September 25, 2020

Meet Our New ECO AmeriCorps Community Science Outreach Naturalist!

VCE welcomes Julia Pupko , our new ECO AmeriCorps Community Science Outreach Naturalist. Julia took the reigns following the end of Emily Anderson’s service last month and will be building on Emily’s outreach and education work for VCE’s community science projects. After the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas pilot year in 2020, she will coordinate the launching of the first full year of the atlas in 2021. We hope to get as many volunteers as possible involved in helping us find some of our missing native species! Julia is also available to help you with iNaturalist, eBird, eButterfly or any other questions you may have pertaining to community science projects at VCE. She can help you via email ( or even set up a Zoom meeting to demonstrate to you while sharing her screen. Julia looks forward to engaging with all of those interested in helping us to discover, share, and conserve Vermont’s biodiversity over the course of her service!

Julia Pupko surveying Lady Beetles for the Atlas.

Posted on September 25, 2020 18:20 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 21, 2020

Help Us Find Lady Beetles this Fall

Every lady beetle counts — from the common to the rare. Even if you lack experience with these insects, you can contribute to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas. Whether you help with full surveys or just find a few beetles while doing other outdoor activities, It's easy to report your sightings to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas on iNaturalist. Since at least the 1980s, native Lady Beetles that were once very common across the Northeast have become rare or have even gone missing.

Fourteen of Vermont’s 33 known native species have not been reported since the 1976 checklist was completed. Three of these species were designated as “species of greatest conservation need” in 2015 in New York: Two-spotted Lady Beetle (Adalia bipunctata), Nine-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), and Transverse Lady Beetle (C. transversoguttata). And the Nine-spotted Lady Beetle was recently declared “Endangered” in Canada.

An extensive USDA APHIS survey in 1993 failed to find any Nine-spotted Lady Beetles in 11 Northeastern states, including Vermont. Experts thought that both the Two-spotted and the Nine-spotted lady beetles were extinct in New York until citizen scientists rallied to help Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project search for them. In 2009 the Two-spotted was reported from western New York and in 2011 citizen scientists discovered several Nine-spotted lady beetles on Long Island.

The Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas was inspired by a desire to uncover similar answers about Vermont’s missing Lady Beetles. Through our research, we hope to pick up where the Lost Ladybug Project left off and amass a database of current Lady Beetle species in Vermont. Through this work, we want to discover whether missing Lady Beetle species still exist at low levels in some regions or if they truly are gone. Our long-term goal is to restore Vermont’s Lady Beetle diversity and counteract the proliferation of invasive Lady Beetles by reintroducing some of these lost species. Ultimately, by tackling unanswered questions about Vermont Lady Beetles and keeping our thumb on the pulse of Lady Beetle conservation, we hope to provide insight and support to those tackling environmental issues across the state.

How You Can Help

Combing Vermont’s forests, fields, and gardens for missing Lady Beetle species is an important mission and we definitely can’t do it alone! You can help us by photographing any Lady Beetle you come across and sharing it on iNaturalist. There's still time left this year to explore your yard, gardens, and meadows for Lady Beetles before autumn turns to winter!

For more information about our Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas, visit

Posted on September 21, 2020 21:15 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 10, 2020

A Note on Geoprivacy and Adjusting Your Settings

The Vermont Atlas of Life received dozens of reports of Wood Turtles from across the state in iNaturalist. Due to its designation as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Vermont, Wood Turtle observations submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist are automatically obscured to protect these turtles from being harassed or illegally collected by unscrupulous people. But sometimes conservationists like us can’t see the locations either.

For example, we share observations each year with the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which collects data needed to make informed recommendations regarding the state status, state rank, and conservation priorities of Vermont’s reptiles and amphibians. To do this, the atlas requires exact locations of observations. Unfortunately, if we don’t have access to the locations, they cannot be used for conservation.

iNaturalist also places geoprivacy in your hands. You can make make any of your observations obscured or even completely private, if you so choose. However, if you are uploading obscured or private observations, or are uploading observations of rare or threatened species that are automatically obscured, like the Wood Turtle example, it is likely that your observations are not fully contributing to research and conservation.

The default settings of an iNaturalist project like the Vermont Atlas of Life are such that the coordinates of any obscured or private observations actively shared with the project are visible to our team of biologists, but the coordinates of observations passively gathered by the project (any observations that are made within the state of Vermont but the observer is either not a member of the VAL project or didn’t purposely add the observation to the project) are not visible to VAL curators. This means that the coordinates of many important observations of rare and threatened species are hidden, and conservationists and researchers are unable to fully use them. There is a quick fix for this!

If you would like your obscured sightings of rare species or species of conservation concern to be accessible to professional conservationists, biologists, and researchers that work with VAL, go to our short primer on iNaturalist geoprivacy - - and learn how you can best set your geoprivacy settings for the Vermont Atlas of Life.

