Starting this year, I’ve been working to expand our Lizards on the Loose citizen science project to make use of the iNaturalist citizen science platform. Under the umbrella of the Fairchild Challenge, this project has partnered with schools in the greater Miami area to conduct visual encounter surveys of anoles in order to track the distributions of invasive anoles across an urbanized landscape. Previously, students aggregated their observations and submitted them manually for georeferencing, a time-consuming process that didn’t allow for highly detailed observations. iNaturalist, a citizen science platform, allows users to submit photo ids, along with time and location info, from a phone or computer. Online users (like me!) can then help with identification, and observations become accessible to researchers everywhere.
On October 14th, James Stroud, a PhD student at Florida International University and I, led a training workshop for Miami area school teachers (over 100 of them!) in how to use iNaturalist to document lizard habitat use around their schools and in their neighborhoods. The teachers, and a few standout students, did a great job practicing their anole ID skills on the grounds of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (during a fortunate break in rain). With these new skills, teachers will be able to work with their students to quantify lizard diversity in different habitat types near their schools and monitor lizard distributions across the county. We’re excited to interact with the students via iNaturalist by encouraging them and helping them improve their observation skills, and we’re looking forward to seeing all of the great science that they’re going to conduct this school year!