Add time zone chooser to the web uploader

Here in NZ, where we only really have the one zone… but then there are the Pacific Islands I guess… so I figure it is only going to be a small number of observers that strike the need for this, but the flip side is that calculating offsets and so on is going to be too much of a challenge for the majority that experience this, so I see a real need for it. I can remember when I first had to learn to do time zone offsets, it was tricky, and I have a mathematically capable brain (some models apparently don’t come with that feature!)


Good idea. By time zone chooser, do you mean a drop-down list of the world’s time zones and abbreviations or a small map that shows the time zones that you’d click on? I would think that iNat can already get a pretty good guess at the time zone based on the coordinates of our observations, right? Why not have iNat suggest it for you automatically if it detects a difference between your default computer’s time zone and the time zone at the coordinates of your observation. With the exception of some disputed border areas, isn’t there just one time zone per location on a given date?


there are up to 6 hours difference from one side of N America to the other, up to 2 hrs dif. in parts of Australia, at least 3 hrs play in the EU… and I have uploaded shots from a few of them never noticing what time zone they were going under. Turns out it was set on Hawaii time when I live in Aus. 151 observations later, I’m not likely to change them but have now set my auto to Aus Central

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I failed to reset the clock on my camera on a recent trip to Brazil. My default time zone/place of residence is California so the default time zone designation for me is “PDT.” With the first 140 observations I uploaded via the website uploader, I manually changed the time to the current local time in Mato Grosso, Brazil where I took the photo. I deleted “PDT” and did not replace it since I was not sure what the correct designation would be. When I viewed my uploaded observations, I found that “PDT” had been re-inserted automatically which meant the time I entered manually was wrong. I found I could edit each observation manually and choose a different time zone in the drop down menu, but had to choose from a limited list of cities in various time zones. I chose Atlantic time (Canada) which is the same offset from UTC, but that meant “ADT” showed up on the observation and that is wrong. Then I chose Caracas and instead of “ADT” I got “VET” which is not really correct for Brazil–according to, the proper designation is “AMT” for Amazon Time. I tried batch edit for all of the observations, but choosing a new time zone caused all the times to change and since I already manually changed the times, the new times were wrong. As I continue to upload observations, I plan to leave the time stamp time with the PDT designation and if someone wants to know what time of day I made the observation, they will have to convert from PDT to the local time of the observation location.

So I’m a little confused here. Once the web uploader is told the geographic location of the observation (either manually or from EXIF geotags), it should automatically know the time zone where the observation was taken, and be able to apply that to the observation without any user intervention.

What the web uploader won’t know is whether the user remembered to change the time on their data collection device (smartphone, DSLR camera, etc.) to match the local time where they were, or left it set on their “home” (or some other) time. In that case, one would want to be able to tell the uploader, no, the time on this observation was not local time, it was from time zone X instead. Once it knows the correct time zone to associate with the time recorded on the observation, then it could automatically adjust to the local time zone of the observation, or the user’s home time zone, or whatever time zone they prefer.

So where a time zone chooser would be needed, I’m thinking, is associated with a question, what time zone does the displayed observation time represent?, with the default being the local time zone of the observation (once location is known).

Is this already what you had in mind, and I’m just overthinking it?

It seems to me that the time zone set in the user’s account setting should only affect how observation times are displayed, not how the data are interpreted at upload. Otherwise that makes things very confusing. And there should also be an option, as part of that same account setting, to always display times using the local time of the observation, instead of having to pick a single time zone for all of one’s observation.

Alas, it does not. Coincidentally, I found some photos from my Mexico trip that I had never uploaded, and uploaded them the other night, totally forgetting to change my account’s time zone, leading to:

image Time to do some batch editing…

I think this is a good idea, but I’ll need to ask our developers about implementation.

I think I saw this originally but know I forgot to comment. I think the automatic application of time-zone to an observation based on location (if a time-zone is not supplied by the metadata) is preferable to getting the time zone from a user’s preference. I know when I enter a new time-zone I realize my device/photos have the wrong value and adjust it appropriately and then the time-zone too because they go together. I wouldn’t pay attention to my account settings nearly as much.

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I’m confused about what to do when metadata holds a date and time different than my own timezone. Do I not do anything, or do I have to manually change the timezone on the observation?

