Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sagehen Mammal Quest on Zooniverse

Sagehen's EDI data fellow, Georgia Titcomb, is helping us get some of Sagehen's historic data into the EDI repository this summer for easier researcher access and future security. Watch our website for updates.

One additional project that Georgia has just finished is posting our camera trap monitoring photos to Zooniverse. The Sagehen Mammal Quest now allows the interested public to help us identify which images have animals in them. These photos help us evaluate the effects of the Sagehen Forest Project on wildlife.

Take a look and help out!
4-2-2020 UPDATE: thanks to COVID lockdowns, the project finished almost immediately! More info.

The Sagehen Mammal Quest on Zooniverse.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

California Herps ID

Living in California is great for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that there are great taxonomy guides around.

The California Herps website is a fantastic resource you can use to ID and report your find, including information on lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs and salamanders. Here's how to use the site:

Determine if the animal you want to identify is a reptile or amphibian, then determine what type of reptile or amphibian you are attempting to identify - a snake, lizard, turtle, frog, or salamander, using the information and pictures below.

If the animal has hair or feathers or lacks a backbone, then it is not a herp and you should look elsewhere.

If the animal has smooth skin that looks wet, with no scales, then it is an Amphibian.
If the amphibian has four legs and a tail, it is a salamander.
if the amphibian has no tail, it is a frog
Toads are also amphibians - a type of frog - but their skin does not look wet. It is roughly textured, but there are no scales.
Newts also have rough skin at times. They can be differentiated from lizards by their lack of scales. 

If the animal is not a fish and it has scales, then it is a Reptile.
If the reptile has legs, but not a large shell on its back, it is a lizard.
If there are legs and a large shell on the back, it is a turtle.
If it has no legs and no shell, then it's a snake (or a legless lizard.) 

After you know the type of reptile or amphibian, click on the group name to view a page with pictures grouped by pattern or appearance or other characteristics. Read the brief descriptions and look for a picture of an animal that resembles yours, but beware that many types look similar. When you find the animal, click on the name to view more pictures, information, and a map showing where the animal occurs in California. The maps are general representations of where various animals occur in the state and they can quickly help you determine if an animal occurs in your area.

More info here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Identifying Igneous Rocks

The relative amounts of just three main minerals; quartz, plagioclase feldspar, and potassium feldspar are all you need to know to start identifying igneous rocks. In addition to these three light-colored, felsic minerals, the abundance of dark, mafic minerals can also help you distinguish one type of igneous rock from another.

Once you know you have an igneous rock, look at the texture to decide if it is intrusive (big crystals) or extrusive (fine texture). Then use this chart to make your first guess based on how dark (mafic) or light (felsic) your rock appears.

To be sure you've named your rock correctly you need to compare the amounts of plagioclase feldspar, potassium feldspar, and quartz and plot it on the triangular graph.

Try this: suppose your rock is coarse-grained, so you know it's intrusive. It has 40% quartz, 30% potassium feldspar, and 30% plagioclase feldspar, it's called granite.

--Taken from USGS Geology in the Parks.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Herbarium Curation

Sagehen uses volunteers to manage its collections, including our herbarium. Here are some useful documents to help you understand the principles and strategy.
IMPORTANT! Be scrupulous about your field and lab notes. Keep a lab journal and field notebook. Document everything you do! Your effort is wasted--or even destructive--if you (and others) cannot later figure out what you did.
Organization and Management

    * * * 

    Thanks to all our Sagehen Herbarium volunteers to date!
          • Erica Krimmel: program development; collections organization; digitizing; herbarium expansion; volunteer management.
          • Alex Gallandt: accessioning; mounting; collecting; updating taxonomy; reorganizing collection schema.
          • Angele Carroll: plant mounting; voucher filing
          • Hannah Johansson: accessioning assistance
          • All the California Naturalists and Weed Warriors who have helped at plant mounting days! 


