Creating Location Checklists

Unless I’m missing something, I think it would be really cool to add location checklists to iNat. Give iNaturalists an idea of what can be found in their region according to observations, range maps, etc. Example being my own county of Union Co, Oregon. We have four deer-like animals, White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Elk and Moose. But I don’t think it should stop there. I also think a list showing what hasn’t been spotted in the region too would be a good idea. Going back to my original example, only the Moose hasn’t been observed in my county, so the checklist will say 3 out of 4 Cervidae species found. I think a feature like this will help iNaturalists strive to find missing, help narrow down what species are in their area and make a better experience for those who use the site. Any thoughts.

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This came in as a feature request but I moved it to #general because it is already possible to create location checklists and compare what has/hasn’t been found in a place.

However, I’m on my phone, so I’ll leave it to someone who has use of all their fingers (or is really good with their thumbs) to provide some guidance for using checklists and the compare tool.


following because I don’t really know how to do it

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Except, I know how to search species in a Place…use the Explore function, and the filters - I forget which filters are available in that box and whether Places you have made yourself come up

@birdwhisperer, I think Places may be the word you need rather than Location…but I am not sure. A place is defined by coordinates drawn in iNat, and of course there are lots already, eg no doubt Union Co, Oregon.

I may be on the wrong track here but you might try the Explore function with the filter set to Union Co, and - I think you can enter a Taxon in a filter i that page.

I don’t know if there is a taxon covering deer-like animals…??? Or you could learn how to search for multiple taxa. There is a tutorial in this Forum, under “Tutorials”, on using filters in Explore, including filtering for multiple taxa by modifying the url that comes up when you add your first search filter, but I can’t find it at present.

Deer (Family Cervidae) covers everything. Elk is old world so you cannot use the subfamily for new world deers.

Well the problem with the Explore function is that it only shows species that have been spotted in the location searched, not what could be there according to iNat range maps. So if I look up the deer family in my locations, I will see Elk and both species of deer but since Moose have never been observed in my county, it will not be listed. But that’s an example where its obvious what lives in the area. Here’s a harder example: It is safe to assume 34 species of Band-winged Grasshoppers (Oedipodinae) can be found in northeastern Oregon. However, only 8 have been observed so that’s what the explore feature would show. How would other iNaturalists know there’s another 26 species that may be theirs? Or with bumblebees, we have over 20 species of Bombus but only 2 have been observed. How many observers are going to know there might be 18 more without an expert saying so. From what I’ve found so far, the ‘Guides’ feature on iNat is the closest I get to what I’m looking for. I just wish there was a way for those guides to say if it has been observed by an iNaturalist and when was it. Like in the lists on your profile.

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You have to be very careful about the terminology here. iNat does have ‘range maps’, they are what appear in pink on the map on the taxon page (note I have manually turned off the other layers available to highlight it). The range map won’t really help you determine in any way if a species has been seen in a part of its range or not, unless you scan through each taxa page individually.

Additionally, iNat stores information about species distribution in checklists associated with places. Checklists are accessed via the places pages on the site. Search for the appropriate place via the search function, and the link to the checklist is towards the lower left

The information from these checklists is also displayed on the taxa page, in either green (which represents a case of the species being on the checklist and there being confirmed iNat records of the species in that location) or brown (which is a case of it being on the checklist but with no confirmed iNat records)’

So for example here, the Mexican states in brown have this species (which happens to be the Bald Eagle) on their checklist, but the species has never had a confirmed iNat record submitted.

On the checklist itself, you can then search for species that have or have not been observed.

So for example one of the Mexican states shown on the map with no records is Coahuila. If i go to the Coahuila checklist I can then use the filter tools to limit the display by multiple filters, including taxonomy, and if observed or not.

Thus choosing this will show me a list of Accipitriformes on the Coahuila checklist with no iNat records.

And sure enough down there in the bottom right, bald eagle is shown as one of the 10 Accipitriformes in the state with no iNat records.

Checklists are comprised of both automatically added instances from the iNat observations (it should automatically add a species to a checklist when it is first recorded as a RG observation on the site), and as well manual additions to the checklist, both one at a time and via a bulk upload are possible.

