Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Spotted on iNaturalist: Our Staff's Favorite Observations

Did you know that April is Community Science Month?

It’s no secret that we’re big proponents of community science, especially using a beginner-friendly app like iNaturalist!

Each observation contributes to park research and helps maintain ecological integrity in our natural spaces.

Not to mention the interesting and unusual species we’ve seen along the way!

Check out some of our staff’s favorite iNaturalist observations:

parasitoid wasp (Abundantly decorated)

Observed on August 14, 2021 by Acting Assistant Park Superintendent Mark Read at Murphys Point Provincial Park.

Mark made a great discovery last August! Here is the story of him:

“I’m no expert, which is one of the reasons I love using iNaturalist.

“And sometimes, just sometimes, you see something really exciting, like this parasitoid wasp, Decorated amblopliso, in Murphys Point in 2021.

“With no records published outside the states of Florida, Idaho and New York, this is apparently the first record for Canada!”

Common hop (humulus lupulus)

Observed on August 22, 2018 by biologist Brian Jackson in Quetico Provincial Park.


Brian’s most memorable iNaturalist observation occurred on a hot August 2018 Common Hops day (humulus lupulus) along the Wawiag River in Quetico:

“Hops are very rare in this part of the world, and the silty banks along the Wawiag are their only known location in Quetico.

“But the real reason this was special was that I was in this area with three members of the Lac La Croix First Nation. The mouth of the Wawiag was the site of an ancient First Nations village before it was removed a century ago and members, including relatives of the people it was with, were forced to relocate.

“The site had originally been chosen for the community because of the rare medicinal plants found there. This was the first time that a member, Jessica, visited this area where her ancestors were born and lived.

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“Being with her and her father as we found these unique medicinal plants was a special experience for all of us and I was honored to be a part of it.”

red spruce (spruce rubens)

Observed on March 29, 2022 by park naturalist Quinten Wiegersma in Algonquin Provincial Park.

Quinten saw something out of his normal distribution:

“This is an observation of red spruce in Algonquin, which is a tree with a primarily Appalachian and Maritime distribution, which is quite cryptic and overlooked in this part of its range.

“It has often been called ‘the Mystery Algonquin Tree’ as we don’t really know much about its habits in the park! This is also true for Ontario as a whole, as we still have a lot to learn about its status in the province.

“This species exemplifies the power of community science platforms like iNaturalist, because a very interesting distribution is beginning to take shape on the observation map, and there is still much more to find!

“I use iNaturalist to document this species for my work by searching and mapping its stands. “This particular tree is part of a large stand I just found and, as far as I know, has not been officially documented before.”

Arabesque Orb Weaver (neoscona arabesque)

Observed on August 8, 2017 by Area Marketing Specialist Tanya Berkers in Pinery Provincial Park.


Tanya found this unfortunate Arabesque Orbweaver during a plant study:

“It is being eaten by a parasitoid, probably the larva of a type of ichneumonid wasp. The wasp larva will feed on its host until it is time to pupate.

“In some species, the wasp manipulates the host spider to create a special type of web that protects the wasp as it continues to develop. Unfortunately, the story does not end well for the spider.”

Round White Fish (Cylindrical prosopium)

Observed on October 25, 2018 by Chief Park Naturalist Peter Simons in Algonquin Provincial Park.

fishing by boat

While volunteering at the Harkness Fisheries Laboratory (MNDMNRF), Peter was excited to see a very interesting and remarkable species of fish coming from the deep:

“In the fall, Harkness conducts an annual fall index netting of spawning lake trout in Algonquin’s largest lake: Lake Opeongo. Networking is done to better understand the spawning behavior and general ecology of lake trout.

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“Sometimes, while lake trout are caught, for the purpose of processing and releasing them for study, other species or ‘bycatch’ are also caught. Species like Brown Bullhead and Lake Whitefish are no surprise.

“A much less common catch is the round whitefish, a species found only in a select number of cold, very deep lakes and rivers in North America. This species is a close relative of the Lake Whitefish, but has a golden color and a notable round body shape.

“Seeing this individual on a snowy October night being tossed around a small Boston whaler-type boat was exciting, and upon submitting it to iNaturalist I discovered that only 15 other observations had been made. globally!

“This species and the fish native to Algonquin waters are a testament to how special these cold-water environments are in an increasingly warming climate.”

Blue-fronted dancer (Apical clear)

Observed on August 15, 2021 in Pinery Provincial Park by Killarney Provincial Park Head Park Naturalist Kathleen Chayer.

The safest way to hold a dragonfly is to gently grasp its wings, as shown

Last summer, while Kathleen was acting as a resource management lead at Pinery, the staff had a little challenge from Odonata (devil horses and dragonflies):

“The Discovery staff at Pinery was trying to see how many ‘odes’ species we could find and document on iNaturalist.

“This competition meant that we were all quite motivated to try to properly document each species, which can be tricky for something like a damselfly, because you need to be able to provide photographs of features like its pincers and the tips of its wings.

“What I love about this observation, however, is all the help I received from other iNaturalist users: people who have written field guides on odes, colleagues from other agencies in Ontario, and people I had never met before.

“These are people that even a few years ago, I might never have been able to get in touch with to help me with identification.”

You too can contribute to community science!

Discharge iNaturalist today and start watching.

Need a little more guidance? Take a look at our step by step guide to help you get started.