Change is a good thing

So, I think it's time I talk about how I've had to and will continue to cut back on my identifications. To skip to the point for those not interested in the long story, I have and will continue to cut back severally on the number of identifications I provide on iNaturalist and focus only on the most important ones to me (more details about what "most important" means in bold below).

This decision has been a mixture of conscious decision-making and a natural progression as my life and iNaturalist change. The natural parts have come via the record high numbers of observations continually being uploaded and my desire and need to focus on matters closer to home. The conscious decision-making has come in the form of figuring out a new balance to my life and iNaturalist so that I can stay engaged without being overwhelmed. There's no way to sugar coat it, this has been a hard year for everyone and with prospects of starting a doctoral program at Oklahoma State University has made me think about what I want out of iNatualist and my research in general.

My goal used to be to curate all the US Euphorbias, all of sect. Anisophyllum worldwide, and all the plants of the Llano Estacado and surrounding areas. I have added Texas Euphorbiaceae to that list a couple of times. Excluding Euphorbiaceae and the other random groups, I would have occasionally tried to curate, the records I have been focusing on have grown from roughly 2,623 observations per month from last year (about 31,474 for all of 2019) to nearly 3,941.5 observations per month this year (about 23,649 for these first 6 months of 2020 alone). This is a 50% increase, but the trend is upward growth, so I would not be that suprised if the overall figure ends up at a 70% increase by the end of the year (last year's growth for the US Euphorbias was 43%). I suppose it's still possible to expect a full doubling by the end of the year. The Llano Estacado observations for this year, in particular, are just 652 away from matching the 12,351 observations made last year. I am extremely proud and encouraged by this growth even if it does exceed my limitations. To put those numbers in perspective, the average for all of 2019 was about 86.2 observations/day. That average has risen to about 129.5 observations/day for 2020. Of course, these are usually clustered in the growing season. For this month (June 2020), the average has been 226 observations/day! This is what identification fatigue looks like in cold hard numbers.

With this in mind, I can't keep the same goals I have had. I have cut back severely these last couple weeks and have felt a lot better for it. I've even had some time to dabble in botanical illustration. At this point, it isn't just a question of time but also a question of rebalancing my life outside of iNaturalist. Every hour I spend on iNaturalist IDing Euphorbia maculata in cities that have a hundred others just like them is an hour I could spend writing documents that could help shape the way we all view the species and help everyone get better at identifying this and other species as a whole. When I write anything on iNaturalist, I want to focus on this meathod and not try to get keep everything tidy as I wanted to in the beginning. That's ultimately what I want and my time on iNaturalist needs to facilitate these goals and not hinder them as has been the case for many months now. I think it will be better for me, iNaturalist, and our understanding of the natural world in general. As for what my future plans are regarding iNaturalist, I will have to see how much time I have when I start my Ph.D. studies, but my hope is to focus on what follows:

Llano Estacado: Putting together genera treatments as I have been doing and only IDing the genera I'm currently working on.
US Euphorbias: Except for sect. Anisophyllum and special requests, I'm putting this group on hold. I may try to complete some of my ideas for guides in the project, but I have to cut back here.
Worldwide sect. Anisophyllum: Focus on novel observations and publishing articles that have been on the backburner for over a year. I hate to say this, but that especially means no more IDing E. maculata across most of the US except by special request.

Ultimately, I suspect I will have to cut the above down to one or maybe two once I start grad school, but those are my iNaturalist goals facilitating my broader goals of creating a flora of the Llano Estacado and monographing section Anisophyllum. Concerning special requests, I still intend to offer my expertise whenever someone asks and really hope I don't get so busy that I have to start ignoring them, but please be understanding if I do. So many aspects of my life and iNaturalist are changing and it will be hard to predict where I end up as time goes on. I hope it never comes to this, but if I have to prioritize, my first priority will always be towards those who both want to learn and are willing to help others identify. The second will be towards those who want to learn how to ID the species. And lastly are those who simply want an ID. I will also prioritize observations that I know without having to look anything up. Looking up information takes a lot of time when multiplied over many observations and I will almost certainly have to cut or severely limit these in the future.

It may not seem like it, but this is a big change for me, definitely the biggest internet usage change and probably a lot bigger than when I decided to not check Facebook every day. I have spent nearly every day (with the typical exception of Saturday) for the past few years identifying plants on iNaturalist. It is comfortable, familiar, and yielded a grand total of 120,499 identifications to date (109,354 of those are at species-level). I am proud of those numbers and have few regrets about the time spent to produce them. But change can be a good thing. And, I think it's high time for this one.
LE plants: 12,351 (12 months; 2019); 11,699 (6 months; 2020); 3,726 (June, 2020)
US Euphorbia: 15,215 (12 months; 2019); 9,592 (6 months; 2020); 2,206 (June, 2020)
World Anisophyllum: 3,908 (12 months; 2019); 2,358 (6 months; 2020); 395 (June, 2020)
Total: 31,474 (12 months; 2019), 2,622.8/month; 23,649 (6 months; 2020), 3,941.5/month; 6,327 (June, 2020), 226/day.

由使用者 nathantaylor nathantaylor2020年06月29日 05:01 所貼文


This a great, well-written message. Thank you for all of the work you have done and continue to do. You got me into this group - for many years we conducted vegetation surveys for our desert bird work and these were always just EUPH in our data. It has been wonderful to learn that there are so many kinds out there.


