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 Post subject: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 6:33 am 

Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm
Posts: 437
Hi Folks,

I came across this website this morning: http://www.inaturalist.org/

It's a site where people can post pics of whatever flora or fauna that they find, along with the location right down to the GPS coordinates where they find them. I think that everyone here knows what I am thinking, and I'd like to contact them with my concerns but am not quite sure how to go about it. I'm sure that their intentions are good and it's a great idea, but the herp angle concerns me. Anyone have any suggestions?


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 7:53 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm
Posts: 2383
Location: Greater Houston TX Area
MCHerper wrote:
Hi Folks,

I came across this website this morning: http://www.inaturalist.org/

It's a site where people can post pics of whatever flora or fauna that they find, along with the location right down to the GPS coordinates where they find them. I think that everyone here knows what I am thinking, and I'd like to contact them with my concerns but am not quite sure how to go about it. I'm sure that their intentions are good and it's a great idea, but the herp angle concerns me. Anyone have any suggestions?


I've voiced the same concerns...you can choose to obscure your coordinates (it will display a large circle with your data somewhere within its boundaries, like HerpMapper), but I think the default setting is "public," meaning anyone can pinpoint the AC, road cut, pond, etc. That being said, it is the citizen-science database (hi Gerry! 8-) ) of record for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, if not other states.


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 8:16 am 
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Joined: May 14th, 2011, 11:16 pm
Posts: 1132
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
It also bears mentioning that coordinates for all species designated endangered, threatened, or sensitive are automatically obscured. iNaturalist has a google groups where you can air concerns.

JimM


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 8:47 am 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 3:28 pm
Posts: 2293
I don't see that website as an issue, of course. If a herper is concerned about having to share his/her special spot with other people, then s/he probably shouldn't be posting that spot's coordinates online (though other people will doubtless eventually find it, anyway). If said herper is instead concerned about bringing harm to some herp population(s) at that spot, then s/he should try to understand that there simply aren't enough herpers (let alone herpers specifically interested in such-and-such a species in such-and-such a region) and they don't have effective enough means of collection to really cause such harm. Some people seem to find cause to ceaselessly worry and talk about the "problem" of herpers sharing information, but biologically it doesn't exist.

Just keeping it real.

Gerry

(Hi back, Chris! I suppose you want me to address your terminology, so I'll oblige: No, it's not actually a citizen science database because it's not scientifically collected; best to instead call it something such as a citizen natural history database - which some folks who are more careful about their terminology do - so as not to contribute to the confusion already far too prevalent among laypeople about what is and isn't science. Yup, just keeping it real here, too. ;) )


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 10:05 am 

Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm
Posts: 437
gbin wrote:
I don't see that website as an issue, of course. If a herper is concerned about having to share his/her special spot with other people, then s/he probably shouldn't be posting that spot's coordinates online (though other people will doubtless eventually find it, anyway). If said herper is instead concerned about bringing harm to some herp population(s) at that spot, then s/he should try to understand that there simply aren't enough herpers (let alone herpers specifically interested in such-and-such a species in such-and-such a region) and they don't have effective enough means of collection to really cause such harm. Some people seem to find cause to ceaselessly worry and talk about the "problem" of herpers sharing information, but biologically it doesn't exist.

Just keeping it real.

Gerry



Hi Gerry,

Actually the thought that I had was of someone who was unaware of the sensitivity of a species finding and posting it. I hadn't thought of a herper posting coordinates, I am sure that we're all aware not to do something that foolish. Jamaughn's post clarified for me what I wanted to know, and I'm glad that they have taken these steps on their site.

Also, I'm glad to read that herpers can more freely share information where you are. We've had at least a few significant incidences of poaching in our state, and I think that many of us here have become quite vigilant. Good to know that you don't have to worry as much about people of that ilk in your part of the world.

Thanks for the input!


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 11:36 am 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 3:28 pm
Posts: 2293
Just to be clear:

    - I see nothing foolish with sharing the specific location for a favorite herping spot online, at least, not from the standpoint that it might bring harm to some herp population(s) there. It's not going to cause such harm. (I realize it's against the rules in this forum, regardless.)

    - This is a population biological view of the situation, not restricted to a particular species or region. There are simply too few herpers, they simply keep too few animals and their methods for collecting animals are too ineffective for live collection to be any kind of meaningful threat.

There are of course very rare exceptions, such as den sites or other important aggregation points of some nearly extirpated species, but such really are very rare exceptions when considering herps overall - and even then the danger is most likely to come from people bent on killing the animals/destroying the site, not collecting the animals alive.

I understand and share your dislike of poachers, MC, but even though law enforcement and the media (and sometimes even academics) like to hype the "significant problem" of poaching (or even just legally collecting) for the live animal trade, again, biologically speaking it's actually not a problem at all. Not worth anyone's dismay. Nor their secrecy about herping spots. Nor the authorities' sometimes outrageous expenditures of resources.

Kill harvesting (e.g. for bogus medicinal consumption in China), on the other hand, is quite a different matter. Unfortunately, not only do law enforcement and the media (and sometimes even academics) not take the pains they should to separate these two, they generally deliberately combine them, from what I can see just to make it sound as if collection (legal or poached) for the live animal trade is a serious problem when in fact biologically speaking it's not a problem at all.

