iNaturalist: A Quick Guide

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is a social media network for naturalists! It is an app that works on your smartphone or computer, and can help you record and identify observations while you are out in nature, or even in your backyard. It connects you with other naturalists including beachcombers, hikers, birders, foragers, rangers, hunters, fishermen, and professional ecologists. Through crowdsourcing, iNaturalist allows everyone to learn about the flora and fauna found in their local habitats. iNaturalist hopes to create a new community awareness of local biodiversity and foster exploration of the natural world. 

How can you use it?

All you need is the app and an observation. Simply take a picture or record a sound of your observation, and then post it to the iNaturalist app or website (See step by step guide). You can add a location to the observation, even on pictures you’ve taken previously! The app is intuitive and prompts you with options if you’ve forgotten a step. Your observation is then labeled “Needs ID” until other observers can take a look and verify it. Remember, the best data is verifiable, so photos, recordings, and geolocation are the most valuable. 

Why should you use it?

iNaturalist helps create a network of amateur ecologists eager to observe and document the natural world. It gives us the power to learn more about the insects, animals, and plants in the world; even if you don’t know what something is, chances are someone else does. It aims to build a comprehensive map of flora and fauna found around the world so researchers have an accurate and verifiable database to turn to.

How to use iNaturalist, a Step-By-Step Guide:

Step 1: Take a photo, or record a sound

Step 2: Upload your observation to iNaturalist. Click ‘What did you see?’ and identify it to the best of your ability.

Step 3: Select or enter an identification. iNaturalist guesses a genus based on your photo. Clicking a suggested observation will bring up more helpful information.

Step 4: If you do not know all that much about your observation, iNaturalist helps you learn a little bit more when you upload it. This helps you confirm that you have the correct information, or gives you a launching off point for your own research.

Step 5: Add a location for your observation. Be as specific as possible in order to provide accurate information. iNaturalist has 3 options, Open, Obscured, and Private.

“Open” locations are the most accurate. “Obscured” shows a much larger area, often hundreds of square kilometers. “Private” coordinates do not show any location data publicly. iNaturalist will automatically hide the location of any endangered or threatened species.

And that’s it! When a photo is “seconded” by an interested party it is then reviewed by a scientist.  If, in their expert opinion, the identification is accurate, the information becomes a data point on the map.  You are contributing to establishing a Species Index for your area, a valuable tool for supporting Nature.