March 19, 2021
Have you been using iNaturalist to record and identify plant, animal, and fungus species? Well whether you’re an old pro or you’ve never even heard of this app and website, we want you to join us for the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) Biodiversity project! We here at the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) are eager to have the community’s help in learning more about the wildlife that calls our public spaces home all year long, and to do so we are planning a series of challenges that anyone with internet access can use.
Our first iNaturalist Challenge!
Over the next month, we encourage you to download the app or set up an account on your computer at home (if you haven’t already done so), and start making observations! These can be of flowers, trees, fungi, insects, birds, other animals – whatever you’re interested in observing. As long as these observations are on our Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, they’ll be automatically included in our Biodiversity project – but if you want to be included in the contest, be sure to click the “join” button at the top right corner on the iNaturalist site.
On the desktop it looks like this:
On mobile (with iPhone) it looks like this:
And, every observation on the WVRT will be counted as an entry in a raffle for your very own WVLT neck gaiter! 10 lucky winners will get to stroll the trail in warmth and style. One prize per participant, but each observation made on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail until April 22th, 2021 will increase the participant’s odds of winning.
You can see your WVRT observations, and those of your neighbors, here:
For more information on the iNaturalist app, please see our earlier introductory article:
As well as these great resources from the iNaturalist website on everything you need to know on getting started. They have a wealth of video tutorials too:
If you’re having trouble with getting good i.d. quality photos, try practicing with the Seek app. Just be sure to upload your finished observation to the iNaturalist database so it can be included! You can also find tips on taking better photos here: https://vimeo.com/167341998
Why are we promoting community science projects through iNaturalist, you may wonder?
Well, there are two main reasons. First, we love engaging with our community, and we love to observe and educate about the natural resources we work so hard to protect. We steward open spaces, public trails, and farms so that our local community can enjoy the benefits of having them – both by getting outside, and having opportunities to make connections to our local wildlife and habitats. iNaturalist gives us another outlet to do just that! And what’s more, with the data you collect, you’re also telling us what you’re interested in, and we can plan our future outreach around what fascinates and inspires our community.
Secondly, with your help, this data can help us with our mission. The more we know about the species that use our conserved properties, the better we can plan to protect the endangered or at-risk species. We can plan trail work around the natural migrations or blooming times of sensitive plants and animals. And we can better strategize to manage the invasive plants that are outcompeting the native species that support our wildlife. Sometimes we can even seek out specific funding to help us do so! So it may not seem like it, but even a handful of observations made by the hundreds of visitors that may use these trails each day can make a big impact on future land conservation.