What you want to do is done through this, the step that may be required depending on how large or small you want to be able to search in is to get the checklist populated. In general it seems like province and state checklists for North America are reasonably well populated (I can’t speak for every one, but for example a validated provincial level checklist of almost 18,000 species was added for my home province). If you are interested in doing county or park level etc work, then there is a good chance assuming you have access to the information that you will need to do it manually.

Every child place in the geo hierarchy is not automatically added when a species is added to a checklist. As an example if someone finds a new species in Point Pelee National Park in Ontario and it gets to Research Grade, it would be added to the Ontario checklist, the county checklist that the park falls into, and the park checklist. It would not get automatically added to the checklist for Algonquin Provincial park also in Ontario but 700 kilometers awat y as there is no guarantee it is also there.


A couple of strategies if you want a checklist for your area that is reasonably accurate:

  1. Choose a location (which is populated by Google) or place (which is populated by iNat users) that is slightly larger than your area. The less observed your flora/fauna/etc of interest is the larger the area would need to be to capture all the likely taxa.
  2. Create a place yourself that is larger than your area. I actually did that at one point. I first created a place called North Bay and Area. Then I created a bigger one called Central Ontario and made sure it excluded it Manitoulin Island as it has lots of limestone.
  3. Create a polygon in GBIF plus a selected taxonomic group and download a CSV of the results. GBIF has the advantage of pooling just about all the online data out there, so it will have a greater percentage of species that can be expected for an area.

That is a great explanation thanks, I obviously only use a tiny portion of iNat’s possibilities!

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Here’s another use case. I created a place for the Burrinjuck Nature Reserve in southeastern New South Wales. The place automatically aggregates observations that have been made in it, of course, and these are added automatically to the place’s checklist. But the nature reserve’s plan of management (PDF) also happens to have a checklist for amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Ignoring potential copyright issues for a minute, I’ve thought about adding the species in the plan’s checklist to the iNat place’s checklist. You can see that I added the eastern sign-bearing froglet to the place’s checklist. But if you manually add a bunch of species to the list, it doesn’t seem to be easy to filter the checklist to show what hasn’t been observed yet (or what others have seen but you haven’t seen). Of course there are also observations of other species in the iNat place that don’t appear on the checklist because they haven’t made it to RG yet.

The filtering capability described by @cmcheatle above should work equally for automatically and manually added checklist taxa. It’s possible that there is a lag time after manually adding taxa before any needed back-end indexing is done, so maybe try again after a few hours.

This would be very different functionality, and probably a lot harder to implement within the place checklist context.

I should probably clarify that statement. There are two classes of filtering: (i) filter the checklist to see what hasn’t been observed by anyone at all (you referred me to @cmcheatle’s comments, which I need to read in more detail), and (ii) filter the checklist to see which species I haven’t observed, even if other users have observed them.

Yes, and I was referring to that second class. I don’t think that second filtering class exists within the place checklist context, and suspect it would be a tough one to implement.

You can :

  • query for species that have been seen in a particular place that you have not seen (however it treats you have not seen as you have not seen anywhere, not restricted to that particular place)

you can not:

  • query for things seen in a particular place that you have not observed in that place

you could :

  • in theory if willing to do the work, create a personal list for the area and then use the compare tool to compare against the place checklist which should find the differences, which would be the species on that place checklist you have not seen. But it’s a lot of work, and relies on keeping your personal list in synch which can be troublesome.

Because a checklist is effectively an extension of a place, the first kind of works (of course it no one has seen it, then by default you have not seen it, so that removes that complication)

I am however unsure exactly about how the obscuring geoprivacy impacts the auto addition of species onto checklists.


This can be done with the Compare tool. The group of taxa you are searching needs to result in a set of 500 or fewer, so narrow to a plant family rather than all plants, for example.

Yes, with the caveat at the bottom of the page there that it is experimental and may not generate accurate results.

I’ve never noticed any issues with the data when comparing with spreadsheets, but yeah, too bad that it is still so long “experimental” and not fully fleshed out with a friendly user interface since it’s a super useful tool.

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