muir's 2019 iNat Year in Review

An August 2019 observation of a rockweed isopod, ready to take on the world. Seldovia, Alaska.

As per my tradition, please indulge my end-of-year reflection and “holiday card” for iNaturalist friends far and wide, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet in real life, and some not yet. See links for past “Years in Review” for 2016 and 2017/2018.


I posted 1,268 verifiable 2019 observations, with 744 taxa currently identified. That’s a modest ~10-15% increase over my 2018 activity, bringing my cumulative total to about 19,511 observations and 4,954 taxa since I joined in 2011. As I’ve approached the 20k iNat observation milestone, I started to make a purposeful effort in the last six months of 2019 to focus on quality (as measured by new-to-me taxa) over quantity of observations. As part of that push, I sought out more than 200 observations neglected and hiding on my hard drive, mostly covering my pre-digital camera years traveling around South America (1998-2002). A couple years ago, I had a bunch of old slides, negatives and prints from that period commercially scanned, and I finally got around to uploading them, as well as a few field drawings. It was fun to mentally re-visit that time period (with miniature pangs of regret that I wasn’t as attached to a camera then like I am now).


2019 was my first full calendar year in my new home of Anchorage, Alaska. I visited many of the same places in southcentral Alaska that I did last year, but spent more days in Kachemak Bay and on the Denali Highway (both of which I want to spend more time in 2020). Part of the (enjoyable) challenge of living in a state like Alaska is that it’s so big and roadless with so many amazing places that I don’t know and would love to. The seasonal attractions of familiar places, however, keep me returning to the same haunts for salmon, berries, migrating birds, game, and accessible mountains.

I made one trip to the tropics this year: a family vacation to Mérida and the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. I solicited ideas from locally based iNat users, and am grateful for help from @aldo_echeverria @lsauma @trinchan @adorantes for recommendations. While I intended to write a journal post sharing what I learned and where I went, I never did, so please feel free to see and share this map as a collection of local recommendations to visit nature around Mérida.


In no particular order, here are some of my favorite species observations from 2019:

Thanks to the ID assistance of @caseyborowskijr @matthias22 and @humanbyweight, I observed five new species of yellowjackets this year, including this Arctic Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula albida), and gained a new appreciation for hornet diversity. On the same July 3rd hike in Chugach State Park that I saw the pictured yellowjacket, I also observed a rare clearwing moth: Synathedon arctica (thanks to @taftw for all sesiid IDs).

A crescent gunnel (Pholis laeta) observed during two days of amazing tide pooling with @mckittre in Seldovia, AK. Some of the best time I spent outside all year.

A falcated duck (Mareca falcata), the first record on mainland Alaska, was a birder attractant this summer at Potter Marsh in Anchorage. Along with golden eagles, Hudsonian godwits, rough-legged hawks, and a number of Yucatán birds, my avian life list surpassed 1,000 species in 2019.

One of the 133 gray whales (including 48 in Alaska) that turned up dead in the US and Canada this year. 2019 was reportedly “the second-worst year on record for gray whales [2000 was the largest Unusual Mortality Event (UME) on record], which were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s. It could represent as much as 10% of the species' total population.” This whale floated to rest at a very accessible spot to the Seward Highway and attracted a large crowd of onlookers, one of whom marked its demise with lupine flowers.

I killed a caribou in early September, my first. Two weekends later, I drove up to the same area on the Denali Highway to help a cousin, but by the night I arrived, he had already harvested his animal. So, the next morning, I headed out on foot, with only a camera, and was soon thrilled to be following fresh wolf tracks. Suddenly I realized that hundreds of caribou were moving toward me, pushed down by the season’s first heavy snow in the mountains. I ran to get out ahead of the herd and only half-succeeded. Threads of 20/30/40 caribou pushed around me, and I reached a hill to watch them undisturbed, crossing creeks, shaking water from their heavy fall coats, and melting in and out of spruce forests and open muskeg. Everywhere I looked for an hour, there were caribou. One of my favorite wildlife experiences of 2019. Video here. I never did see the wolf.

