[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Thu Oct 23 08:51:15 CDT 2014


Admittedly I only read postings in a fragmentary way and I know I sometimes
miss items, but I am confused by your reference to Jason Mate saying the
the efforts of citizen science can be dismissed as " are taking pictures of
"bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow." What I read was that he said
that "The decline in "natural history" amateurs is global and cannot be
compensated by the explosion of macrophotography since they (mostly) are
taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow." This made
no reference to 'citizen science' and I did not see any implication of
such. It was only a criticism of a particular mode of information gathering
or sharing. I would be grateful therefore for how you made that link the
way you did.

John Grehan

On Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 9:04 PM, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>

> Hi Jason,
> I totally disagree with your assessment of citizen science being on the
> decline and that the efforts of citizen science can be dismissed as " are
> taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow."
> Here is Australia, we have a citizen science website called BowerBird
> which is a socially interactive website somewhat like the northern
> hemisphere equivalents of Project Noah, iNaturalist and iSpot.  For me, the
> quality of a citizen science website is whether or not the data it
> generates is on-shared with national or international biodiversity
> databases.
> Let me give you one BowerBird example that came in this month.  A citizen
> science person submitted an image of a ladybeetle.  He had tried to
> identify it himself but could not place the species.  In Australia, we have
> a wonderful CSIRO website displaying all known extant Australian ladybeetle
> species.  The BowerBird image did not match any of the images on the
> diagnostic website.  So, we sent the image to the BMNH ladybeetle expert
> who came back with the statement "Back from the Dead".  The species
> photographed was presumed to be extinct as it had not been seen or recorded
> since 1940.  The story of this citizen science find was told in one of our
> national newspapers:
> http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/extinct-ladybird-back-from-the-dead-20141014-115u4j.html
> (where you can see an image of the beetle).
> To me, the essence of science is to observe and ask questions.  What
> better way is there than to have thousands of "natural history amateur
> eyes" documenting spatial and temporal data for the Australian (swap
> Australia for any other country) biota.  BowerBird has discovered new
> species and helped to track invasive species.  The exotic carder bee
> (Afranthidium (Immanthidium) repetitum) was first reported in Brisbane in
> 2000.  By 2007, it had been recorded  south in Sydney but since the Sydney
> records no further distribution extensions had been recorded.  Then in
> February and March 2014, two amateurs noticed a "strange bee" in their
> garden.  They photographed their strange bee and posted the images on
> BowerBird with the question "Bee ID?".  We bee "experts" immediately
> recognised it as the South African carder bee and the records came from
> hundreds of kilometres north of Brisbane and hundreds south of Sydney - on
> the state of Victoria's border.  Australia has many exotic "sleeper weeds"
> but they remain in small numbers as they lack their effective pollinator.
> The spread of any exotic pollinator needs to be monitored and watched for a
> possible explosion of a sleeper weed. It was citizen science who alerted us
> to this alarming spread.
> BowerBird "favourites" are often created by an "expert" mentoring "natural
> history amateur eyes" .  One such case is the humble but extraordinary life
> styled and bizarrely coloured flatworms.  Australia has only one flatworm
> expert located in north Queensland.  However, he has inspired many
> BowerBird members from around Australia to roll back logs in search of
> these flatworms.  The expert identifies each flatworm image posted to
> BowerBird but he adds stories about how the scientific name was derived and
> about the species behaviour.  There are now almost 50 BowerBird members on
> the Flatworm project who have image captured many of Australia's flatworm
> species.  The expert has told me that for many species, the BowerBird
> images were his first live images for many species - he usually sees them
> as pickled individuals.  The expert has also requested and been able to get
> these amateurs to collect and send him specimens for DNA analysis.  If you
> have never seen a flatworm or want to read something about them, then I
> recommend the flatworm project:
> http://www.bowerbird.org.au/projects/1633/sightings
> Finally, the Australian GBIF node is ALA (Atlas of Living Australia).
> BowerBird went live in May 2013 and there are automatic weekly data
> (images. Identifications, spatrila/temporal etc) uploads to ALA.
> Currently, there are almost 11,000 BowerBird records on ALA (to see the
> spread of records from around Australia see:
> http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=data_resource_uid:dr893#tab_mapView
> ).  This represents about a 60% identification success rate for images that
> you describe as "pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow."
> New species have been nominated, new distributions have been recorded, new
> stories have been told about the Australian fauna, new friendships have
> been made and these new "friends" now go out together on their own
> photographic BioBlitzes and on-share their finds to BowerBird to ALA to
> GBIF.  I'm happy with this deal !!
> I am sure these stories here can be repeated for Project Noah, iNaturalist
> and iSpot.
> For me, citizen science is on the up not the decline.  Getting
> "professional" scientists to engage with this "new" data source is the next
> "challenge".
> Best  Ken
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of JF
> Mate
> Sent: Thursday, 23 October 2014 2:14 AM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
> Hi Bob,
> I agree the scale is altogether different but even in densely populated
> areas in Australia even basic invertebrate biodiversity knowledge is
> lacking. The decline in "natural history" amateurs is global and cannot be
> compensated by the explosion of macrophotography since they (mostly) are
> taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow. If you
> don´t know what you are photographing then it is like it doesn´t exist. For
> Europe (with some exceptions) the decline may not be as damaging. The fauna
> is well known and there are plenty of guides and keys that digital
> enthusiasts could use. The goal here has at least been partially achieved.
> In Australia, other than butterflies and a couple of other popular groups
> you are out of luck.
> Cristian. Spain is in a similar (albeit not as extreme) situation to
> Australia. High biodiversity, incomplete knowledge but a declining body of
> amateurs (and legislation that doesn´t help either).
> Best
> Jason
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