發佈由 mccreedy 約 4 年 前

My math could be off, but I think instead of a 1.5% increase, you've seen a 50% increase! You are doing 1/2 again as many monthly observations as last year. Regardless, it is an outstanding number and you should definitely be proud of it! Moreover, we should be and ARE proud of you and your contribution to iNat! But I agree 100%... there are more important things than spending hours identifying the same plants over and over. I was going to suggest the linked guide method, but I see that's what you were referring to. I've had great success with ID'ing a significant base of observations and including the journal post link. It doesn't take long at all for other enthusiasts to utilize and link to it when they ID as well. I also go through observations looking for the mis-ID'ed diamond and skip through ID'ing all of the rough. Or, ID'ing for projects/species that are of particular interest to me. (I jump from one to the other a lot, mostly from a desire to learn more and then find something else to learn more about.) Self reflection and making changes to fit your future path are a big sign of enlightenment. Congrats on starting your doctoral studies, too! If I can be of help (but not with Euphorb IDs, for all our sakes LOL) feel free to reach out to me! I can swing a fairly decent iNat guide and I'm good at review and editing. ;)

發佈由 kimberlietx 約 4 年 前

@kimberlietx, Of course, you are right about the math. I was thinking 1.5x the amount last year and wrote percent. Good catch!

Thank you for your kind words and for offering to help. Believe it or not, some of the groups in the adjacent Rolling Plains of Texas that give me the most trouble are the species that common and abundant in the DFW area. Some of these species creep right to the edge of the Llano Estacado. I got a taste of this on the trip to Gene Howe Wildlife Management area several weeks ago. The most exciting and difficult to ID finds for me were the species that the DFW folks almost rolled their eyes at (e.g., Sideroxylon lanuginosum and even the Rubus, though I didn't know it was an interesting species at the time). With trees especially, there aren't many of them out here, and when I see one that I'm not familiar with I feel like I'm starting botany anew. I'm not sure how much time I will be spending with the Llano Estacado flora in the coming months, but will try to keep you in the loop.

發佈由 nathantaylor 約 4 年 前

@mccreedy Chris, thank you and I'm so happy that I was able to help you out with you're Euphorbias!

發佈由 nathantaylor 約 4 年 前

Well thought out plans. Best of luck with the Ph.D. program!

發佈由 sedgequeen 約 4 年 前

First of all, congrats -- first, for making this decisive step in choosing your priorities. It's a hard thing to change habits and we support you :) Second, for beginning your doctoral studies. You're gonna do great!

I hope you'll forgive my tagging you often as I learn all the New Jersey and New York City Anisophyllum species. I'd just been getting competent with the Israeli ones too ):

We (or at least I) want to see those papers when they come out!

I don't mind picking up some of those E. maculata IDs, I've become fairly familiar with them at this point. Of course, that means learning what else might be present in a given location.... I'll need to learn more about weedy plants (my area of interest), the horror!
Also, about curation: jdmore has been mentoring me as I take on more curatorial tasks. Once I've gained some more competence and confidence, maybe I can assist you with your curatorial tasks, starting with US and Middle Eastern Anisophyllum and moving on to the Family as I learn more. Send me a PM.

發佈由 astra_the_dragon 約 4 年 前

Totally understandable that you want to cut back on identifying a bit. With over 120,000 identifications I can understand that you suffer from some "identification fatigue". That's A LOT of identifications! Thanks for all that you have already identified among my observations , and maybe I will be able to do some more identifications myself with the help of your excellent euphorbia guide.

發佈由 annikaml 約 4 年 前

Thanks @annikaml!

發佈由 nathantaylor 約 4 年 前

Thank you, Nathan, for getting me interested in Anisophyllum and your willingness to offer helpful hints. Several months ago, due to covid, I stopped identifying on iNat. The break has been good for me. I'm starting to dip my toe in the waters again and narrow my niche. Who knows? Maybe that will lead to an interest in picking up some of the work that you are letting go. Peace be with you and your grad studies!

發佈由 janeyair 約 4 年 前

Thank you @janeyair. If you do start picking up more of Anisophyllum, let me know if you need help understanding the characteristics and I'll see what I can do to help.

發佈由 nathantaylor 約 4 年 前

Nathan, you definitely have your priorities right. Best of luck with your Ph.D. program. I have no doubt that you're up to it, but a little luck never hurts! If you ever need help with tree-sized IDs, feel free to ping me. It has been great to track your work. And I am definitely looking forward to reading some of those papers!

發佈由 baldeagle 大約 4 年 前

Ah, I was wondering why maybe I wasn't seeing your comments as much. No worries. I definitely understand the need for balance. Even at the paltry sum of identifications I currently have, I often feel I am spending all of my time on iNat. I cannot imagine the amount of time to get up to 120K. Best of luck in the new program.

發佈由 rymcdaniel 大約 4 年 前

I don't know why I didn't see this when you posted it. I applaud you for all of your achievements and your plans to work on your Ph.D degree. Thank you for all of the help that you've given to so many of us. I'll be more aware now of your situation and try not to tag you on Euphorbia observations. Again, a million thanks for the teaching that you've already done on iNaturalist. Thank you for the guides and journal writings that you've created.

發佈由 suz 大約 4 年 前


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