Experiences and Trajectories with iNaturalist

Hi everyone! I’m relatively new to iNaturalist so hope that this is an okay use of the Discussion Forum. I’m a first year PhD student in the Teaching, Learning, and Diversity program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. For a class focused on designing and studying information environments for learning, I’m looking at the iNaturalist community—how people interact with iNaturalist and other iNaturalist users, and how people learn and come to participate more deeply in the community (or don’t). If you’re willing, I’d love for you to share your experience with iNaturalist in response to this post. How do you use iNaturalist? How has that changed over time? How does iNaturalist influence the ways you interact with the world around you? If you’d rather not share publicly, feel free to send me a private message. Thanks so much and I can’t wait to read your responses! :)

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I’ve had a longstanding interest in natural history. I started with Seek, learned about iNaturalist, and my collectors instinct kicked in. I try to keep balance between posting observations and identifying species I’m more comfortable with / applying computer vision to “unknown” observations to expedite the ID process. My use has been fairly stable over time, but I do wonder where it will go – I either need to get better at IDing things or better at finding things, because I’ve found most of the easy-to-find species in my area.

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iNat has accelerated my interest in the natural world. I use inat the typical way, to upload observations and provide identifications. Through use of inat, I have learnt more about the wildlife around the places I have lived in, and have also met lots of like-minded people to share our mutual interests in wildlife.

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I think you should check older posts, e.g. many posts about covid and iNat, also what people do for iNat, etc. they have answers you seek.

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I was (and still am) a wildlife biologist and photographer before I knew what iNaturalist was. I started adding records casually and although I’m still not a fanatic about posting things on iNat, I’ve been a steady user. Not being a botanist, I’ve really benefited from being able to post photos of plants, review other observers’ plant pics, and see the range maps for these species to help improve my knowledge of local plant life. I think iNat has really broadened my knowledge and appreciation beyond the vertebrate animals I’ve long focused on. A bonus is finding records by others of rare animals in my area, which contributes to our knowledge of animal distributions (a component of my job). Plus there is the interaction with like-minded people which makes it a social activity as well.

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I initially used iNaturalist for helping me to identify an unusually large purple and yellow moth that I found one day right next to where I live. After looking at website like InsectIdentification.org and using Texas A&M’s AskAnEntomologist webage, it was only natural that I would look for other websites to verify the organism. Now I know that it is Eacles imperialis imperialis, or a possible subspecies of the Imperial Moth.

After this episode, I was initially excited to sign up for iNaturalist. Here was this sea of knowledge where everyone, regardless of their expertise, could contribute and possibly identify something out there in the natural world. But like any ocean, it is vast. So vast, in fact, that you can get lost trying to find something. I knew that I had to find something in this website to keep myself busy. However, what would that be?

With several hours of searching, an epiphany came to mind: The Peppered Moth. First, Biston betularia is well-known due to the Evolution Studies conducted on this species. Second, it widespread throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere. Third, there are many observations of this particular moth. Fourth, it has a unique maculation, or spotting pattern, among the Tribe Bistonini, which for some reason reminds me of Cookies-and-Cream. Fifth, it has many subspecies around the world. Sixth, some of these subspecies are distinguishable from other ones. Seventh, despite having many subspecies, no one curated the taxon to gain access to those subspecies. This is why I curated the taxon.

Moreover, in relation to the previous reason, there are only two subspecies of Peppered Moth in North America - Biston betularia cognataria, and Biston betularia contrasta. However, only the congnataria subspecies was widespread in North America. The contrasta subspecies is only found close to the Great Salt Lake and Northern Utah/Arizona. Also, even though there are two subspecies of Peppered Moth in North America, no one seemed to go into the subspecies rank. In other words, there was an opening for me to do something.

Once I started to identify hundreds of Peppered Moths in America to the subspecies rank, I wondered whether I should be doing this. I then looked to the iNaturalist Forum, a place to ask such questions. I had looked at the iNaturalist Forum before, but I have not actually logged onto it. The moment I logged onto it, I started to ask questions (look at my iNaturalist Forum profile). Many of these questions were useful not only for myself, but also for other people using iNaturalist.

