Ever seen a weird creature and wanted to know more about it?
iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. The iNaturalist platform is supported by the California Academy of Sciences based in San Francisco. New Zealand has its own version of the iNaturalist platform called iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao. Our local version is run by the New Zealand Bio-Recording Network (NZBRN), a charitable trust led by a team of NZ ecologists and biodiversity IT professionals.
Our local version provides a Kiwi window into iNaturalist that shows just the New Zealand observations. That way your fantails and totara observations don’t get lost in a flood of squirrels and bald eagles!
You can upload photos of any organism from the mobile app (or from your digital camera onto the website) and you’ll be connected with experts who can help to identify what you’ve seen.
Heres a quick overview of how to use iNaturalist.
Woo hoo, iNaturalist just passed the 12 million verifiable observations (of over 170,000 species) mark! Thank you to the over 300,000 observers and nearly 50,000 identifers who made this possible! #communityscience #citizenscience #nature #biodiversity pic.twitter.com/9Ytl9x1DDk
— iNaturalist (@inaturalist) August 7, 2018
Users upload an ‘observation’ containing the details of their encounter with a particular organism, or evidence of an organism such as tracks or nests. People usually upload a photo as evidence of the encounter, but its also possible to add sounds. Details associated with the observation such as time and GPS coordinates are automatically added by pulling this info from your phone or image metadata, and you can enter a large variety of additional information yourself. Observations are then added to the iNaturalist database and plotted on a map alongside other observations containing locality data. Other users may add an ID or a comment to your observation, and in this way, they can help to crowdsource an identification. iNaturalist also includes an automated identification tool which attempts to provide an ID based on image recognition, locality, and other observations nearby.
If you apply an open license to your photos, then even more people will be able to see them:
Could you add something, Tom, pointing out that if users set an open CC license for their photos (0, BY, BY-SA, not NC) the photos can, and will, be used in Wikipedia and Wikidata.
— Mike Dickison (@adzebill) August 30, 2018
Here are my 5 latest observations:
One of the coolest features is the ability to explore observations from anywhere in the world. Start by clicking the ‘explore’ link on the top of the site to be taken to this page. If you’re on iNaturalistNZ you’ll notice there is already a filter set to show observations only from NZ (which you can clear if you want to see observations from the whole world). There are lots of ways to filter the observations that pop up on the map:
- In the ‘species box’ enter a common name (e.g dog), scientific name (e.g Canis familiaris), or name of a higher level group (e.g family Canidae for all canines).
- Enter a location in the location box to see recent observations from that area
- Move between the observations, species, identifiers, or observers tab to see what has been uploaded and who has uploaded it
- Click the ‘Filters’ box next to the ‘Go’ button to narrow results down based on your preferences here
For example, lets say you want to explore tui observations in New Zealand.
- Start on the ‘Explore’ page here.
- Enter ‘tui’ into the search bar and select the first result.
- Now lets restrict the observations to those from Auckland. Type Auckland into the location box and select the first result.
- Now zoom in to a smaller area on the map, such as Rangitoto Island. Click ‘redo search in map’ so the only observations listed on the right are those you can actually see on the map.
- Now you can select an individual observation by clicking on the blue marker and then clicking on the title of the observation in the little box that pops up.
Or if you’re more interested in what you can find at a particular place you start by entering a location, and from there, filtering down to specific taxa.
For a recap of how to use iNat check out their ‘getting started‘ guide.
Maybe you’d like to record all the species around your backyard or inside your house. Maybe you want to use iNaturalist to monitor longer term biodiversity trends in a local reserve. Maybe you want to start a school or class project to give your students experience with biodiversity and identification. There are so many uses, and many community groups and individuals are already using iNaturalist in these ways and more.
So, how many species can you find?