Although technically not a 2019 observation, this year I added a few field sketches from 20+ years ago in Ecuador (and one from Bolivia), which were lovely to revisit.

An ant-eating ant mimic Tutelina formicaria expertly IDed by @salticidude who recognized it as the first iNat record for the species among 40,000 other salticid observations. Observed in Idylwild WMA, Maryland. My other favorite 2019 salticid was the Pelegrina montana jumping spider, which for the moment anyways, has only been recorded on iNat in my backyard.

And finally, on December 31st, a caddisfly emergence in a blizzard that followed the warmest New Year’s Eve on record, capping off the state’s warmest year on record. A NOAA report published in October notes that “Alaska has been warming twice as quickly as the global average since the middle of the 20th century. Alaska is warming faster than any U.S. state.” Makes me wonder: what anomalies will we observe on iNat in 2020 that will seem normal in 2030?

Journal Posts

-- July 23 - The hunt for 5,000 taxa before 20,000 observations. An exercise in iNat navel-gazing, as I attempt to work toward a 1:4 taxa to observation ratio. By tracking my stats every few weeks, I learned that, independent of any new observations I might add, I gain a net of about 4-5 taxa per week from the iNat community reviewing and identifying my old observations. Extrapolating that rate to the entire year, about 1% of my old observations were improved with finer taxonomic identifications in 2019. As mentioned previously, this journal post also motivated me to post more than 200 observations from scanned images from my pre-2002 archives.
-- July 10 - What’s the world’s most observed insect genus? And more thoughts on iNat observability. An attempt to identify the most observed insect genus on this website, and define what I mean by observability. I think there’s a good case to be made for the bumblebee (Bombus) in North America, but on further reflection, I think the answer is likely something else (Papilio?) globally. In terms of what factors affect the observability of any taxon, I suggested accessibility and the degree to which a taxon is common, charismatic, conspicuous and (smartphone) camera-friendly.
-- April 5 - Idylwild WMA field trip. A sort of failed attempt to convene a larger group for an iNat meet-up two hours from DC, but the bugs, weather and location certainly did not fail a small group of us, and we had a very fine time indeed at one of my favorite places in the wider DC region.


I was thrilled to spend time in the field with @judygva @treegrow @richardhall @nlblock this year, and even got to briefly see @bogslogger during his visit to Alaska. A big THANK YOU / GRACIAS to all of the people who helped identify observations I posted in 2019, including top IDers @gwark @ivanresendizcruz @rangertreaty50 @entomokot @johnascher @treegrow @nlblock @mc1991 @maxallen @adorantes and all the other folks and friends connected via iNat that have brightened my 2019 (that I don’t think I’ve tagged elsewhere in this journal post…..) including @tatianah22 @annettes-au @jhammock @annebatten @naturelady @connietaylor @renatapitman @finatic @sambiology @greglasley @jakob @borisb @botanygirl @gyrrlfalcon @onekoolkid0 @jaykeller @davidbygott @awenninger @ashley_bradford @dssikes @edanko @jonathan_kolby @jrfulkerson @troydeclan @katzyna @mbowser @rachelneugarten @psyllidhipster @susanhewitt @jasonrgrant @brucebennett @akfrank @ahaberski @loarie @kueda @tiwane. (And apologies for the tag if you consider this spam….)

2020 Goals

I met few of my 2019 iNat goals. And yet, I still found joy, buried in rotting wood, exposed at low tide, and flitting in otherwise charred and blackened lands (perhaps not a terrible metaphor for 2019...). So, recognizing the aspirational nature of this list, here’s what I want to do in 2020 related to iNaturalist:
-- Get a new camera
-- Visit Cordova & the Copper River Delta
-- Visit Mystery Creek road (if open to the public) and observe what is living in the aftermath of the Swan Lake Fire, which ignited on June 5th, burned for most of the summer across 167,164 acres (676 km2), and may still be smoldering under the snow
-- Observe and identify 500 AK taxa (I got to 430+ taxa in 2019, ~85% of the way there!)
-- See an Arctic Warbler
-- Be in a tidepool with my family during some of the lowest AK tides of the year
-- Nepal
-- Vancouver Island marmots (cc @marmota_taylor)
-- Align schedules to see the constant traveler @carrieseltzer
-- Be outside with @judygva and @treegrow who are some of my favorite reasons to visit DC
-- Publish journal posts on iNaturalist activity in Alaska (now shaping up to be a three-parter -- please send an editor), more navel-gazing on reaching 20k observations, resources for southcentral AK bumblebee identification, and a ten-year sample of iNat activity across countries.

