Introducing the “Australian Leaf Miners” iNaturalist Project

Are you using iNaturalist? It is one of the biggest online platforms for uploading records of observations of any thing in the natural world. If you are unfamiliar with iNaturalist, this page is an excellent read to understand how to use it .

As I embark on my PhD, I realised that there is so little information about leaf miners in Australia out there! But they are a group which can be explored by anyone who has ever picked up a leaf.

The more I learn about them the more I have become fascinated by them, and I think it’s a shame we don’t know more. I know there are people who are also interested in leaf mines (some of them have reached out to me!), so I have decided to launch the Australian Leaf Miners project on iNaturalist. Projects on iNaturalist are a good way of collating observations under a topic or theme, and will make the records easy to find for me.

In this post I will outline how to submit an observation to the project. It is intended for people who have never used iNaturalist in addition to people who are familiar with it. Happy snapping!

How to Submit an Observation to the Australian Leaf Miners Project

Firstly, you must be a member of iNaturalist to submit an observation. If it is your first time submitting an observation to iNaturalist, I suggest you follow this post about how to upload photos from your phone (through the app) or through the website. Then you can join the Australian Leaf Miners project to observations to it.

Take Photos of Your Leaf

Take photos of the leaf with the presumed leaf mine for your iNaturalist submission (I will make a post about how to tell if something is a leaf mine later).

If possible, take at least three different photos: top view (full leaf), bottom view (full leaf), and a back lit photo.

Two easy methods for taking back lit photos:

Leaf mine held up against the bright sky
Using a phone to back light a picture of a leaf mine
  • Hold the leaf (via the stem or branch) against the sky/sun. Perfect source of light!
  • Use a phone/torch/headlamp to light the leaf from behind.

A back lit photo gives a suggestion of whether a leaf miner is present, and how big it might be (useful information for my research).

Advanced: Close up photos of the “beginning” and “end” of a mine are useful too as the way a leaf miner exits the mine can be diagnostic, but this information is difficult to capture without a macro lens (I use an Olympus TG-5 camera).

Submit your observation to the “Australian Leaf Miners” project

You can add an observation to the project through one of two methods.

The Australian Leaf Miners project banner from the website

Method 1: Adding an observation by uploading it directly to the project by going to the project page as above and clicking “Add Observations”.

Method 2: Adding an observation to a project by typing in “Australian Leaf Miners” to the Projects field, often found on the bottom right hand side of the observation record.

Add additional information using the Observation Fields

A sample of some Observation Fields for this project

For every observation, there is an option to add Observation Fields. These are fields which provide useful information on host plant identity and may give clues on ecology. I have made the Host Plant ID a requirement (this is important information for identifying a leaf miner), but don’t worry if you can’t identify your plant, you can either:

a) Leave the Host Plant ID as “Kingdom: Plantae”

or

b) Upload a separate observation to get the plant identified. Useful types of photos to include for plant ID are discussed on this page. You can then link the observations by editing the description of the leaf mine observation to include a link to the plant observation, or you can use the Similar Observation Set Observation Field to link the records.

What about rearing out the larvae?

I welcome everyone to have a go at rearing out leaf miners. Whilst I personally don’t have a guide for how I rear my leaf miners out (yet), this one by Charley Eiseman is worth reading.

As for how to link your records, I suggest keeping track of timings of when individuals have pupated and emerged. I would put any larvae/pupae images on at the same observation and maybe make a separate observation for the adult. These can all be linked using the Similar Observation Set Observation Field. The method for linking observations is up to you, but the most important thing is that they are linked.

Be aware: In Australia, you must have a relevant collection permit for your state or territory which allows you to collect plant specimens (which is what leaf mines are). If collecting on private property, then you need permission from the landowner or caretakers.

If you rear out any moths then I suggest you also include your observations in the Lepidoptera Life Cycles (Australia) iNaturalist project.