[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

Jose Fernandez Triana jftriana at uoguelph.ca
Thu Oct 23 12:56:21 CDT 2014


Hi Stephen,

I found your post related to NatureWatch and Darren Ward a bit harsh. I know that you are one of most active and vocal members on this list (and other lists). And that is totally fine with me, because lists are supposed to be for that, and some people are keener to write more and longer than others (or have more time for that, or whatever). So, I welcome every time that you step into the plate with your comments (no matter how many times, and they are plenty). But I find that aggressive language (note that you call Darren's paper a 'piece of rubbish') is uncalled for.

I know Darren personally, and in the past I have collaborated and published with him. So, out of curiosity, I went straight to the paper you so happily called rubbish, downloaded the pdf and read it. I found that is simple, 4-page note commenting on the results of 1-year study of data gathered by citizen scientists. It discusses the pros and cons of citizen science (and Steve, you should know that there are always pros and cons in everything), it PRAISES NatureWatch for its work and discusses what could be done to improve the work (specially mentioning the much larger expertise on these topics from British lepidopterists). It also states some results that happen everywhere (not only in New Zealand or in NatureWatch) such as: larger representation of Aculeates over Parasitica hymenopterans (I am using Parasitica NOT in a phylogenetic meaning, just for brevity), and prevalence of records for larger, more colorful species in spite that the smaller, 'duller' parasitoid wasps are much more diverse and prevalent. The paper do value citizen science contributions, it just does not say that is the best thing after sliced bread.

There is barely any criticism in that paper (the "harsher" words I found were in the last sentence of the paper where it reads, and I quote: "Although it is clear that citizen science has tangible benefits, I caution the overoptimistic use of citizen science, without examination of records and potential biases"). If such a relatively mild comment offends your sensibility, Steve, the funny thing is that you constantly use in this list WAY stronger words, for any topic and person you do not agree with -and there are MANY examples of that. Why that double standard?

In any case, I am not interested in arguing with you, but wrote this post to the list because it seemed fair to me to let other readers know that the 'rubbish and criticizing paper' from Darren might not be that bad or harsh as Steve wrote yesterday. 

I think that citizen science is VERY important and I am very much in favor of promoting and supporting it as much as possible -in fact, I am trying, here in Canada, to get people interested in rearing parasitoid from caterpillars... but this post is not about me so I will not go into details now. What I think is that anything has to be weighted, analyzed and discussed, as we do (or should be doing!) in Science. 

If anything, this is my own, rubbish opinion on the topic ;-) 

All the best,
Jose

--
José L. Fernández-Triana, PhD.
Research Associate, Canadian National Collection of Insects,
and Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
960 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6, Canada
Phone: 613-759-1034. Email: jftriana at uoguelph.ca, Jose.Fernandez at agr.gc.ca
http://www.canacoll.org/Hym/Staff/Triana/Triana.htm
http://microgastrinae.myspecies.info/  




----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
To: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>, "KenWalker" <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 9:25:27 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

Ken said: Getting "professional" scientists to engage with this "new" data source is the next "challenge"

Yep, that's the mountain needing moving alright!

On http://naturewatch.org.nz , we have the occasional "professional scientist" (mainly botanist), but involvement is still minimal in that regard. In one unfortunate incident, ecologist/hymenopterist Dr. Darren Ward created a project on Nature Watch with no definite aims or protocols (which he COULD have added), and then after one year prublished this piece of rubbish criticising NatureWatch for having no definite aims or protocols, and being taxonomically and geographically biased: 

Ward, D.F. 2014: Understanding sampling and taxonomic biases recorded by citizen scientists. Journal of insect conservation, 18(4): 753-756. doi: 10.1007/s10841-014-9676-y

I interpret this to have been a deliberate attempt to reinforce to the professional community the (false) idea that such "citizen science" projects aren't worth bothering with. Of course there is some taxonomic/geographical bias! Or did he expect citizen scientists to go out with quadrats and vacuum cleaners from north to south?? Natural history collections in museums and research institutions are not free of such biases either. I only wish entomologists here in NZ were going out there and revising all taxa everywhere!

Stephen
--------------------------------------------
On Thu, 23/10/14, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
 To: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 2:04 PM
 
 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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