Biodiversity Exploration

Step-by-Step Online Course

Doesn’t it sound cool to be a “Biodiversity Explorer”? Did you know that you can be one? You don’t need a PhD in Biology. Right now, you have the power to teach yourself and to discover more than you thought you had the power to know. How? Get outside, go to a local natural area and observe nature and study it.

Recent developments in technology, such as the creation of iNaturalist, have revolutionized biodiversity exploration. Now everyday citizens have the power to identify organisms like never before. A person with a PhD in botany may be able to identify plants in a particular region with ease but may not know the first thing about identifying moths. In this sense, the PhD doesn’t do the person any good. In this sense, a 30 year-old with a PhD is essentially on the same level of knowledge about moths as a 17 year old high school graduate. iNaturalist helps citizen scientists to be able to overcome many of the hurdles in biodiversity exploration that existed just a few years ago.

The Southeastern grasslands are home to more species of grassland-dependent plants and animals than the entire Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada combined. Yet, many of the South’s grasslands remain poorly explored. We don’t know basic information such as how many species of bees inhabit a given prairie? What wildflower species are found in a particular savanna ecosystem? What lichens are found in a particular glade type. SGI needs volunteers to get out there and begin exploring the Southeastern landscape, scouring the land in search of grassland remnants, and having a great time exploring while simultaneously documenting the plants, animals, and fungi of our last remaining grassland ecosystems.

This page and the numerous links below walk you through how you can learn how to find and explore our Southeastern grasslands and document their amazingly diverse flora and fauna. Get out there….

 Former Austin Peay State University graduate student, Chris Mausert-Mooney, explores riverside sandstone boulder barrens along the Big South Fork River, Scott Co., Tennessee.

Former Austin Peay State University graduate student, Chris Mausert-Mooney, explores riverside sandstone boulder barrens along the Big South Fork River, Scott Co., Tennessee.

 
 
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Lesson 1: introduction to biodiversity documentation.

Why is biodiversity documentation important? How do you get started?

 
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Lesson 2: How to find a project on the inaturalist website

Can I use my computer to find an existing grassland project?

 
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Lesson 3: How to find a project with the inaturalist mobile app

Can I use my smartphone to locate a grassland project near me?

 
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Lesson 4: how to recognize grasslands on the ground

I’d love to help SGI document grasslands, but how do I even know what a natural grassland is and how to identify one?

 
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Lesson 5: How to create a new inaturalist place

If I find a particular grassland or group of grasslands that I want to study, how can I create a new iNaturalist project? How do I first create an iNaturalist “place”?

 
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Lesson 6: create a new inaturalist project

If I find a particular grassland or group of grasslands that I want to study, how can I create a new iNaturalist project?

 
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Lesson 7: how to document a grassland with inaturalist

When I step into a grassland, I feel like I’m overwhelmed by all the different kinds of plants. Is there a way I can break down this task to make it easier and not so overwhelming?

 
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Lesson 8: how to make research-quality observations in inaturalist

Are there guidelines I should follow when it comes to photographing species to make sure I am making observations that will be useful to the scientific and conservation communities?

 
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Lesson 9: How to upload inaturalist observations

After taking photos, how do I upload my observations into the iNaturalist database?