Upon reading answers to these questions, I decided that maybe I should stop trying to “correct” the numerous identifications of Peppered Moths in America. With all of the experience I gleaned by staring at pictures of one subspecies, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to make a wiki about it. Maybe other people might find this useful. So I did.

Since I had focused on one thing for about two or so moths, after making the wiki, I decided that maybe I needed to branch out. I thought about looking at other moth species. I made some fun questions on the forum and had fun reading other questions. But too much of a good thing can turn into something very, very bad. I had spent so much time on iNaturalist, particularly on the Forum, that it had begun to negatively affect my studies. So I did the most sensible thing - not log on for several weeks.

When I came back, I no longer did any more identifications. If I did, it was very few. I just read the iNaturalist Forum and answered some questions from time to time, just like this one.

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Mostly I use iNat to help me ID what I can’t.

I in turn ID what I can from ‘today’s’ obs around Cape Town.
Then addicted to unfolding is / isn’t discussions.

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Yes, thanks for that suggestion! I’ve found a ton of interesting conversations to look at in older posts :)

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I use the iNaturalist app every day to record the nature I see whenever I go out in New York City, whether to a park or a wild place, or just a side street. I always think I am helping the world with the data points I am producing.

I am also trying to maintain a “streak” on iNat, a streak which I started at the beginning of December 2019, and that streak means that I need to make at least one observation every day.

I use iNat to learn a lot about nature, all of the time. The website is a terrific resource, containing unbelievable amounts of information.

When I first started on iNat, years ago, I spent all of my time on iNat making mollusk IDs for other people. I still do quite a lot of that, with mollusks and other groups that I know something about, but these days I make almost as many observations as I do IDs.

I am always hoping to find more naturalists to share my nature explorations with, and I must say I have met several really great naturalists through iNat, both here in NYC and in the other parts of the world that I visit. But I am always looking to meet another naturalist and go out iNatting using social distancing.

You learn twice as much when you are out with another good naturalist, and you see things you would not have noticed when you were out on your own.

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I’ll get back to you in a few days, having a hard time at the moment. I set a reminder but feel free to message me if I forget :)

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I came to iNaturalist as a place to post some moth photos to make them available to others. Rather than just keep them on my own hard drive. When I discovered that iNaturalist did more than moths, I began adding other photos that I had taken, of plants and birds, and other insects. iNaturalist has become a way of life, a way of documenting all the wonderful beings that cohabit this planet with us. I see every observation that I add to iNaturalist as a way of speaking up for other beings that can’t speak for themselves, saying “Here I am! I exist! I am HERE!”.

Along the way, I have connected with researchers and naturalists. Through these connections, I have contributed specimens of different species to research projects. I have learned and learned and learned from all the other fine naturalists on the site. And I try to pass it on by identifying species when I can, and by sharing what I have learned with community members in person.

iNaturalist has also been a big motivation for exercise. It gets me out for a walk every day, to find and record what is out in the world.

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I’m new to iNaturalist. I’ve been an obsessive hiker my whole life and loved photographing nature. I’m now living in Indonesia so I started using it to see what was around me. And now I’m addicted. I learn so much every day and I’m thankful with the people who have the patience to teach newbies.

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I talked a bit about how I got started in this topic.

After initially joining iNaturalist as a way of turning my interest in nature into a pandemic activity while isolating, I discovered that it encompasses an interesting community of folks in many countries doing all sorts of interesting, useful, fun and cool things. I started documenting species on our home property and in the little conservation area where I walk our dogs, the latter location being an interesting set of habitats associated with an abandoned red pine plantation that have recently been getting chewed up by ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and bush parties. I like to think it helped make the case for a recent (and depressingly controversial) decision to ban ATVs.

I’ve more or less decided on a few criteria for posting. I post things that help me learn new things, things that document sites that are interesting to me for different reasons or sites that don’t have a lot of activity on iNat, observations of species that are interesting for management, policy, political or scientific reasons, etc. I have made a commitment to not turn every walk or drive into an iNat expedition, particularly when it involves other people, although I almost always have my camera in the car when I leave home.

