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Crowd-Sourced Botany

Citizen scientists making observations of invasive Shrub of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) Together Newtown Creek

To continue to keep cooperators curious, Boom and Atha post every month about the EcoFlora website a different”EcoQuest Challenge.”  The response can be remarkable.  This attracted a flood of several 16,000 photos.

Currently, Boom and Atha are applying for a grant that will help them spread the concept of EcoFlora into other communities.  One route they’re researching is to share this model with botanical gardens in other areas of the country.  If they succeed, citizen science and crowd-sourced botany will likely be coming to a location near you.
With each picture, the timing and the location of this observation is listed.   The identification of this specimen is crowd-sourced to the total iNaturalistcommunity, which includes interested botanical experts all around the USA and abroad.
As a botanist at the New York Botanical Garden, Daniel Atha had went throughout the world to examine plants in their native habitats.   Then, one afternoon, it occurred to him that he understood more about the plants of Belize than people New York, the town he calls home.

With the help of all 3,541 citizen scientists, EcoFlora has two years’ focus on town (2017-2018) recorded observations of 3,180 different species of fungi, plants and lichens.   Given all of the disturbance this area has experienced, a very large proportion of its flora remains native — roughly 65 percent.  But the identification of non-native”exotics” by the citizen scientists is helpful also, providing information about invasive plants which could lead to their own deterrence.  Any sightings of rarities in the city parks, meanwhile, the Botanical Garden shares with the NYC Parks Department, to make sure these plant preservation and protection.   Taken together, these various types of information also have a clear significance to land-use planning.  “You’ve got to understand what’s out there,” notes Atha,”to make wise decisions.”
Atha cites as an illustration of how this functions the recent spotting of a weed in a planter bed by a Lower East Side volunteer who had been seeing her mom on the Upper West Side.  An authority on spurges in west Texas recognized the plant in the picture as Euphorbia hypericifolia, a plant that had never previously been observed growing rampant in New York.  Armed with this information, Atha himself discovered another population growing spontaneously beneath a fence about the Botanical Garden grounds.  This implies that this former unknown is naturalized in New York, and thus a part now of its flora.

That’s changed.   Called”New York City EcoFlora,” this job is not just educating the Botanical Garden’s scientists concerning the town’s natural resources, but also a host of”citizen scientists” as well.
Crowd-Sourced Botany initially appeared on GardenRant on January 7, 2019.


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