Posts Tagged ‘Project Noah’

Great catch, Great Egret!

January 29, 2012

A Great Egret (Ardea alba), a large white heron with long black legs and yellow-orange bill, spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Fellow Project Noah citizen scientist and avid birder “AshleyBradford” told me, “They’re [Great Egrets] somewhat rare in the area this time of year.” Can anyone identify the fish in the bird’s bill? I think it could be a catfish.


Editor’s Note: I consulted David Lawlor, Resource Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority, for help in identifying the fish. According to David, …

I think you are right, the fish appears to be a catfish. More precisely it appears to be a bullhead, either a Brown- or Yellow Bullhead. They are nearly impossible to tell apart without having them in hand and we have both in our park streams.

David’s tentative species identification is supported by maps showing the distribution of catfish at Fairfax County monitoring sites. Thanks, David!

Tech Tips: The lens of my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 camera was set on maximum telephoto (600 mm). The photo was cropped and adjusted using Apple “Aperture,” a professional-grade tool for organizing and adjusting photos.

Copyright © 2012 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park

December 9, 2011

I created a new local mission at Project Noah, announced via Twitter on Thursday, 08 December 2011.

You are invited to join the mission and upload spottings of dragonflies and damselflies seen at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Dodder (parasitic plant)

October 24, 2011


Dodder (Cuscuta sp.), an orange vining plant spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. With little or no (green) chlorophyll, Dodder is a parasitic plant that is dependent upon host plants for its nutrition. According to Project Noah spotters “ScottRasmussen” and “KristalWatrous,” the host plant in my photo is Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Good eyes, guys!

Related Resources:

Photo © Copyright 2011 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fossil sea snail shell

October 10, 2011


Fossil marine gastropod mollusk shell (Ecphora quadricostata) collected at the Texasgulf Aurora Phosphate Mine, Aurora, North Carolina USA. The word “costa” means “rib,” derived from the Latin word “costae.” Notice that the shell of Ecphora quadricostata has four costae (ribs). Photo 1 of 3 was annotated to highlight the four costae; Photo 2 of 3 is the original photograph.

Habitat: A relatively “shallow” sea that existed along the east coast of the United States an estimated 10- to 15 million years ago, during the Miocene Epoch.

The Aurora Phosphate Mine, formerly owned by Texasgulf Inc., is currently owned and operated by Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PotashCorp).

Editor’s Note: Are you a keen observer with eagle eyes? Did you notice I used “North Carolina” quarters to show the relative size of a fossil from North Carolina? That’s a subtle detail you may have overlooked.

Tech Tips: I just added another photo to this post. AshleyBradford, professional graphic artist and fellow Project Noah citizen scientist, used Adobe “Photoshop” to adjust the original photo after I asked about “white balance.” With a little post-processing by a pro, Ashley’s version (Photo 3) looks than much better mine (Photos 1-2). Thanks for your kind assistance, AB!

Jewelweed flowers and "fruit"

September 24, 2011

Jewelweed is a species of the plant genus, Impatiens. The following gallery features several close-up photos of Jewelweed flowers and “fruit” (seed pods) spotted during a photowalk through the “Wildlife Sanctuary,” one of seven small parks owned and maintained by the Community Association of Hollin Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.


Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is also commonly known as “Touch-me-not.” “The seed pods are pendant and have projectile seeds that explode out of the pods when they are lightly touched, if ripe, which is where the name ‘touch-me-not’ comes from.” Source Credit: “Impatiens capensis” (Wikipedia). Photo 2 of 4 is a copy of Photo 3, kindly annotated by Project Noah spotter “AshleyBradford” in order to highlight the flower buds and seed pods; Photo 3 of 4 is the original photograph. Ashley’s comment on my initial Project Noah spotting of Jewelweed piqued my curiosity about the meaning of “Touch-me-not,” which led to further discussion and a follow-up spotting. I’m eager to revisit the site to see what happens when the seed pods are touched! More later in a follow-up post. In the meantime, check out a video clip showing what happens when you touch a “Touch-me-not” (Impatiens glandulifera).

Habitat: The plant covered a broad area in a clearing of a deciduous forest, between two forks of an intermittent stream running through the park, as shown in the following photo gallery.


Barred Owl feathers

August 3, 2011

The preceding photos show a couple of Barred Owl feathers that I found last summer while walking through a residential neighborhood located beside Kirk Park, a large wooded area in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Paul Spring, a small stream, flows through the park year-round. The larger feather is ~12″ L x 2″ W; the smaller feather is ~10″ L x 1″ wide. I found the feathers in almost the same location, about a week apart. Thanks to Steffi, a Project Noah citizen scientist, for correctly identifying my unknown bird feathers!

Project Noah versus Leafsnap

June 4, 2011

Project Noah and Leafsnap: Two free apps that utilize iPhone’s built-in camera for exploring the natural world; two different solutions for field identification of fauna and flora. One app works amazingly well; the other app works, but not as well. A list of pluses and minuses for both apps follows, along with a summary of the results of my field testing and a recommendation for educators.


