gilbertj

Unido: 08.mar.2021 Última actividad: 30.jul.2022 iNaturalist

Butterflies of San Luis Obispo County, California.

I am fascinated by the complexity and beauty of the natural world! I love trying to find patterns and seeking to understand complex systems and I'm a compulsive document-er. An encounter with Side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana) in 2006 sparked an interest in the natural world which has never been extinguished. Who knew that there were other species of lizards besides "blue-bellies" (Sceloporus occidentalis)?

My passion started with lizards, then wildflowers, and then in 2010 I "found" lepidoptera and that has been my primary love ever since. But writing "primary love" gives me pause, because in fact the longer I've studied Lepidoptera, the more I've found that the study of a single group in isolation has severe limitations, at least if you are interested in understanding the organism as it occurs in its environment. Everything is part of a system, a community if you will, and taking this into consideration results in a much richer understanding of the original organism. Trying to study an organism in isolation is like picking a single flower blossom. You pluck the flower and the whole plant comes up, inflorescence, stem, leaves, roots and all; it’s all interconnected. You can't consider the flower in isolation, you have to consider the whole plant. For me this holistic, community-centric view has opened my eyes to weather and climatology, botany, land-use, wildfire, and topography, and much else.

Perhaps most significant is the serious interest in botany I’ve developed as I’ve studied Lepidoptera. Initially it was a fairly functional interest (and occasionally aesthetic, wildflowers draw my eye), finding host plants is one of the best ways of locating colonies of target Lepidoptera species, but since then my botanical interests have taken on a life of their own. At this point I probably spend more time photographing and identifying plants than I do Lepidoptera (if we are thinking purely of species found on day-time field trips, it doesn’t hurt that there are some 750 butterflies in the United States and more like 17,000 vascular plants).

iNaturalist has helped broaden my interests even further, so that now I (try!) to pay attention to nearly everything. From grasshoppers to mammals to fungi, but my knowledge with many of these groups is pitifully small, and I benefit tremendously from the expertise of the experienced individuals in the iNaturalist community.

In conjunction with my love for complex, interconnected systems, I find the natural world breath-takingly beautiful. I think we often have shallow, superficial definitions of beauty. Our interest is only roused by the superlatives, and we fail to recognize the abundance of beauty that permeates everything. I think there is something deeply fitting, even necessary, about stopping to notice the beauty all around us. It gives me a deep satisfaction to recognize and appreciate the extravagant beauty that fills the world around us. Even the very diversity of the natural world is mind-blowingly beautiful. Take Satyrid hairstreaks (Satyrium sp.). In my own corner of the world we have five species which are all small, grayish and relatively inconspicuous. Not something that most people would notice, and I think that is unfortunate. I’m fascinated by Satyrium hairstreaks. Each one is a unique marvel. Each one feeds on particular hostplants, generation after generation. Each one occurs in particular habitats. So similar and yet clearly distinct! And to those who have their eyes open all of this is waiting to be seen.

For the last 8 years or so, I’ve devoted an extensive amount of time to documenting the butterflies of San Luis Obispo County, CA. I maintain a collection of perhaps 2000 voucher specimens from surveys all across the county. Fieldwork in this county poses special challenges, due to extensive areas of inaccessible private land (e.g. the Santa Lucia range from Hwy. 46 to the Monterey Co. border), and I am especially interested in seeing observations from these difficult-to-access areas. I’m always happy to field questions about finding butterflies in this area, or to identify observations as I am able.

I’ve also spent significant time doing projects on or surveys for Speyeria adiaste clemenci, Proserpinus lucidus, and Euproserpinus.

Almost all of my photographs are taken with my cellphone. I apologize for the poor photo quality. Perhaps short-sightedly (when you get home and realize you are missing photos of the important characters required for keying), I tend to prioritize documenting as many species as possible over taking many or aesthetic photographs. This also means my hands are in many of my photos.

In addition, I am a fallible, error-prone human being, while I strive to only make identifications of other users observations when I have a high degree of confidence in my identification (Because of this I tend to only make identifications of California butterflies, particularly species from the central coast, since I have substantial hands-on experience studying butterflies on the central coast), I am confident that I make mistakes, so please feel free to correct if you disagree with an ID I make. Since my own observations cover a much wider taxonomic range my identifications are more suspect, again I avoid identifying to species unless I’m pretty confident in my identification, but I certainly get identifications of my own sightings wrong with some frequency.

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