From my family to yours, Happy New Year everybody.

Our 2019 Christmas tree, harvested in the MatSu Moose Range. A white spruce, iNat’d of course.

由使用者 muir muir2020年01月04日 05:12 所貼文


Loved reading about your year. I only discovered Inaturalist mid last year so just starting out. Good luck on 2020 goals.

發佈由 carolynstewart 超過 4 年 前

Nice review and sounds like a good year. Hope 2020 is even better.

發佈由 troydeclan 超過 4 年 前

I love reading your personal year in review! The caribou experience sounds amazing. So bummed we couldn't be in the same place & time in 2019, but really hoping we get to visit you in Alaska in July. And maybe you'll come to DC when I'm here :-)

FYI, the embedded links seem to all have an extra "" before the url that are leading to 404s. How did you compose this? Wondering if this is some problem on our end. Did you copy/paste from another editor or write it all on iNat?

發佈由 carrieseltzer 超過 4 年 前


Bummer about the links. I was copying and pasting back and forth, composing in a google doc, checking in the iNat journal preview, etc, before publishing. I get the same 404 issue -- but weirdly, when I edit the post to fix the links, the urls are correct with no "" in front. Did I screw up the html code or is that on your end? Without the spaces, I'm using < a href="[url]" >< /a >

發佈由 muir 超過 4 年 前

Happy New Year! Great post. I looove the isopod pic & enjoyed the caribou video, especially the fairly close view in the middle. Almost like being there. I hope you come back to DC to visit this year. We'll find some more interesting biting & stinging bugs for your life list.

發佈由 treegrow 超過 4 年 前

I definitely have problems composing in a Google Doc and pasting into iNat, so it's possible that is the source of the problem. But that doesn't explain why you can't see the mangled link when you go to edit the journal post. Your html tag format looks right to me.

Testing here, rockweed isopod.

發佈由 carrieseltzer 超過 4 年 前

Love love love the isopod! And your year in review is always a highlight of New Years for us - thanks for this!
My 2020 goal for iNat is to remember to post anything. 🙄 So many not-very-good photos, so little time. (But I got 2 fuzzy photos posted today, which is almost 100% of what I did in 2019, so you're definitely an inspiration!)
Love to your dearies, and please come to Kent Narrows and/or Adkins when you visit DC next time. 🤗

發佈由 naturelady 超過 4 年 前

What a wonderful journal post!

發佈由 gyrrlfalcon 超過 4 年 前

Glad people like the isopod photo -- it's been my phone lockscreen for a long time now! Makes me happy to see it all the time.

發佈由 muir 超過 4 年 前

Yes, the isopod is amazing!

發佈由 tiwane 超過 4 年 前

Amazing finds, and great photos! Happy marmot spotting!

發佈由 marmota_taylor 超過 4 年 前

Links should work now. Apparently I was using the wrong quotation marks. Thanks Tony.

發佈由 muir 超過 4 年 前

Thanks for sharing! Worth it for the isopod alone :)

發佈由 edanko 超過 4 年 前

That sounds like a wonderful year, well remembered and shared. Thank you for that. =) You saw some amazing things and got great photos! I didn't realize you had moved (I'm not so god at keeping up with social media), but you picked a great place to move to, based on my two visits there. Potter Marsh is awesome. Good luck with your 2020 goals!

發佈由 ashley_bradford 超過 4 年 前

To me, the number of posts in inaturalist is surely an indication of how much you were able to get out in nature, which is what it's all about, IMO, and couldn't be a better thing to do. Good for you, Matt!

發佈由 dennispaulson 超過 4 年 前


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