What the Herp?
May 23, 2019 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Hello! My name is Fitch. I’m a bot (v4.0) learning to ID reptiles & amphibians in pics. Tweet @WhatTheHerp for IDs. Report sightings to http://HerpMapper.org to help.

Fitch's Most Wanted:
Fitch needs as many images as possible to develop its identification skills, and we have set a goal of 250 records per species to start. The "Wanted List" will be continually updated as the goal for a specific species is met - only the species nearest to this goal are shown.
I’ve been updated, test my skills with turtles on #WorldTurtleDay. (May 23rd)
posted by jillithd (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
note: there's a pretty graphic picture of a dead snake a couple tweets down on the timeline for the bot.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:07 PM on May 23

Hi! Reptile identification bot Fitch v4.0 here with your results! That's a 1-eyed trouser snake, and I'm telling your mother.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:24 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]

I saw a good-sized turtle on the path where I walk last weekend - I will keep my eyes peeled for more!
posted by thelonius at 2:50 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

Not trying to be a downer, and as a certified master naturalist, I can appreciate the drive to write such a program (or have it write itself?)

However I feel like we already have an immense human learning gap, and immense human alienation when it comes to the natural world.

I think this is the bigger problem, and there are organizations like Inaturalist.org attempting to embody the knowledge of the natural world, ensconced in universities, or hidden in dying native languages, back into the local human beings who can feel empathy, and act to save the land that supports them in this time of extinction.

I would hope that a project like this would be able to interface with an internationalist, cooperative, human learning project like inaturalist in a way that benefits local people, and helps them embed themselves in their landscape, rather than teaching machines to do something that should be an essential part of The Human Experience, and teaching people that learning about their natural world is an inconvenience, like a commute or laundry.

Tl;dr I spend a lot of my day trying to teach humans this stuff, including all of the inherent values that come with actual humans learning to make the observations and assessments, so this kind of thing is alienating, and just seems like Skynet until proven otherwise.

I invite you all to sign up for an Inaturalist account, and learn from your local herpetologist. Take a risk, Invest in humanity.

As we say on metafilter, thanks for listening to my Ted talk.
posted by eustatic at 2:53 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]

Oh and if you're in the United States I invite you to sign up for your local master naturalist program! It is probably run through your local Agricultural Extension Office or local University , and It's a fun way to get outside.
posted by eustatic at 2:57 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

I say post photos of traffic signs. Then we can use it to defeat Captchas!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 3:16 PM on May 23

I love and use iNaturalist -- but I also understand I am training an automated classification system when I use it. I don't think that's a bad thing.

I was surprised to learn that though there are competing herp apps.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:20 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

I appreciate eustatic's invocation of Skynet. And even if the rise of the machines were guaranteed never to happen, I would still want to know why we should feel obliged to contribute to the mass vacuuming up of human cognitive labour that machine learning entails. I can't think of it as a public service, nor as a form of citizen science. It's unwaged labour, contributing to a jobless future.
posted by Morpeth at 3:46 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

Kind of want to discover a new lizard and name it herpderpbuttereater.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:11 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

I use iNat, PARS (Pennsylvania herp survey), and odonatacentral.org (dragonflies and damselflies). I do not especially adore herps or go looking for them but I do run into them in the course of other pursuits and, where possible, I submit them to the record.

For example, on May 19, I submitted the following to iNat: slimy salamander, longtailed salamander, eastern garter snake, eastern milk snake, common snapping turtle, pickerel frog, american toad, northern watersnake.

At no time on May 19 was I actually LOOKING for herps (I restacked my woodpile and wandered around the lake shore looking for dragonflies and exuvia) but I usually have a camera handy when I'm out and if I see 'em, I photograph 'em and submit 'em.
posted by which_chick at 4:17 PM on May 23

eustatic: thanks for the tip, I just signed up! I'm lucky to live in a place where I am perpetually delighted and fascinated by the numerous flora and fauna I encounter, and have been slowly trying to up my identification skills on my own. Inaturalist seems like it will be a great supplementary way of extending the time I spend outdoors into a collective space; I can already see that my local area is very active on the site--and this'll encourage more attention on my everyday walks as well. Yay!

As for the original link, my partner is a herpaphile if I ever met one and while I too fear our coming AI overlords, I know he will delight in having a robot respond to his turtle pics and thus will forward accordingly. Thanks, jillithd!
posted by youarenothere at 4:32 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

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