Project Noah

(+) Visually appealing user interface (UI) – In a word, yes. [Image 2 of 12]
(+) Built-in camera – My Noah/New Spotting/”Take new photo” (plus access to iPhone “Camera Roll”) [Images 3 and 4 of 12]
(-) Built-in field guide – The Project Noah Field Guide is not a field guide in the traditional sense of the word, rather it is more like a crowdsourced field guide. Photos and related narrative text are submitted by Project Noah “citizen scientists”: Nomenclature and content quality varies widely throughout the field guide; some groups of animals and plants are either underrepresented or not represented. [Image 5 of 12]
(-) Feedback – “Help me ID this species.” I tapped “YES”; no feedback (since 23 May 2011). [Image 6 of 12] [Editor’s Note: Images 7, 8, and 9 of 12]
(+/-) Geo-referenced data – Optional map view available (see example); photos saved to “Camera Roll” are not geotagged (see example). [Images 10 and 11 of 12]
(+/-) Option to participate in actual scientific research projects – “My Missions.” Your field observations may never be used by real scientists unless you opt to participate in one or more missions. [Image 2 of 13]
(+) Performance incentives – “My Patches,” like virtual scouting merit badges [Image 12 of 12]
(-/+) Built-in documentation and Web support – No built-in help; better Web pages than Leafsnap.
(-) Universal app/iPad version – Not available



(+/-) Visually appealing user interface – Yes. Leafsnap UI somewhat less appealing than Project Noah. [Image 2 of 12]
(+) Built-in camera – “Snap It!” (plus access to iPhone “Camera Roll”) [Image 3 of 12]
(+) Built-in field guide – Database currently features 2,620 high-resolution images of 185 tree and plant species. [Image 4 of 12]
(+) Feedback – Immediate and very reliable. Leafsnap correctly identified 8/9 trees that I tested; the second result was the correct ID for the 9th tree (a fact verified easily by comparison with field guide database). [Image 5 of 12]
(+) Option to participate in actual scientific research projects – By design, all field observations are used to build scientific database.
(+/-) Geo-referenced data – Optional map view available (see example); photos saved to “Camera Roll” are not geotagged (see example). [Images 6 and 7 of 12]
(+) Performance incentives – “Geodialist’s Collection” (“Geodialist” is my Leafsnap username) [Image 8 of 12]
(+/-) Built-in documentation and Web support – Tap “i” on any page for more information; poor Web support. [Images 9, 10, and 11 of 12]
(+) Universal app/iPad version – iPad version available (“Snap It!” doesn’t work with iPad 1.) [Image 12 of 12]


Overall, Project Noah has twice as many minuses as Leafsnap, and there are more pluses than minuses for Leafsnap. Most importantly, Leafsnap provides timely, reliable feedback while Project Noah fails to deliver this key success factor consistently.

As a former science teacher, I am conflicted by the thought of using Project Noah with students. I’m a big advocate of hands-on learning (a.k.a., learning by doing) and technology-enriched instruction. But I prefer “guided discovery” over random experimentation, that is, carefully crafted hands-on activities designed to lead students to scientifically accurate conclusions. At best — that is, with guidance from a good teacher — working with Project Noah could be a great experience for students; at worst, it could be an exercise in frustration (see Editor’s Note, shown below). Bottom line: Leafsnap is the only app I recommend for use with students. In my opinion, Project Noah is more appropriate for adults than children.

See the related blog post, Field test: Leafsnap app.

Editor’s Note: In the interest of fairly evaluating Project Noah, I re-tested the app by adding a “New Spotting” to “My Noah.” I tapped “YES” in response to the prompt, “Help me ID this species.” This time, I received two “Comments” later the same day, as indicated by the red badge on the “My Noah” page. I tapped “My Spottings”: On the “My Spottings” page, I tapped the right arrow on the first “Needs ID” spotting (that displays an icon indicating two comments); on the “Comments” page, two Project Noah participants correctly identified the plant as a Hydrangea macrophylla (Lacecap). Sounds good — that’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? A couple of questions arise: 1) What are the qualifications of the commenters? (With no disrespect intended, aren’t you naturally a little skeptical of someone who goes by the moniker, “Monkey-mind?”) There is no way to either access a commenter’s bio, or communicate directly with a commenter via Project Noah unless the commenter enabled these options in their settings. 2) What if the commenters had misidentified the plant? Not so good, and arguably worse than no feedback. (Remember the teachers’ old saw that says students must work harder/longer to unlearn misconceptions and misinformation? It’s true!) Project Noah’s highest priority should be to devise a procedure that provides timely, reliable feedback EVERY TIME a participant requests help; until this objective is achieved, I remain very reluctant to recommend its use by educators.

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