:

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