[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Oct 23 15:02:26 CDT 2014

Hi Jose,
No, I defend my assessment of this publication by Darren, who I also know personally and have collaborated with, but this does not deter me from offering an unbiased assessment of this particular publication, which happens to have been written by him. Yes, he threw in a few minor positive comments about Nature Watch NZ, but the overall "spin" that he put on citizen science was extremely negative, especially in the abstract. Nature Watch NZ gets funding from TFBIS, which Landcare entomologists like Darren also seek funding from. My reading of Darren's paper is as a clear (and false) message to the effect that citizen science isn't serious science, isn't really that useful for serious science, and so by implication isn't worth funding. I reiterate the point that many of Darren's criticisms were derived from a specific Hymenoptera project which he created without specification of definite aims or protocols (which he COULD have added), and then after one
 year criticised NatureWatch for having no definite aims or protocols, and being taxonomically and geographically biased. Unusually for someone who created a project within Nature Watch, Darren has never contributed a single observation to the project (or to Nature Watch). In summary, whether it was a deliberate act or not, I don't know, but, in my assessment, Darren's paper just sends out all the wrong messages, and uses very limited data to support an inappropriate conclusion which is loaded with negative spin.
On Fri, 24/10/14, Jose Fernandez Triana <jftriana at uoguelph.ca> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
 To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Cc: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>, "KenWalker" <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>
 Received: Friday, 24 October, 2014, 6:56 AM
 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.
 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
 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
 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,
 José L.
 Fernández-Triana, PhD.
 Research Associate,
 Canadian National Collection of Insects,
 Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6, Canada
 Phone: 613-759-1034. Email: jftriana at uoguelph.ca,
 Jose.Fernandez at agr.gc.ca
 ----- 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
 said: Getting "professional" scientists to engage
 with this "new" data source is the next
 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
 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!
 On Thu, 23/10/14, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>
  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
  Hi Jason,
  I totally disagree with
  assessment of citizen science being on
 the decline and that
  the efforts of citizen
 science can be dismissed as "
 taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller,
  red, blue or yellow."
  Here is Australia, we have a citizen
  website called BowerBird which is a
 socially interactive
  website somewhat like
 the northern hemisphere equivalents of
 Project Noah, iNaturalist and iSpot.  For me, the
  of a citizen science website is
 whether or not the data it
  generates is
 on-shared with national or international
 biodiversity databases.
  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
  not place the species.  In
 Australia, we have a wonderful
 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
 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
  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
 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
 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
  citizen science who alerted us to this
 alarming spread.
  "favourites" are often
 created by an
  "expert" mentoring
 "natural history amateur
 .  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. 
 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
 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
 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
  them, then I recommend the flatworm
 project: http://www.bowerbird.org.au/projects/1633/sightings
  Finally, the Australian
  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
  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
  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"
 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 !!
  am sure
 these stories here can be repeated for Project Noah,
  iNaturalist and iSpot.
  me, citizen science is on
 the up not the decline.  Getting
 "professional" scientists to engage with this
  "new" data source is the next
  Best  Ken
 -----Original Message-----
  From: Taxacom
 [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
  On Behalf Of JF Mate
 Thursday, 23
  October 2014 2:14 AM
  To: Taxacom
  Subject: Re:
 [Taxacom] De-extinction &
 agree the scale is
  altogether different but
 even in densely populated areas in
 Australia even basic invertebrate biodiversity knowledge
  lacking. The decline in "natural
 history" amateurs
  is global and cannot
 be compensated by the explosion of
 macrophotography since they (mostly) are taking pictures
  "bugs": bigger, smaller, red,
 blue or yellow. If
  you don´t know what you
 are photographing then it is like
 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
 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
  amateurs (and legislation that doesn´t
 help either).
  This e-mail is solely for
 the named addressee
  and may be
 confidential. You should only read, disclose,
  transmit, copy, distribute, act in reliance on
  commercialise the contents if you are
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  If you are not the
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 notify mailto:postmaster at museum.vic.gov.au
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 Views expressed in this email are
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 Victoria. Museum
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