    Tuesday, May 24, 2016

    Botany tools

    Here are some useful tools to help you with your iNaturalist botanical observations in the Sierra Nevada.

    Cheat sheets:

    See this link for more information: 
    Field workshops:

    Field courses from the California Native Plant Society, or the Jepson Herbarium will really jumpstart your identification skills. You'll also meet other botanists and enthusiasts that you can spend time with in the field. That's the trick to really learning botany.

    There are workshops at all levels, and many are incredibly technical. If you are a beginner, look for "Introduction to..." courses.

    Plant keys:

    A dichotomous key helps you identify plants by leading you through a branching series of "This or that?" questions until you--hopefully--reach a species or finer ID. Be advised that keying can be a bit of an art and it helps to do it with a friend or three. It also helps tons to get to Family or even Genus before consulting the key, and you will definitely need a botanical dictionary to tease out the difference between arcane terms like, say, "puberulent" and "pubescent".

    The Jepson Manual (TMJ2) is the 800-lb gorilla, with complete listings for California plants and an active and dynamic community constantly working to update it. Other states tear their eyes out with envy.

    Unfortunately, the book itself actually weighs about 800-lbs. It's a pain in the lumbar to tote it around the field.

    Fortunately, an e-Flora with the same data is on-line (for the office), and there's an e-Book version now for your iPad or other device for use in the field (by some accounts the Kindle version is more user-friendly).

    Another option is the Weeden key. Less complete and up-to-date than TJM2, but very portable, it is still incredibly popular despite being out of print for a couple of decades. Keep a weather-eye out when trolling used book sales, and grab as many as you can if they're cheap--you won't have any trouble finding homes for them.

    Plant keys can be tricky, and it seems to work best to use them as a group effort to smooth out the interpretation factor. You'll definitely need a good loupe to see the characters described...and sometimes a dissecting scope for some families (like, the Sunflower Family). You can use a key to get better at identifying Families by sight, which you will find really boosts your game and makes botanizing more fun!

    Online Courses:
    • Charles Sturt University Virtual Herbarium. Learning botany starts with understanding flowers. Once you grasp floral formulas, you can identify Families, and then you are off and running! This site has an incredible interactive tutorial and testing tools for leaves, gynoecium and floral formulae that teach you to see and understand the unique structural patterns of leaves, sepals, petals, androecium and gynoecium that make up plants and flowers, and which arrange them taxonomically.
    • Lab for UC Davis Plant Sciences 102.
    • "Connecting Students to Citizen Science and Curated Collections" is a fantastic introduction to plant collecting, pressing, identifying, and documenting using iNaturalist.
    • Webinar on the above collections program. If you are interested in the didactics of this program, and why it includes the content it does, watch this.

    Saturday, September 5, 2015

    Field Guides

    Field guides are easy enough to find, but here are some harder-to-find tools you can use to develop your identification skills. I'll update this page from time to time if I find particularly good resources.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    BioBlitz model

     Kaitlin Backlund organized Sagehen's first BioBlitz in 2015, and it was a great success, due to excellent planning. See more photos.

    Kait has generously shared her management tools with us for the next event.

    Volunteer Shift Schedule | Sagehen BioBlitz Guide

    From Kaitlin:
    Here is some info for a BioBlitz. Its a lot of work, but also a ton of fun. I recommend reading through items here.

    I relied heavily on the Nerds for Nature Guide and have attached their 10 Step Guide with modifications made for the 2015 Sagehen Blitz in green print. Also attached is the Volunteer Shift Schedule. The Sagehen Blitz was a highly managed event because it was held at a Field Station, but as you will see by looking at other Blitzs, there are a variety of formats. (I happened to use Nat Geo's Blitz at Hawaii's Volcano National Park as a template.) It is also worth noting that the BioBlitz Guide doesn't discuss liability etc.. which is something you should discuss with whoever you partner with to do a Blitz.Most groups or agencies that work with volunteers in the field have procedures in place for you to follow.

    I hope this is helpful!