Complete Observation Transfer/Export/Import


I would like to request a feature that would allow users to export complete observations (photo and data) in a format could be imported at a later time. I believe the tool would be useful to many who may want to create backups, split accounts or transfer complete records or groups of records to others.

I have been using and heavily promoting iNaturalist since 2012, and have both a personal account (rcurtis) and work account (smpbiologist-rcurtis) to distinguish between my observations and those of my employer. In the seven years that I have been using iNaturalist, I have posted over 20,000 observations and have seen many types of application where such a tool would be useful.

Does anyone else feel a need for this type of an application or know of a workflow where such tasks can already be performed?



i’ve never looked at it, but i bet you could write something that accomplishes this via the API. maybe someone has already done that and made the code available (via GitHub?). i bet that extracting so much stuff would probably put a substantial load on the system. 20000 observations at, say, 1.5MB per photo, assuming 1 photo per observation would be ~30GB of data.



I am not a programmer or developer, but would guess a data download could be performed on the user end. In any case, limits could easily be imposed.

I have about 400 records that need transferred from my personal to work account. If kept within the iNat framework, it seems like they would just need the owners user ID field changed. I have several coworkers that need to split accounts to separate personal and professional records. I have also accumulated a number of records from others, who originally did not have an account, but allowed me to post their observations - now they have accounts and I would like to be able to transfer them back somehow. Performing these tasks without an export/import or transfer tool is daunting and will yield significant community data loss.

I know others who could use this functionality as well, but almost all from those of us who use iNat both personally and professionally. I am guessing that we are in the minority, but was hoping that others might find such a tool useful.

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i don’t disagree with the idea of having transfer or import/export functionality built within iNat, but i think these would be viewed as 2 separate things. there are some other conversations I’ve seen in the forum where folks talk about wanting to share observations, and that may sort of overlap with the idea of the “transfer” you’re looking for.

in the current system, the only way i know of to download stuff on the iNaturalist front-end (sort of) currently is to export observation data (as a CSV file), but it doesn’t come with photos, and the export only gives you the URL of one of the photos in your observation (if you have observations with multiple photos). but you could take the photo URLs from the CSV and modify them a bit to create a list of photos to download. then if you’re in Windows, you could probably do something described here (, using wget to pull photos into a folder on your machine. in Mac/Unix, it’s a little more complicated (see one issue is that the photos that you download, i believe, will be stripped of the original photo metadata, if that’s important to you.

uploading things back on the existing front end would be challenging though. i’m pretty sure you could streamline that process with the API and a little bit of coding, though. you might be able to find some code that others have been working on to do that if you do a quick web search.



one more thought. if you’re trying to upload just photo + timestamp + taxon, i think i read somewhere that this can be done in the existing system by making sure each photo has a metadata tag with taxon name. then when you load the photos, iNaturalist should pick up that tag and pre-populate the taxon in the observation. i don’t know what tools exist that may or may not allow you to do a mass tagging from, say, a list of photo names and taxons, but maybe someone else might know, if this is something that sounds like it might help you in the interim.

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