What is iNaturalist? A Video Introduction and a Nutshell Explanation

So for those of you wondering… what is iNaturalist?

I'd start by watching my favorite video explaining the gist of iNaturalist and how to use it, created by Dr. Joe Hanson on It's Okay to Be Smart. Or read what's below. Or both!

So, where to start...

Have you ever caught butterflies or bugs before? Think about iNaturalist as a tool, where instead of catching something with a net and keeping it in a tank/cage, you catch it with your lens and then keep it as an observation on iNaturalist, on the web forever! It’s more friendly than actually catching a butterfly or bird, and still a lot of fun!

But wait: there’s more!

On iNaturalist, you can learn what type/species of organism you’ve observed. There’s a built-in AI (or as it's called Computer Vision) that will be able to tell you what organism you found. The AI isn't always right, and can struggle with similar species, but it usually gets pretty close. No need to spend time running through the internet to find what that plant or butterfly is called. User and beginner friendly.

But wait: there’s more!

iNaturalist isn’t just a tool; it’s a community. Other users can agree with your identifications, and add comments as well. You can find people ranging from casual birders and nature enthusiasts (like me) to Master Naturalists and academic researchers. There's even one user who has done their PhD on the systematics of the Family Polemoniaceae!
(In all seriousness, he's an incredible person, check out his profile!)

You can:

  • Talk to people within your observations
  • Get advice from other users on differentiating species and whatnot, which can be very insightful. Or you can always ask.
  • Check out other observations in your area and see what others have found! Also read discussions in other observations
  • Often those that are favorited (have a star on them) can have interesting discussions.
  • Write journal posts and view posts that other people wrote
  • Journal posts can be used to make notes or reflect on what you've found. Or they can be used to share something interesting with other people. Identification guides are common topics for journal posts as well.
  • Message people and follow them to get updates on their new observations
  • It's a good way to communicate with friends, share your findings, and help each other identify what you find!
  • Go to the iNat forum (https://forum.inaturalist.org/), where you can read and contribute to discussions, ask questions, submit bug reports, and even suggest feature requests

And a lot more.
Basically, it’s social media. For naturalists. Very cool.

One last thing!

By adding your observations onto iNaturalist, you are actually contributing to citizen science. These observations make up a giant database that can be used by scientists. There are research papers written thanks to this site.
And besides the research potential, there have been some incredible discoveries made on this site: The Dumbéa River pipefish and the recently discovered Gonolobus naturalistae are examples of that.
And who knows? Maybe you will be the next one to find an important discovery...

So yeah, that’s iNaturalist in a nutshell.
But there’s only so much that words can explain...
...so the best way is to jump on the bus and find out!


Posted on December 24, 2021 10:20 PM by arnanthescout arnanthescout


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