Welcome to the forum!
If it’s not too many observations, I would think a manual adjustment would work Okay. It does sound like there’s a desire for a batch utility when dealing with volumes of observations. I’m curious to see if someone has hit on a better way.

Thank you. Yes, an occasional adjustment would be okay. But say I’ve come back from a trip with hundreds of photos to upload . . . Well, to tell the truth, the majority of the photos on my hard drive waiting to be uploaded at this point are outside of my time zone.

The correct time is that recorded by the camera at capture, and GPS is recorded as well. Would seem that the easiest, most accurate way is to automate with capture settings taking priority.

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Pending resolution of this feature request, my recommendation would be to

  1. divide your pending photos into batches by time zone.
  2. if it’s possible that you forgot to change the time in your camera to the local time for some of them (I do this way too often!), make sure they are in the time zone batch for the time actually recorded with the photo, even if not the local zone.
  3. manually change the time zone setting in your user profile to match the time zone of the batch you are about to upload.
  4. Upload the batch.
  5. Remember to change your user setting back to your local time, unless you are about to do another batch.

Clunky for sure, but it beats trying to edit them after the fact.

For any that were originally recorded with a time other than the local time, I’m hoping that this feature request will eventually result in a way to batch-edit time zone, and have the actual time automatically change to match the new zone. Otherwise currently one has to manually edit both the time zone and the time.


See this discussion here. I’d be for it, personally.

I see, thank you! I will try that next time (temporarily changing my home time zone setting when uploading).

Well, I seem to have a lot of observations already uploaded now that have the correct time but wrong time zone. Yes, if the feature request comes in, it would be nice to batch-change observations already uploaded. I guess I’ll just leave them as-is for now and fix them later when the site gets easier to manipulate the time zone/capture time?

Just wondering what you mean by the “correct time” here. Correct at the location of the observation, or correct for the (erroneous) time zone being displayed?

If it is the first issue (correct local time, just wrong time zone), there is already a way to batch-change just the time zone.

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Thanks for asking. I mean that the metadata from the photo has the correct time at the location where it was taken, so, yes, correct time at the location of the observation. Example from an actual observation below.
Observed: Aug 5, 2015 · 12:28 PM JST

The time is consistent with the metadata, but was shot in Peru, not Japan. So, “JST” is wrong. It was just after noon on August 5 in Peru. I’m in Japan now, where I uploaded it to

So in case you or others are curious, here are the steps to fix the time zone on observations like this:

  1. On the web site, from your Dashboard page, click the “Observations” tab just below your username toward upper left. For your observations, that should take you to
  2. Next to the “Batch Edit” tab, first click on the Search tab. Using a combination of place and date information, you should be able to narrow down the observations to the ones you need to change. (Or you might have to do this in a few batches.) Click the blue Search button below to apply the selected filter(s).
  3. When you have the set you want, click Batch Edit. Empty check boxes will appear next to the chosen observations.
  4. Next to the “Edit Selected” button, click Select All. If any of the observations need to be excluded from the change, uncheck them individually.
  5. Click Edit Selected.
  6. At top, click Batch Operations.
  7. You will see a drop-down list for time zones. Pick the correct time zone (but leave the date/time box blank directly above), and hit the blue Apply button directly below. The dates and times will be left alone, and only the time zone will change.
  8. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click Save All.

Now, if we could just get an optional “Adjust Date/Time” checkbox next to the time zone dropdown, that would address the situation where the time is incorrect. If time is incorrect but time zone is already correct, then it would just take two iterations to first adjust the date/time, then restore the correct time zone.


Thank you! That was a perfectly detailed explanation, easy to follow. I just changed about 100 observations in 2 minutes. Very helpful!

The link you gave of my observations was also helpful. I don’t usually see that version of my observation page. Usually I click on Your Observations at the top left, next to the iNaturalist logo. That version of the page doesn’t have the Batch Edit button. I am still pretty new here and getting used to all of the website’s capabilities.


With the new “timezone offset” solving part of the problem, it would be extremely convenient if that could also include a “change timezone” button too. Or even better, a combination of these things so when you are offsetting time, it tells you what timezone that matches and updates the observation appropriately.

Closing, now that we’re automatically assigning time zones.