Journal 4: Reflection

Over the last couple of months I have engaged in the Citizen Science program and utilized the iNaturalist app to post observations of organisms and species that I found in New York City. In addition, I participated in the Ecoquest challenge and had the opportunity to search for specific plants in New York along with many other people. Through journal entries, taking pictures of organisms that I found and posting them to iNaturalist and having my pictures identified by other naturalists, this project made me feel like an active citizen adding to a community seeking to appreciate and preserve nature.

I would not describe myself as someone who loves nature and who used to stop while I am walking in the street to appreciate a beautiful tree. Perhaps this is because I struggle to live in the moment and instead focus on what I need to do in the future. Both this project and the pandemic, though, helped shift my focus to the present day and world around me rather than the list of things I have to do. I think the pandemic did this because in quarantine each day flows into the next and creates a monotonous routine. Although boring, it also encouraged me to focus on the moment more and appreciate smaller aspects to life I didn’t notice before. This project expanded that sentiment to nature.

When I first began this project I was a little confused why it was specifically assigned for people in New York City because when I think about the city I think about Times Square, fast paced walking, music and lights. I do not think about nature and the large variety of plants that thrive in New York. This project, more than anything, showed me that nature is found everywhere and is not limited to suburban or rural areas. I loved taking intentional trips to Riverside and Central Park and specifically looking for plants and species to take pictures of, but I also loved walking in the street and noticing interesting organisms I wouldn’t have noticed before and taking a picture of them. After posting pictures I excitedly awaited notifications informing me that naturalists had identified my pictures and I would then read about the organism I had photographed. What I previously saw as a random green plant, through iNaturalist, I now identified as a Cherry laurel, an evergreen species native to regions bordering the Black Sea. iNaturalist has shown me that despite often blending in with each other, plants and all organisms are native to unique regions and require specific conditions and care in order to thrive.

One of my favorite parts of iNaturalist is that after I post an observation, it is almost immediately identified by a different iNaturalist user. iNaturalist has users all over the world and is unified by the simple love of nature. In addition to providing a community and space to learn about nature from scientists and naturalists, iNaturalist helps create data for scientists who strive to better understand nature and organisms in order to find ways to best protect them. Engaging in this Citizen Science program made me think a lot about our responsibilities as members of society and guardians of Earth. Something as simple as taking a picture of a pretty plant helps with the collection and analysis of data to identify the organisms we live with and work to preserve the environment that sustains those organisms.

Although I loved making observations, I did struggle to fulfill the Ecoquest challenge and ultimately did not succeed. I researched both the Mugwort and Groundsel Tree before attempting to find them and I specifically looked in areas where they are usually found like along roads, in forested areas, and in sandy soil. What is frustrating to me is it is very likely that I encountered them, but did not realize it was them and did not take a picture. If I were to do the Ecoquest again, I would take a picture of even more plants than I did because sometimes it is hard to tell what something is and posting it to iNaturalist and waiting for identifications really helps. In addition, something that I think would have helped me find the Ecoquest would have been to look up the intended plants in iNaturalist and see where other people have found them and gone to those locations to look. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic it was a bit harder to travel to different areas which is why most of my observations are from Riverside and close to campus or from when I was able to go to Central Park a couple of times. Ideally, I would have traveled to many different locations and parts of Central Park and hopefully will be able to in the future if I do the Ecoquest again.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable experience. So much so, that I’ve even told my friends and family about iNaturalist and have made plans with friends to go on nature walks to find observations to post. I look forward to continuing to participate in the Citizen Science program. On a personal level, it will be good for my mental health to get outside and to actually see and appreciate the nature found all around us, even in New York City. I will also find it rewarding to continue to be part of a global project as a non-specialist and to continue to contribute to an important database for scientists around the world.

Publicado por abigail364 abigail364, 01 de diciembre de 2020

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