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Adventures in Confirming

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

What is confirming??

When I heard that I would be confirming invasive species records – I thought to myself, what does that even mean? At the time, I didn’t really know what iMapInvasives was, other than I had the app and I could report these species. Soon, I learned that “confirming” meant looking at records that the public submits to iMapInvasives and verifying that it is indeed the species reported.

I thought "how cool that would be!" Being a part of the process, contributing to our knowledge of invasive species distributions, and truly making a difference. And I am! – winding down towards the end of my internship, I have already confirmed well over 1,000 records, and I can’t wait to continue on as a volunteer confirmer. It’s simple, enjoyable, and it will help keep my identification skills sharp!

Now, iMapInvasives can get hundreds of records in a week – in NY alone. There is an amazing network of conservation professionals and taxonomic experts across the state that reviews the highest priority records – but some records, particularly for common species, tend to accumulate, waiting to be confirmed. For the past year or so, volunteer confirmers have started playing a critical role to make sure records are consistently being reviewed, and the database continues to grow – but we are looking for more help!

But why should you take the time out of your day to confirm? Well, I’ll tell you!

Why Need YOU to be an iMap Confirmer

Imagine you saw a patch of Japanese knotweed along one of your favorite hiking trails, and you’ve never seen it here before. You snap a picture and send it in to iMapInvasives. Later that year, an invasive species strike team makes plans to pull out all known Japanese knotweed patches in your county – based off confirmed iMap data. However, your record has not been confirmed yet, so the team misses the big patch...

It may appear in the iMapInvasives database that an invasive species is not present in certain areas, when in fact it has been reported there, but the record has simply not yet been reviewed. This is where volunteer confirmers can make the difference. You can get on and confirm records like these to speed up the process and complement the work done by natural resource professionals. Don’t you want to help the environment and contribute in conservation efforts? This is how!

We need your help to grow the database, thus building our understanding of invasive species distributions, leading to better, more informed management decisions – ultimately facilitating efforts to protect native flora and fauna from the impacts of invasive species.

But wait! I promise it's fun!

iMap Record #1037021 Not only does volunteer confirming really help grow the database and track invasives, it is also a lot of fun to virtually explore the invasive flora of New York! I have seen some interesting things during my time confirming records. One exciting find – a possible hybrid between European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and Japanese barberry (B. thunbergii)! It has the smooth leaf edges of B. thunbergii, but the triple spines of B. vulgaris. I went to my advisors to show them, and thus began an adventure – to keep track of these records, I gathered them into an iMapInvasives project. It was very exciting, since barberry hybrids are not documented in NY, except for a couple locations. Take a look at the picture of the first record I found like this:

Photo from iMap Record #1037021

Below are some reference photos of the two species that could be parenting this hybrid, along with a map of the municipalities where these records are found. One record submitted as common barberry really stood out, and you can see to the left of the map – this barberry has clusters of 5 spines! This is definitely not common barberry – what could it be?

To view these records on the map, click here

Another exciting thing – perhaps you spot some colorful berries in the background of a garlic mustard record – could it be porcelain berry? And you find that there are no porcelain berry records nearby? You as the confirmer can help out by bringing attention to these sorts of instances. Are you looking at a record, but it’s not the species on the label? Go ahead and change it to the invasive species that it looks like or send a link if it is an observation of a native look-alike that should be removed– trust me, you will find some! But that is all part of the beauty of the public reporting invasive species.

This is all while building your plant identification skills – what could be better? Your eyes will be trained to spot these invasives wherever you go.

Getting Started

If you want to be a part of confirming, there is actually a list of species for volunteer confirmers that are easily identifiable and very common in our database – great for first timers! These species are also ones that rack up the most submissions, so it really helps to chip away at this list. Here is a big tip: you can use the MISIN training modules to fine-tune your identification skills (they really helped me! Link in Resources below).

So how do you start confirming? Go to our Confirming Handout to fill out the online form and learn more about the next steps!

Happy confirming! 😊

Top 5 Tips For confirming:

  1. Configure your map view on iMap the way you like it (filtered on the species you confirm, Unconfirmed points turned on, zoomed into your area, your favorite basemap, etc.), and Bookmark the URL! This can save a bunch of time, so you can get right to confirming when you log in!

    • The URL stores your filter and map view settings, and this will bring you back to exact view and filter every time (note – be sure to log into iMap for the best results!)

    • Tip: Turn off layers while filtering and moving around to increase loading speed

2. Use the *NEW* presence tab in the filter tool to filter on only records with photos.

3. Use identify and measure tool to view all data within a drawn area.

We recommend having less than 100 records within your identified area for optimum performance

4. Have a couple species you’re really good with? Interested in a particular area? Set up an Email Alert to get notified when unconfirmed records are uploaded so you can confirm them!

  • Alerts can be immediate, daily, or weekly

  • Example – One of my Alerts: I am very familiar with wild parsnip & Japanese barberry, and would like to know when they are observed in my county. Alerts are sent directly to my email of these unconfirmed submissions in Schenectady County, every Monday

5. Keep a document with a running list of links to problem records (send to every couple of weeks)

  • Records that were actually native species, and should be removed

  • Records that seem odd (like the possible barberry hybrid!)

Additional Resources for Confirmers


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