Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weedbusting with NZBRN

At this year's Canterbury Weedbusters Workshop at Little River, we gave more of a look at some of the new features of our upcoming NatureWatch NZ website. I thought you might be interested to see them too. You may notice some similarities with the talk I gave at last month's BioData workshop for GEO-BON (recycling is good) but the screenshots of our test system are all new.

NZBRN talk at BioData Workshop
Here's a copy of our talk on NZBRN at the Canterbury Weedbusters workshop (3.3 MB PDF).

For the talk I'd connected our test NatureWatch NZ site to an old photo I had on Flickr which I had identified as Chilean flame creeper, Tropaeolum speciosum (Tropaeolaceae). This is a problematic weed in parts of Otago and South Canterbury and has just a few patches on Banks Peninsula. It's a good example of an incipient weed that would benefit from a lot of community observations so everyone has a much better idea of exactly where it is and how fast it's spreading so it can be effectively controlled.

a weed on the rise
Chilean glory creeper near the Akaroa road between Little River and Cooptown.
Photo by Mollivan Jon

As it turns out, my choice of photo for the talk inadvertently provided another example of the power of the NatureWatch NZ approach to crowdsourcing biodiversity observations. Why? Because my identification was wrong. Ian Hankin of the Department of Conservation had passed the same plant and had a close look at my photo and correctly identified it as not Chilean flame creeper but Chilean glory creeper, Eccremocarpus scaber (Bignoniaceae). In my defence, I took the photograph on a bike ride and didn't get close to the plant. In Hank's praise, he'd only seen the plant while driving past.

Imagine magnifying that error correction a thousand fold. In a couple of months, you'll be able to upload photos to NatureWatch NZ, suggest an identification (or flag it as "ID Please"), and then see what everyone else thinks. On the American-based iNaturalist site on which NatureWatch NZ is based, I've had my photos of American plants identified by other users in a couple of hours, sometimes a day or two. It's a magical thing.

For the record, here's what Chilean flame creeper really looks like. This is a photo I took in Lord's Bush, near Springfield.

Tropaeolum speciosum
Chilean flame creeper in flower in Lord's Bush.
Photo by Mollivan Jon

Both species are environmental weeds on the rise (here are the Weedbusters pages on Chilean glory creeper and Chilean flame creeper). It would be great if you got to know these species and recorded them wherever you saw them.

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