Clarity on Place search behavior

I’m trying to understand the behaviour of Place search on iNat: if I search for “Yellowstone National Park” on the Explore page, I’m shown a map area defined by a square, which I assume contains the actual area of the national park, but surely doesn’t track the boundaries of it.


I also see that Yellowstone National Park also exists as a Place, although I’m unclear about the origin and the boundaries of this area:

To start with, what’s the effect/benefit of creating a new polygon-based Place (based on Will this result in the Explore page populating observations within the polygon-defined area?

Thank you


This was based on a boundary given to iNat by the NPS when we collaborated with them in 2016. Scroll to the bottom of the page:

Creating a new place for Yellowstone wouldn’t have any benefit and would have a cost.


Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that iNaturalist “Places,” which are defined by users, are used only by the “place” filter (and any projects with a named “place”). This is completely separate from the “location” box on the primary Explore page, which uses only locations recognized by Google Maps. In Explore, you can specify a Location if it exists in Google Maps. Or, you can go to Filters and specify a Place. If you do both, I think the Place overrides the Location, but I’m not sure.


isn’t quite correct.

Per the help documentation

posted above:
“When you type a term into the “Location” search field, iNaturalist returns results from Google Maps. When you click on one of those results, iNaturalist first tries to match it with any existing iNaturalist Place. If it can’t do that, then it will draw a rectangle around the location that Google sends us for that place, to at least get you to the correct area, which you can then refine further”


Good to know, @cthawley, thanks!

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What’s interesting is that Yellowstone NP is a Place on iNaturalist (actually a standard place). Unfortunately the matching there isn’t great.

Personally I use the header search if I want to search for observations in a Place.