Posted on September 10, 2020 15:00 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 6 comments | Leave a comment

September 01, 2020

August 2020 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the August 2020 Photo-observation of the Month! His image of a perched Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi) garnered the most votes. A robust dragonfly up to two and a half inches long, it is named after the striped body and well-developed club at the end of its tail. Thanks to efforts by the Vermont Damselfly and Dragonfly Atlas, this dragonfly is turning out to be more common in Vermont than once believed. Its scattered distribution includes rivers or streams with abundant sandy or silty bottoms.

With over 18,000 photo-observations submitted by 1,576 observers in August, it was extremely competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on September 01, 2020 20:14 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September Bees to Target for Observations

Despite the cool nights and short days, there are still plenty of bees to be found. In recent years we've found male Bombus impatiens and Lasioglossum hanging on until early November. Here are a handful of identifiable bees that should be present in Vermont, though have only a few records, if any.

Andrena parnassiae - A globally rare specialist of Grass of Parnassus that we have had good luck finding in Eastern VT.

Andrena aliciae - A sunflower specialist, and the only andrena where the female has a yellow clypeus. So far unrecorded in VT, but a large dark bee that should be pretty distinctive on perennial sunflowers.

Nomada vincta - Look for this wasp-like bee on and around perennial sunflowers, where its host Andrena helianthi is often found.

Nomada banksi - This is a cleptoparasite of Andrena asteris, which is probably one of the last new species to emerge, preferring asters.

Lasioglossum fuscipenne - One of a small number of identifiable lasioglossum, males of L. fuscipenne have dark wings and orange legs. The only VT record was posted on iNaturalist on October 30th of 2019, in Chittenden County - where the VCE bee team had been searching the whole summer - goes to show how much there is still to find!
Posted on September 01, 2020 18:06 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 27, 2020

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the August Winner!

Cast your votes and be counted! You can 'fav' any observation that you like to vote for the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. Located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fav'ed an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which photo-observation has the most favs and crown them the monthly winner. Check out awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you. Vote early and often!

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's photo-observations.

Posted on August 27, 2020 18:49 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 10, 2020

July 2020 Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulation to Jo Ann Russo for winning the July 2020 Photo-observation of the Month. Perhaps the American Toad was looking for a moth meal, but instead it was a moth resting pad. The moth species is in the genus Halysidota and is either a Sycamore or Banded Tussock Moth, but one can't be sure without examining it under a microscope.

With almost 30,000 photo-observations submitted by 1,662 observers in July, it was extremely competitive. Click on the image to see and explore all of the amazing photo-observations.

We wondered if perhaps the moths were also licking moisture on the toad's skin. Some insects can be found licking at dung, carrion, wet soil, or even at animal tears and sweat. This behavior is called "puddling" and can be important for obtaining salts and amino acids. Male butterflies and moths can have higher reproductive success when they transfer salts and amino acids to the female with the spermatophore during mating as a nuptial gift, enhancing the survival rate of the eggs.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on August 10, 2020 18:16 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 06, 2020

Mission: Find and Share Observations of Squash Bees from Your Garden

Known as the Eastern Cucurbit Bee, Squash Bee or, the Pruinose Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa), is an important pollinator of cultivated crops of squash, pumpkins, and related plants in the genus Cucurbita. Females will only use cucurbit pollen to provision their young. Its range expanded as human agriculture spread throughout North America and squash plants became more abundant and widespread.

Surprisingly, it has only been recorded in five counties in Vermont. We need your help in recording the range of this species throughout the state. Finding and photographing them is easy. Just watch some squash flowers in your garden with camera in hand!

How to Find Them

Activity patterns of the bees are closely tied to the squash flowers, which open near sunrise and close before noon. The male bee spends most all of his time in and around flowers, foraging and mating in the open flowers and sleeping inside the closed flowers after noon. Have a peek inside and your likely to find one. The females live in and around the flowers until nesting season, when they live in and maintain one or more nests. You can find them gathering pollen in the morning inside of the flowers. Females dig a nest in the ground near its host plants, sometimes even in lawns. She will sometimes plug the nest just below the surface, and have a mound of dirt at the entrance. Nest building activity often occurs later in the day when the flowers close to foraging.

Report Your Discoveries to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist

Check as many squash patches as you can in your area and report your photo-observations to our iNaturalist project, and check out all the other observations too!

Posted on August 06, 2020 19:42 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 04, 2020

Tech Tip Tuesday: A Final Review

And just like that, the final Tech Tip Tuesday is upon us. Well, at least the last TTT that I will write for you. It has been a pleasure writing them every week. I have really appreciated your thoughtful questions and enthusiasm for learning about the species we share Vermont with. While this is good-bye for now, do not worry—I am not going far. You will still be able to find my observations on the Vermont Atlas of Life and I look forward to seeing all the new species you discover!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

Since this is the last week, I thought I would give you a final exam. It will be a combination of short-answer and essay questions. And yes, it is closed book.

Just kidding. However, I did think it was time to look back on the past 35 articles and highlight some that drew the most interest.

Our very first TTT was posted on October 15th 2019 and explained duplicating observations. This tool is quite useful for photos that contain multiple species, like a picture of a bee on a flower.

One popular TTT described using “places”. Place is great to use when you are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna in a particular location. Unlike iNaturalist “locations”, places are not predetermined by Google Maps. If you have a favorite park or trail, or love exploring your yard, you can create a place to help keep track of your observations.

Even the most experienced iNaturalist users need help improving their observations at times. I recommend revisiting Improving Your Observation Quality, Observation Basics, and Improving Photographs if you ever need some pointers. In these articles, I walk you through what you should consider when taking photos and some basic boxes to check before submitting.

And remember, iNaturalist is not just for pictures. You can also upload sounds! You can learn more in this TTT article.

If you are looking to learn more about a particular species, then taxa info is the place to go! Species’ taxa info pages contain pictures, resources, and graphs that will help you better understand your organism of interest. You can learn more about using taxa info from this TTT article.

Ever wonder how iNaturalist works? You can learn about the A.I. iNaturalist uses to develop its species identification in this article about computer vision.

The most popular TTT by far was Identification Resources. In this article, I provided a list of different websites and books to check out for learning more about species identification. I invited anyone with a favorite identification resource to suggest its addition to our list and you all stepped up with great ones. The offer still stands—if you have a favorite resource that you do not see on the list, please send the VAL team an email or iNaturalist message.

These articles only represent a handful of the topics I have covered on TTT over the past 10 months. You can find a complete list of all topics on the Vermont Atlas of Life website. You can also access the TTT list and identification resources from the VAL iNaturalist homepage by scrolling below our description on the right-hand side of the page.

Before I go, I will leave you with one final tip. You can access the VAL iNaturalist page on your smartphone by clicking either in the top left corner on the three horizontal lines (Android) or on the three dots at the bottom of your screen (iPhone). Once the menu pops up, click on “Projects”. You will then see a list of the projects you have joined—find the Vermont Atlas of Life. You can look through all the observations shared to VAL or you can see the news—this is where you can find TTT articles. Although the smartphone app is not quite as easy to navigate as the website, I hope this shows that you can still use it to access some of the same features.

TTT Task of the Week

This week, look through the list of old TTT articles and revisit any that jump out at you as topics to explore further. If you have favorite identification resources that are not currently on our list, please let us know. And, as always, make sure to take photos of the species you encounter and share them with the Vermont Atlas of Life.

Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity, stay safe, and happy observing!

Posted on August 04, 2020 19:08 by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2 | 7 comments | Leave a comment

July 30, 2020

August Bees to Find

While July might have been the best month for bee diversity, August brings the best chance for rare species that can be identified from photos. In addition to the many fall specialists, there are numerous kleptoparasitic species active right now (in the genera Epeolus, Triepeolus, Nomada, and Coelioxys). Look for stout bees with white or yellow bands on the abdomen. Many of the fall composites (sunflowers, goldenrod, asters, etc) are starting to bloom and should be productive through September. There is an abundant and diverse group of goldenrod and aster specialists including members of ColletesAndrena, Pseudopanurgus, Melissodes and Perdita.

Among the most wanted species for the state is Paranthidium jugatorium, an uncommon native sunflower specialist that has been photographed just a few miles over the NY border.

And if you are lucky enough to have a fen near your house, late August is the beginning of the bloom for Fen Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) which is the host plant for another rare bee - Andrena parnassiae.

Finally, here are a few plants from previous months that should still be blooming:

Thistles (especially the large flowered species) - Thistle Long-horned Bee (Melissodes despondus) which is relatively common, at least in the Champlain Valley. Also Osmia texana which is known from only one record (Centennial Woods in 1979).

Native Loosestrifes (primarily Whorled and Fringed) - host to the rare genus of Oil-Collecting Bees (Macropis) found in Williston and Addison last summer (after many hours of searching). So far in 2020 we have added records for West Haven and Springfield.

Pickerelweed - Two specialists in Vermont: Dufourea novaeangliae which is widespread and common, and Melissodes apicatus found last year in the larger marshes of Chittenden County.
Evening Primroses (Oenothera) - Lasioglossum oenotherae a relatively large Lasioglossum with large ocelli for flying at low light when primroses are blooming.

Physalis - Host to two Colletes, 1 Perdita, and 1 Lasioglossum. At least three of these bees have been found on cultivated tomatillos and ground cherries in VT, so might be in your garden!

Posted on July 30, 2020 18:33 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment