Thursday, January 1, 2015

This blog has moved!

We've flicked the switch and turned on a Wordpress version of this blog,

We're back filling it with the news stories and important NatureWatch NZ observations from 2014 that we posted on Facebook, as an archive. Then our sights will be set on 2015 and lots of new nature watching goodness.

In a few days we'll turn this site into a single post redirecting to the new site.

Thanks and Happy New Year to your all.

Jon Sullivan (for the NatureWatch NZ team)

Monday, October 13, 2014

NatureWatch NZ is going global with

This week NatureWatch NZ is merging under the hood with iNaturalist, so that we can combine all of the global power of iNaturalist with the home grown NatureWatch NZ online community.

You can read all about it at

And, you may have noticed that we've been paying vastly more attention to NatureWatch NZ and our Facebook page than this blog. That will all change soon enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

NatureWatch NZ down briefly for a server upgrade.

If you're wondering why NatureWatch NZ is not loading, and it's the middle of the day on Tuesday 17 June, it's because our NZ web hosting company is doing a big upgrade of their servers. We'll be back online soon. Thanks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Media release: Citizen science crowd-sources nature watching

We just sent out a press release highlighting some of the successes of NatureWatch NZ in its first year of operation and celebrating our milestone of 50,000 photos of NZ species. You can see the press release over on the Scoop website. I've also copied it here. Many thanks to our media man, Greg Comfort, for putting this together.

Subject: Citizen science crowd-sources nature watching

Release date: Friday, 1 November 2013

Citizen science crowd-sources nature watching and discovers new stuff!

The New Zealand citizen science website NatureWatch NZ is celebrating over a year of people reporting their staggering variety of natural history discoveries.

Since it launched in August 2012, replacing a clunky 2006 predecessor, it has amassed over 32,343 records made by more than 540 observers. This week it passed the milestone of 50,000 photos online, including the very first photos added to the internet of many native invertebrate and fungi species.

NatureWatch NZ is dedicated to building a record of nature in New Zealand. It lets anyone add an observation of anything natural they've spotted anywhere, in the wild or the town, in the air, on land, or in the water. Observations with photos can then be identified and verified by a network of experienced amateur and professional experts involved in the project – and increasingly by the wider NatureWatch NZ online community.

The observations are building a vast storehouse of useful information about all species in the New Zealand environment, from birds to plants to insects to fungi. With the website getting around 100,000 page views per month, it’s becoming one of the most popular environmental science sites in New Zealand.
So what use is this vast collection of nature watching?

For a start, it crowd sources the collection of data in the same way that the SETI project helps look for life out in the stars. Instead of only a handful of scientists making observations, it spreads the load by letting anyone add an observation of something they've seen. And over 14,151 comments from members have added to the value of the observations. By doing so they provide a fantastic resource for scientists and researchers in NZ and around the world.

It’s also a valuable tool for environmental managers and biosecurity staff to monitor changes in wildlife and other biodiversity. In just one year, the NatureWatch NZ community has already discovered a new native moss species and recorded a handful of insects and fungi not previously known to be in New Zealand, plus inter-island range expansions of some pest insects.

Most crucially, it engages more people in being observant and informed about the world around them at a time when, more than ever, we need to understand and manage our environment more sensitively and sustainably.

Ecologist Colin Meurk says the website has created one of the most useful research tools he's seen. "NatureWatch NZ is more than just a website - it's a veritable treasure trove of fascinating, bizarre and surprising truths about our country. It draws people into the social medium aspect, making it fun to satisfy our natural curiosity; and perhaps it inoculates us against the modern diseases of virtual reality, environmental disconnect and Louv's nature deficit disorder. It combines our love of nature and technology."

Lincoln University ecologist Jon Sullivan used NatureWatch NZ in Lincoln’s biological diversity course this year. “Until now, nothing our students saw in their assignments was kept. With NatureWatch NZ, our students put all their observations online where their identifications are verified or corrected. Our students have easily added more observations to the internet of local animals and plants than everyone else in the last twenty years combined. Now we can really start to watch how nature is changing.”

NatureWatch NZ is run by the New Zealand Bio-Recording Network Trust, a charitable trust dedicated to recording the natural history of New Zealand, with funding from the New Zealand Government and other supporters like the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust. It is led by a group of New Zealand biodiversity scientists and biodata IT specialists, in collaboration with the open source iNaturalist project from California. The Trust is now trialing the use of NatureWatch NZ in schools, where it can make every teacher a biodiversity expert.
To see the website in action, please visit

Some stand-out observations:

Released Tui named "The Bishop" spotted alive and well
Marine life makes home in old post hole
Tiny wasp released in Nelson in 1921 in a failed biocontrol introduction was rediscovered in Auckland
In July this year, the fourth record of the American gull, the Franklin’s gull, in New Zealand
In April this year, the big Noddy Flycap mushroom discovered in an urban Christchurch reserve, the first record for Canterbury, the second for the South Island, and the tenth collection ever in the world:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The NZ natural history revolution continues

We've been having a bit too much fun lately on NatureWatch NZ to be regularly updating our blog (our Facebook page has been noting some of the most amazing discoveries). With so much going on, I thought some of you might be interested in the latest stats on NatureWatch NZ. In summary, it just keeps on growing.

Since our launch in late August 2012, 548 people have now added 32,343(!) observations of 5,004(!) New Zealand species and higher taxa. Of those, 25,915 observations include photos, and since one observation can contain many photos, those fine 548 people have added an amazing 50,128 photos. We just passed that milestone of 50,000 photos this past week. That's over 50,000 photos of NZ species, many the first photos ever added to the internet of a species.

Observations become "research grade" when someone else agrees with an observation, something that is usually only possible when there's an included photo. Of the 25,915 observations with photos, we already have 14,417 at "research grade". The quality of observations keeps increasing as more people use the site and correct identification errors.

Another measure of how vibrant the NatureWatch NZ online community has become is the comments on observations. Since launch, NatureWatch NZ users have made 14,151 comments on observations. Some of the discussions have been fascinating, others funny.

Our other easy measure of how useful and successful NatureWatch NZ is becoming is how many people visit the website (including people who use the site but don't sign in and add observations). Since launch, a whopping 84,357 unique visitors have made 144,972 visits and in total made 891,831 page views. One million page views, here we come! On average, visitors stay for just over five minutes and look at just over six webpages.

I still feel like this is very early days for what is possible with NatureWatch NZ. There's so much new to discover about NZ nature. We're especially keen to involve more schools in this discovery, and are looking forward to being a central part of the big Nina Valley EcoBlitz next March. We're also keen to expand on the monitoring capabilities of the site (our bulk upload feature will be greatly expanded very soon). Plus, we're at about the stage where some serious science can be attempted with the data. Regardless, it's been a terrific start. Thanks to everyone who's been part of it. Onwards and upwards!

Before I return to NatureWatch NZ, I'll leave you with this amazing wingless crane fly, discovered in Christchurch's Travis Wetland by grahame, posted on NatureWatch NZ as "ID Please", and identified by local entomologist Peter Johns as a male Gynoplistia species (probably Gynoplistia pedestris.).

Monday, July 15, 2013

NatureWatch NZ in schools

Today we're at the BioLive conference of New Zealand biology teachers. We'll be demonstrating the potential of NatureWatch NZ in schools and getting teacher feedback on what they would like us to develop to help them. Our workshop at the conference is being led by our education coordinator Shane Orchard, from the board of our charitable trust, and Marie McDonald, a current Lincoln University Master of Science student and trained teacher.

You can see the slides of Shane and Marie's presentation here. We'd welcome any feedback in the comments about how you think NatureWatch NZ could best fit into New Zealand schools.

Our work scoping out the use of NatureWatch NZ in schools is kindly funded by the Brian Mason Science and Technical Trust.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Celebrating 20,000 observations in 8 months since launch

It's time to get the sausage rolls out of the oven and the champagne out of the fridge. NatureWatch NZ just surged past its 20,000th observation added since it launched on 27 August 2012. It seems like just over a couple of months ago that NatureWatch past our 10,000 observation milestone. Oh wait. It was!

Our 20,000th observation was of an as yet unidentified spider in a web on a barberry, the 47th observation added by Charles Fryett.

Our online community is growing strongly with those 20,000 observations coming from 399 observers (almost twice the number of people who added the first 10,000). They have added observations of an impressive 3,553 taxa (taxa includes species and higher taxa like genus and family when a species has not been identified). NatureWatch NZ now contains 22,324 photos, attached to 15,013 observations. We're fast becoming an online treasure chest of NZ biodiversity observations, including more of the first photos of some species ever added to the internet (as found with Google searches).

NatureWatch NZ is now a vibrant online community for identifying and discussing New Zealand natural history. And it's not just people observing and commenting on observations. In the past month, 8,909 unique visitors made 107,776 page views. That means "a lot" in web stats language, for a biodiversity website. And those web stats are growing steadily. We're really pleased at how well the new website is being used this soon after our transition from our clunky legacy NZBRN website.

It's a great start, and still just the tip of the iceberg for what we can all contribute to knowledge of NZ nature.