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 3:42 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:41 am
Posts: 4706
Location: "Buy My Books"-land
I've said this before and I guess I'll say it again:

Gerry is 90% right in his statements, but the real problem with sharing gps for a specific location is the possibility of the area being over-harvested, poorly hunted resulting in rock or other cover damage, or hunted too often resulting in the over-disturbance of the animals. Also, if the site was a "created" site for study or enjoyment, the over-use of the site by others will really hamper the original "owner's" ability to see anything at all. This 2nd reason is why many of our best herpers have left Nafha and created their own little groups of observers. I understand Gerry's opinion on A.C., but A.C. distribution is ongoing and will not cease. It is also the most practical way to get density data, etc. for many species. Giving out the gps for an A.C. site is not a good thing...

OK, Gerry, feel free to pummel me with your reasoning again... :crazyeyes:


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 6:40 pm 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 3:28 pm
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Brian, I can hardly pummel you for saying something I agree with.

People who share their spots do risk the spots getting wrecked as a result (though of course their spots might get wrecked even if they don't share them) - "wrecked" being in the eyes of the beholder, of course. (What one herper sees as the removal of a useful board line s/he set up at great effort, for example, another sees as the clean up of an illegal dump which brought discredit to the herp hobby.) But that's really only an effect on the people involved, not the herp population(s). The latter will be just fine, even if they're scarce in the immediate vicinity of that spot for a bit, or much more likely are still present there but are harder for herpers to find because the easiest cover for herpers to use to find them has been disturbed. Biologically, no big deal.

As for my opinion on artificial cover: People get me wrong about this at times, it seems. I'm absolutely fine with herpers relying on and even setting up their own artificial cover - so long as they do the latter on their own property or with the permission of the property owner/managing authority. I'm of course not fine with herpers sneaking artificial cover out onto public or others' private property without permission. None of us should be, because it's illegal dumping, which contributes to habitat degradation (trash attracts trash, and not all of it is as environmentally benign as sheets of plywood) and makes the herp community look bad. It's always amazed me that some of the very same herpers who complain about law enforcement viewing us all as scofflaws do in fact misbehave in ways that genuinely merit them at least being viewed as such; some of them even brag about their illegal activities here at FHF, and also otherwise encourage others to emulate them. Just for the selfish pleasure of finding snakes and getting accolades for finding snakes... :?

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 2nd, 2015, 8:21 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Posts: 3297
Location: San Antonio, TX
I have heard this argument for years about posting coordinates on unsecure sites and the "risks" for poaching, etc.

My position is very simple - if you have localities or populations that are sensitive or you don't want to share, you should not post them on the internet. That means don't post on insecure OR secure websites. Yes, HERP and some of the others are "secure" but only as secure as their internal security. When you consider that people hack much more secure sites than HERP/Herpmapper/inaturalist, it seems ridiculous to think that posting GPS data on any of these sites gives you any real expectation of long term security.

And the problem is that if someone hacks bank accounts, credit card numbers, etc. that data can be rendered useless by changing the account numbers, closing the accounts, etc.. If someone hacked HERP and posted all that data on the internet somewhere you could never undo the damage. That information would be potentially public for ever. You couldn't put the genie back in the bottle.

And when that data is released to third parties, you lose all control of how that data is eventually stored and potentially published/released. Sure, the data requestors have to "promise" not to release the data, but if they deliberately or accidentally break that promise, it can't be undone. And there are no real consequences for those that release the data.

When you post it on the internet, you accept the responsibility that it could be made public. If you think that is too big a risk, DON'T PUT IT ONLINE anywhere! That means no one may know how many cool herps or cool populations you know about. You may not get to be the winner of the 2015 "most records in HERP or whatever database", but your data would be secure.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2015, 4:56 am 

Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm
Posts: 437
Chrish, I think you missed my post where I clarified what my concern was. The concern is that someone (not a herper) would find and post the location of a sensitive species without knowing that it is sensitive. I wasn't concerned about herpers posting on it (as I know that herpers are aware of any necessary discretion, or lack of), and I'd be at least sensible enough to know that if I posted the coordinates for one of my finds that people might know where they are. :lol:

Anyway, Jamaughn's post laid my concerns at ease. Thanks for your input.


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2015, 10:39 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
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Location: San Antonio, TX
MCHerper wrote:
Chrish, I think you missed my post where I clarified what my concern was. The concern is that someone (not a herper) would find and post the location of a sensitive species without knowing that it is sensitive. I wasn't concerned about herpers posting on it (as I know that herpers are aware of any necessary discretion, or lack of), and I'd be at least sensible enough to know that if I posted the coordinates for one of my finds that people might know where they are. :lol:

Anyway, Jamaughn's post laid my concerns at ease. Thanks for your input.


MCHerper,

Wasn't really directing that at your original post, just the principle of "assumed security" that some people ascribe to these sites.

There is a risk that someone could post a location. To be honest, I want to go look for pickerel frogs next week if it rains. I needed to find a couple of suggested localities. How did I get my localities? Inaturalist!

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Potential Problems with New Website
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2015, 11:19 am 

Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm
Posts: 437
Good luck with your search! :beer:


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