How does a marketing seasonal end up identifying frogs at 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July? Well, I’m an unofficial part-time naturalist.
Working at Cleveland Metroparks for two years has taught me so much about Cleveland and nature When I work in the marketing department, I have to immerse myself in information and open my vocabulary to words that I never knew before. Suddenly “all purpose trails”, “invasive species”, and “biodiversity” are words and phrases that I know intimately, because we have to be able interpret them for programs, social media and for you.
That brings me back to the original question; how does a marketing seasonal end up indentifying frogs on the Fourth of July? It all starts with a Facebook message.
I spend a lot of time monitoring Cleveland Metroparks Facebook and Twitter accounts on my computer, my phone, while I’m in line at the grocery store, where ever. We pride ourselves in a high level of engagement and connecting with you, our park users. We want to answer your questions and concerns or at least connect you with someone who knows. Occasionally, someone sends a picture of a “butterfly” in their backyard or a tree they saw on a hike. But let’s face it; I can’t tell the difference between a frog and toad.
It’s hard to imagine there was a time where information wasn’t readily available at my fingertips. So, I’d like to share with you a few tips to help you identify plants and animals using the internet.
This is Lloyd. He lives on my coworker's porch and likes to eat beetles.
1. Take a clear picture: When you take a picture, try to get as much of the animal as possible in the picture. Take note of coloration, stripes or markings, because these will help you identify animals. If you are identifying flowers or trees, take note of leaf shape and number of leaves.
This is a good picture of Lloyd because it shows his markings, making it easier to identify.
2. Search: Start with looking for animals native to Northeast Ohio. When doing a search try typing “animals native to Northeast Ohio” in your search bar or specifics if you know them (“frogs to Northeast Ohio”). Choose a website preferably with a .org url or .gov because they are more of a reputable source. The Ohio Department of Nature Resources (www.ohio.dnr) is a great source!
3. Identify: Some websites have identifying tools or features. They make it easier to identify the animals or plants you are looking for. If you are having difficulty finding it, consider that it might be an invasive species, like garlic mustard or zebra mussels or it might be a migratory animal that isn’t native to Ohio like Snowy Owls or Brown Pelicans.
4. Compare and contrast your picture(s) with the websites picture(s).
5. If all else fails, send your picture to Cleveland Metroparks Ask a Naturalist. The Ask a Naturalist Blog is a place where you can submit any of your questions or pictures to naturalists throughout our Park District. Make sure to leave a description with as many details as possible, including where you were. Our naturalists will help you identify the plant or animal.
Using these methods, I was able to help my coworker identify what type of toad Lloyd is. He's an Eastern American Toad, which is very common. You've probably have seen a lot of little Lloyds hopping around North Chagrin Nature Center, Rocky River Reservation and Brecksville Reservation.
There are all sorts of animals and plants in Cleveland Metroparks. Following these steps will help you on your path to becoming a nature expert. If you want to develop your skills, hit the trails, discover nature and come out and play in Cleveland Metroparks!