Citing specific (individual) observations: iNat vs. GBIF

I’m needing to cite a handful of specific observations (documenting interspecific attempted matings) and there appear to be two approaches.

Cite the iNat observation (suggestion from the iNat FAQ):
[Observer name]. [year of posting to iNaturalist]. iNaturalist observation: [url for observation]. Accessed on [date of access]

Or cite the GBIF record (this is the citation copied from the GBIF record):
iNaturalist contributors, iNaturalist (2024). iNaturalist Research-grade Observations. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2024-03-06.

The problem with the latter is how to handle the “in text” citation for five of these observations–I need to reference each one individually, so I can’t use the following in the text for each citation: iNaturalist contributors, iNaturalist (2024). Each one needs a unique “in-text” citation.



Wouldn’t the first work example (observer name, year) work for citing specific observations?

I think the second example is more intended for when one is using the data set as a whole (mapping distribution or visualizing phenology or whatever) and not specifically referencing individual examples. Different citation styles for different purposes.

Depending on how you are presenting your data, another option might be to assign numbers/codes to individual observations – for example, if you are compiling data from various sources and are planning to include a table with all of the individual examples and their relevant metadata (time/date/location/species involved/source credit), you could add a column with an identifying code to serve as a short reference when discussing specific examples.


That’s my impression also, but the FAQ stated that it’s preferable to cite GBIF if the observations are in GBIF (which they are). Easy enough to use the first approach is that’s preferable.

The FAQ could be modified to include this particular scenario. Currently the only scenarios are multiple records or records not on GBIF.

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the convention here would be to use 2024a, 2024b, etc; this is the standard when citing multiple works with the same author and year


I think one of the advantages of the GBIF download is that it has a DOI and is easily trackable - so iNat’s contribution can be easily quantified.

I think either way would be acceptable. If I were doing myself, I would get the GBIF set and cite it with it’s DOI as just one citation including all five observations for simplicity; include a supplementary table with the needed info for each of the five observations to cite in text as well; and then name the five observers in the acknowledgements.

Ah, so this is possible then? I’ll explore GBIF in more detail and see if I can figure out how to get that set. That would be ideal.

I think you can make a custom filter for gbif using species names and potentially observation IDs to generate a set of just a few observations. Then you have to make an account and export the data and it will give a custom DOI

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Sure enough…thanks! I was able to find the Catalog Number of each observation in GBIF and enter those numbers in the Advanced occurrence search: