The sound you hear is the boulder rolling

I’ve been whacking away at annotating damselfly observation, looking specifically for nymphs. I started with over 7,000 pages and had whittled it down to 6009. I was almost ready to break 6000. Whee!

When I checked tonight it was back up to 6075.

That sound you hear is the Sisyphean boulder that is getting ahead on identifications rolling down the hill. I know ultimately these observations are a good thing (more observations! more people participating) but dang. I had my heart set on breaking that 6000 page count.

What’s a boulder that rolled over you (iNaturalistly speaking)?

Rumble rumble rumble.

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Little trick to reach 6000 pages right now. Add &per_page=31 to the Identify page URL and you’ll be left with fewer than 6000 pages to review!

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Back in the times of myth, I rolled away the boulders for almost every species in the Brodiaeoideae subfamily, but I got overrun when I tried to validate or correct what were then about 20,000 observations of Dipterostemon capitatus (Blue Dicks). Since I gave up that task, I’ve been distracted by shiny objects in Iridaceae and all the Brodiaeoid boulders have rolled back a little.

But some achievements persist: CV is now a whole lot better at distinguishing these species, so new observations get better IDs; and I find that my own ability to ID most of these species has persisted pretty well, so at least I learned something!

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The other day I was IDing Dipterostemon capitatus without including the subspecies, and thinking to myself, if Rupert comes back later to add the subsepcies, it will fill up my notifications… (not that I mind if you do!)

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I had Bombus bimaculatus and griseocollis at zero, and was on the closing stretch for impatiens, plus 100% Bombus review on 18 states. Then the flood gates called “2023” opened, and I lost it. Currently, between about 6 of us, we have it under control though.

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That made me smile! ID’ing Blue Dicks to the “correct” one of the three subspecies is probably an excessively Sisyphean task. I guess my fruitless effort at that did teach me some useful lessons. I discovered that some species lack sufficient recent research to have reliably defined subspecies characters (despite what the Jepson guide says). Until a very energetic researcher takes on a whole bunch of sequencing and morphology work, there will remain a swath of plants in eastern California that won’t nicely “key out”. If so, then what’s the value of my confidently IDing subspecies in regions where there are no other plausible options?

At least Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. lacuna-vernalis is reliably distinct, minding its own business on slopes beside vernal pools.

Edited to add: But, @anneclewis, your adding annotations is very much unsung hero work. No little counter to show where you stand on the annotation leader board. And yet I’m guessing that easily finding damselfly nymphs might help all sorts of research and identification efforts, and maybe eventually help CV, too.

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I’ve been rather successful in getting the ol’ boulder to roll. I started doing lady beetle IDs last summer and have been cutting through the backlog ever since. I don’t remember how many pages there were when I started, but I think it was close to or over 4500. Now, it hovers around the 4110-4130 mark.

I’m most proud of where I’ve been able to ID. There have been many, MANY observations from Asia that sat unidentified for years. A field guide was recently released which made identifying these observations so much easier. Now, plenty of them have the correct IDs and await a second agreeing ID. A few examples are of species that have probably been photographed alive for the first time. Here’s one:
https://inaturalist.ca/observations?place_id=any&taxon_id=1495618

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It might be more helpful to think of it not in terms of reducing the total pool of observations, because that number will go up forever given the nature of the site. Think of how many observations you’ve put your hands on instead, and think of your work as increasing the pool size of observations with better quality data.

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I had at one point reviewed every single phragmites observation. I stopped checking up on it sometime late 2021 or early 2022 and never caught back up. I plan to some day but not today. And maybe not any day soon. But hopefully some day.

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Since I do a bit of odonata IDing, I’ll keep in mind to add nymph annotations to the nymph observations I see from now on. Would it be preferrable if exuviae were also annotated as nymph?

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Similar to Rupert, I’ve come and gone over all Phasmids recorded in iNaturalist for Brazil and South America since 2020. There are a ton of new and undescribed species and genera, the taxonomy of the order is a huge mess and I feel that I’m dealing with multiple different sized boulders. Some I manage to roll to the top of the hill and keep them there, others come crashing down periodically and some won’t even budge. But that is all part of the fun.

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lacuna-vernalis is reliably distinct, minding its own business on slopes beside vernal pools

Love that plant name!

Bottom right the actual boulders I stumbled over

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Unknowns from City Nature Challenges. So many of them and, unfortunately, very, very few are destined to make it to Research Grade. They will linger as Dicots or Fungi or Life forever, till some kind soul agrees and marks them As Good As Can Be. Not that I’m a particularly tidy person in real life, but something about all those Unknowns just gets me twitchy to prod them into some taxon, any taxon, somewhere.

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ah… for me, strangely, letting the boulder slip and roll at times has given me the opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and rest. I can always go back when I’m feeling better, stronger, smarter, happier.

The trouble with this metaphor is that Sisyphus was doomed to his fate under the threat of the Furies’ punishment.

in reality, rest, relaxation, and learning only make us better. we choose to push at these boulders for the sake of the challenge, or a sense of duty.
additionally it soothes me to know that I’m part of a team. even if I step aside, there are thousands of others who are also contributing.

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i try to weed out the captive equine IDs from the research grade pool, but i’ve somewhat resigned to the fact that i’ll never get all of them. i’m also on a quest to keep mules out of the horse pool and educate people on the difference between wild horses and feral horses… unfortunately, many are stubborn.

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The donkeys or the humans?

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In my experience with identifying, I’ve found a lot of people think if the word “domestic” is in the common name, it will never be a wild animal. Even if somebody says it is a feral individual. Some people themselves will make the observation, say “this is a feral dog” and then argue it cannot be labeled as wild since dogs are “domesticated”, hence the common name. It’s frustrating to work with and I don’t really explain to people why that’s not how things work every time that happens anymore because it’s draining and I’d run out of fuel very quickly.

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I’m working my way through Populus spp. observations from northeastern north America.

It’s definitely a slog, but I do it for fun.

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First, thank you for your annotations! Yes, exuvia can be annotated as nymph.

@rupertclayton wrote:

your adding annotations is very much unsung hero work. No little counter to show where you stand on the annotation leader board. And yet I’m guessing that easily finding damselfly nymphs might help all sorts of research and identification efforts, and maybe eventually help CV, too.

Thank you for your kind words. The short term goal is educational rather than research. My goal is to populate projects of aquatic macroinvertebrate insects that are filtered by annotated life stage (nymph, larva). This is to help educators practice and teach macro ID since macro observation is a very popular field activity in classrooms, nature centers, science camps, etc. I also send a link to the state observations to our state watershed scientists and managers as a screening/informational kind of thing.

@astra_the_dragon wrote

in reality, rest, relaxation, and learning only make us better. we choose to push at these boulders for the sake of the challenge, or a sense of duty.
additionally it soothes me to know that I’m part of a team. even if I step aside, there are thousands of others who are also contributing.

Oh absolutely. Totally agree. Some days I am right there with you. Yesterday was not that day. I really thought I had broken 6000. Ah, well.

Onward.

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That’s not even mentioning the CNC observations without dates, locations, or photos! You’d need to be real generous to cover those ones alongside the Need’s ID pile.

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