What Research Can I / We Help With?

I’d love to be able to help scientists by collecting specimens of whatever for them, and occasionally someone asks me for a specimen I’ve seen… after I’ve already left that area. If I had instructions on what to look out for before seeing something, it’d be much easier to make sure that I actually collect it. So, I was wondering, what researchers are there on iNat (or outside iNat) that need the help of iNat users to do tasks for them? What can we look out for?

I’m in Ontario, Canada, so I’d personally only really be interested in tasks that I could help out with from home, but I assume that any research task mentioned will have someone in that area ready to help out.

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At the risk of sounding excessively self-promotional,

https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/wanted-for-sci-coniontis-vibrations/15919/3

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As a museum collections curator, I’m definitely a proponent of general collection (with proper ecological considerations of course). I work with mollusks, so that’s what I would push for. In Ontario that would mostly be terrestrial and freshwater snails (freshwater mussels are often protected but records of those are also very important). I suppose there’s marine species in Hudson Bay too. Especially with land snails, most species are too small to be accurately IDed to species in the field.

I don’t know of any particular projects that this could help with, but I could provide a direct connection to museum deposition and I’m sure at some point someone would appreciate that. :)

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There’s also PhyscoHunt and this ginkgo thing: https://www.si.edu/fossil-atmospheres/leaf-survey?fbclid=IwAR3NrH7MxBuOcBFzcX7V61bRQZCbWTlCG4qVCN6JFqkYDSaBN7z9J3daV3g#submit-project

Will Chatfield-Taylor is looking for Okanagana cicadas–the iNat community has really helped him so far: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/the-okanagana-citizen-science-project

I am personally doing informal research on Acmaeodera (Buprestidae) that I hope to turn into a massive formal project one day (when I graduate and perhaps acquire some funding)

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John Sedbrook from Illinois State University is studying the genetics and natural variation of Thlaspi arvense (field penny-cress) and asked me about collecting seeds from my area (South Korea). Sounds like he might be interested in samples from elsewhere in the world for anyone interested in helping out. iNat profile page: https://www.inaturalist.org/people/jcsedbrook

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cannizag will take your amphipods.

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As a ranger I would generally encourage people to make sure they know the rules around specimen collection relative to the species they are collecting and where from. Like here in NZ it is illegal to collect Powelliphanta (large land snails) shells regardless of if the specimen is living or deceased or where you find it. (Empty shells are important in monitoring area where they are). Also a couple years ago a couple collected a shell thinking it was empty travelled with it, and then later found out it had a live snail inside, which is not optimal for endangered species.

That said I love research and the couple times researchers have reached out to me directly have been honoring, and I have collected seeds of Solanum aviculare for one, after checking thier permit. As well as pointing another towards places to find a specific species (though I knew they were measuring and replacing and not taking). I am always happy to be contacted by researchers, and to help where I can.

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A very big concern to me too, especially in current chronic drought conditions which are stressing and threatening the survival of many plants, especially if there is any increased sun exposure.

It is actually illegal to collect or damage any plant in a Reserve, I believe. Certainly in the forest, wetland and forest margins of the Reserves in the Auckland Region. And with good reason.

Permits can be obtained from DC, I understand, and weed control can be done by registered volunteers with the required training (unfortunately, the requirements are almost negligible at time of writing, but responsible volunteers can develop their knowledge and skills if they seek out mentors and resources.

Once you start weeding, you get to know what invasive species might be new to an area, hence of interest to museums. When I see what may be a new invasive species, or an unusual vector or growth habit or increased range of distribution, I contact the Auckland Museum and ask if they are interested.

For native plant species, photographic record - without damaging the plant or its surroundings, disturbing habitat or compacting soil - is preferable.

The collection or disturbance of native fauna of any kind is illegal, I believe. We have precious little left as it is.

Any corrections to this re New Zealand is welcome.

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Whilst I work for the dept, I am not 100% on all the rules, which is why permit stuff I would always direct to the appropriate person.

" * The Conservation Act 1987 protects plants and animals on public conservation land.

  • The Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 protects all marine mammals.
  • The Wildlife Act 1953 protects all terrestrial vertebrate animals except those specifically excluded or limited in one of the schedules to the act. It also protects some invertebrate and marine fish species declared to be animals for the purposes of the act.
  • The Native Plants Protection Act 1934 allows for national or regional protection of native plant species by a Warrant issued by the Governor-General. It does not infer any general protection of native plants outside national parks and reserves."

We still have a way to go with inverts with only specific species having protection as recognised under the act http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1953/0031/latest/DLM278595.html?search=sw_096be8ed818b7d4c_insect_25_se&p=1&sr=0

This is just my understanding, and may not be fully correct, I would always recomend contacting the relevant local body (where ever a person is) before any form of collection.

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Thanks Sebastian. Well, fortunately I have generally managed to refrain from quoting to Reserve users what I believed to be the law. Maybe there is a Council bylaw. Parts of the local forest Reserve I work in, including the hectare I currently restrict myself to, are Department of Conservation ( DOC ) owned, and Council managed.

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If you’re thinking about specific taxa, I would add ichneumonid wasps to the list of particularly useful taxa to collect. The diversity is mindboggling and there are a ton of undescribed species in North America. I specifically study the subfamily Ichneumoninae. Most species of ichneumonines have been described from your area, but I don’t doubt some unknown species remain though. I know for a fact there are some undescribed Phaeogenini in your area, at least. Even if you are collecting known species, it is always a great help to systematists to have more specimens and distribution records. Plus, iNat is seriously lacking observations of most species and a decent number of genera. Here are some examples in my collection: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&user_id=bclaridge&verifiable=any

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Pretty much all fungi anywhere in North America are worth collecting!

There is an active community science project asking for red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves to be submitted from across the US.

More information in this thread: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/community-science-project-help-collect-red-maple-leaves-for-ecological-research/15160

And this website: http://sites.bu.edu/tasper/

In the US specimen collecting is a bit complicated depending on what agency oversees the land (eg. BLM, National Park, State Park, Private Land, etc) and what the specimen is of, but broadly speaking you need a collection permit in most non-private land areas.

Here’s a very rough overview, but you need to check by state and particular land type to be 100% certain collecting is legal where you are.

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@herebespiders11 was asking for fungi infecting hover flies (Entomophthora sp.) and @derhennen has an open request for millipedes on his profile.

I’ve attempted to compile a list of all the specific research projects brought up on this thread. Maybe I should make a wiki post out of these later?

Animals

Plants

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Would folks be interested in a wiki thread like the computer vision clean up wiki for research opportunities?

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Yes please :)

I can turn your first post in this topic into a wiki as one option (you might be able to too, not sure).