Creating missing Wikipedia articles for iNat's Observations of the Week

Hey all,

I am part of a collective of volunteers helping bridge the gap between iNaturalist and Wikipedia/Wikimedia projects. Today I met with some of the folks involved in this group—@siobhanleachman, @andrawaag, @adzebill—and discussed an idea we’d like to propose to the iNat team, aiming to add more value to the observations featured on the blog as Observations of the Week.

We noticed that observations that are showcased as OtW are often about endemic, rare or endangered species that lack Wikipedia articles. Case in point, this orchid from Uruguay with only 8 observations available on iNat and no information available in Wikipedia in Spanish or English. These observations typically get a lot of traction and traffic on social and in the iNaturalist community and we think it’s a shame that the taxon page for these observation lacks the most basic information, just because the corresponding Wikipedia entry doesn’t exist.

We would like to help bridge that gap and ensure that whenever an observation is showcased as OtW, some basic content exist on Wikipedia for the corresponding species. We would like to offer to coordinate with the curators involved in the selection of the observation (@tiwane in particular) and make sure the article exists ahead of the publication on the iNat blog.

In some cases, when no free licensed image exists, it will not be possible to create a Wikipedia article with an illustration. Whenever this happens we would like to ask if, in the message notifying the iNat user that their observation is being featured, an invitation could be included to switch the license of the image to a CC-BY, CC-BY-SA or CC0 license, so as to allows its reuse (with full credits) as the official illustration of the species on Wikipedia.

We believe there’s an opportunity to add value to the iNat community by creating these missing articles while also encouraging users who posted amazing observations and stories to have their photo featured on Wikipedia (which will likely give them very significant exposure in terms of traffic).

Please let us know if this is an idea you would like to explore, we would be happy to organize a follow up call in the coming days to discuss what it would take to make this happen.

Dario, Mike, Siobhan, Andra


Heh, it’s pretty much just me, so I can reach out to you once I’ve picked it. A cool idea!

For what it’s worth, sometimes it takes a little while for the observer to get back to me, and sometimes they never do. It’s all good though, I know everyone is busy.


I have time to join in this wonderful effort. Let me know if more hands are needed


The potential hitch is that Wikipedia expects all information to have cited sources, and does not permit original research.


The potential hitch is that Wikipedia expects all information to have cited sources, and does not permit original research.

Generally speaking you are right, but the creation of missing articles about species does not require reliable secondary sources because species are automatically notable. Typically, a link to GBIF (for example to source the taxon authority) is sufficient to create a new article.


“Original Research” means that you cannot put some facts about an organism into a Wikipedia article just because you know them to be true – the content is all supposed to be based on published sources. However if the facts are completely uncontroversial, like saying a species of gull is a bird, you don’t have to cite a source for those kinds of facts.

And yes, it is true that species are all inherently notable, so you don’t have to establish “notability” up front, as you would need to do for an article about an individual human.


Any species with a Linnaean taxonomic name has, by default, at least one published source which can be cited, since that is is a requirement for name to be accepted.


But that does not mean that it can have a useful Wikipedia page. I have lost count of how many times I have tries to look up information about a species, and all I get is a “stub” saying that there is such a species. Not very useful.


If you check the work of these article writers you will find that’s not the case.

Looking forward to reading these!


Jason: a stub is the beginning of an article and it’s not that content magically appears: it takes volunteer effort to expand it and there are hundreds of thousands of stubs on species that need work. All available research on Wikipedia article growth suggests that seeding an article as a a stub (which–believe me–often requires considerable effort to create with all the right templates and metadata) significantly increases the chances that an article will attract contributors and grow over time. And even a stub contains much richer information than iNaturalist currently offers, for example links to a much larger number of databases with records on the same taxon.


I disagree that that is much richer information. I’ve tried that method of research, and most of those databases turn out to provide nothing beyond locality records or range data, which can also be had from iNaturalist. If I want to learn about life history or ecological interactions – for most species there is little to no information. The reality is, by looking at iNaturalist observations from different times of the year, it is possible to learn more about life history than going to a dozen databases of locality records.

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iNaturalist is one of the database links that radrat is referring to.


I’m a newbie in these works but I am collaborating in both webs too, my observations are in the marine area and I would be delighted to help with anyone interested.


I can only agree 100% with this, as someone who considers themselves pretty tech savvy, as well as being a pretty regular contributor to both Wikispecies and even more Wikidata, creating new articles on Wikipedia just feels a step above what I want to take on. It just feels like a bewildering mass of templates, syntaxs, widgets etc to try and take on. If I see something I can update on an existing page, that’s something I can and will do however.


I think it’s a little more subtle than this. What you’re describing would be unsourced content, which is also not allowed.

However, original research also includes cases where a person is adding their own analysis, commentary, or synthesis of ideas based on sourceable material, but beyond that which is published in reliable sources.

So for example, say there are reliable sources describing a species habitat, and then there are sources that describe how those habitats are threatened but without mentioning the original species. But there are no sources discussing that the original species being threatened due to habitat loss. In that case, synthesizing the sources could conclude this, but it would be considered original research.

In practice, you usually have to go pretty deep into the analysis before you end up butting against Wikipedia’s original research policies, but I’ve seen editors do it time and time again and I’ve even been accused (sometimes rightfully) of doing it myself.

A lot of Wikipedia editors are really intelligent and passionate, and love doing research, and it can be easy to get carried away!

I find that if you end up butting up against this policy, it’s often a sign that you have material that could be publishable somewhere else, perhaps an academic journal if you put the effort into it, or at a bare minimum some sort of pop science journal, environmental activist magazine or publication, or even a local or regional newspaper. Then, when the work is published, you can cite it!


YES!!! A lot of people lack confidence in themselves, and are better at their subject matter of interest than they think they are. If you have the data analyzed, but are not confident in your writing skills, that is easily fixed by having someone who is good at writing do an edit.


Can I expand on this a little to start a list of species where iNaturalist has been mentioned in a publication (like rediscoveries or major range extensions) but there’s no wikipedia article?

I’ve got a couple for starters:

Bombus irisanensis in Wilson, J. S., Pan, A. D., General, D. E. M., & Koch, J. B. (2020). More eyes on the prize: an observation of a very rare, threatened species of Philippine Bumble bee, Bombus irisanensis, on iNaturalist and the importance of citizen science in conservation biology. Journal of Insect Conservation, 1-3.

Sinothereva shangui in Winterton, S. L. (2020). A new bee-mimicking stiletto fly (Therevidae) from China discovered on iNaturalist. Zootaxa, 4816(3), 361-369.


Hi, just a little shoutout that I would probably be interested in creating or expanding wp articles in Swedish. I have been an editor on svwp for several years, even if I am not as active as I once was.


Just to clarify, does this include iNaturalist’s photo repository for taxa? If a feature is somewhat obvious on some pictures for a certain taxon, then is it better to refer to certain pictures in the database, or the all of the pictures for that taxon?

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I think iNaturalist’s photo repository, being user-generated content, would not be acceptable as a source. And in general, observations would also not be acceptable as a source. However, you can use the photo repository to find photos to include in the articles. In this case, you really need to verify independently though that the ID is correct. In some cases there might not be enough evidence to do it, so it’s not a good source of images, but if it’s something that is visually distinctive then it is fine!

A bigger issue to watch for though is the massive number of photos with NC (non-commercial) clauses in them, which makes them incompatible with the licensing used by Wikipedia.

This is one of many reasons I really wish people would not select these licenses, and why I wish iNat would not set these as the default license.