We talk about iNaturalist a bit at work and have used it sparingly to date to document some things of interest. We are developing criteria for doing more of it in ways that don’t compromise our obligations to clients while increasing awareness of the distribution of fish species (primarily) in Ontario.

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I started with iNaturalist this summer to identify garden weeds and pests. The first weed was ragweed. Then my tomato hornworm turned out to be a tobacco hornworm. Interesting and useful. Then I observed various plants and a few bugs as I walked the dogs and came upon blue mistflower, a native plant, which I plan to transplant from the roadside to my flower beds.

One rainy day, I began to identify other people’s observations and eventually decided to focus on blue mistflower because dozens of people were observing it every day in the fall and I wanted to give them the encouragement I received when strangers first confirmed (or denied) my observations.

But there are three species of mistflower in Texas (I live in South Carolina) and I made a few mistakes, but I learned. People who corrected me were polite and professional. And I identified a few people who were much more experienced than me and I “tag” them occasionally. Now I am learning there is a genus in Mexico whose flowers look like blue mistflower. Should the gringo correct the Mexicans on their native plants or alert Oscar Gonzalez to these mis-identifications?

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I discovered iNaturalist through its identification guides. I wanted to identify, say butterflies in California. When I Google that, I get three kinds of results: websites trying to sell books; websites with blogs about butterflies but not much useful ID information; and the iNaturalist “Butterflies of California” page. Repeat similar experiences for terrestrial gastropods and amphibians. So I just thought that iNaturalist was a collection of identification guides for taxa that nobody else was writing guides for.

It was months later before I discovered that I could upload pictures for the community to ID.

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I’m relatively new to being a more serious naturalist with “birds & bugs” being more of a focus . As a girl I used to look for frogs, snakes, turtles and other critters I could find. Well a woman I find myself looking for those same things with the same curiosity as a young girl but now wanting to know more about the creatures I find. iNaturalist has opened a world of information and knowledge never thought possible without going to university. I find myself going out more looking for as many species as possible and in the process learned a greater connection to the outside world in the process. I have learned so much more through my mistakes. I find myself promoting iNaturalist to other people because I get asked so many questions what’s this and what’s that I tell them to register and learn for themselves and in the hopes they too learn and appreciate the nature we have even in our own backyards; which quite frankly even in urban yards you would be surprised what you can find if you take to time and effort to explore.

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Welcome to the Forum!

At first, I met iNaturalist rather by chance through a project on the research of the Formica-rubra-species-group in my home district. Since I don’t know the English language very well, it put me off and I forgot iNaturalist.

Months later, I was made aware of iNaturalist again by a request for a species of Psychidae. This time I came to the site and I was pleased to find pictures and observations of the Adelidae from all over the world. I have seen here for the first-time pictures of many species of other continents. This has aroused my interest because I have been working intensively with this mikrolepidoptera family for several years. I observe above all the development of the eggs and caterpillars to the adult moths.

This wide view of the other continents fascinates me enormously. Unfortunately, I do not know the species outside Europe. I have therefore decided to identify certain photos of Adelidae from Europe not yet identified. However, this is often not possible, if only a picture is available. But I was able to take ID for a few hundred photos. Also, I have posted some photos of Adelidae that are not yet shown in iNaturalist.

In the meantime, I also logged into the forum and read the posts from time to time, even if this is a bit difficult. Most of the time I have to have the texts translated by an online translator. So, I’m pretty sure I got it right.

Sometimes I also look at other groups of Lepidoptera, insects or even plants and animals. iNaturalist is absolutely boundless in every way.

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I’m also new to iNaturalist and now use it to ID insects I photograph on hikes and walks, uploading some if they are good enough for others to view. I’ve had less success in getting IDs on my plants from this source, but fortunately I have other references to use. Some of the topics in the Forum are intriguing and I’m usually surprised at the thoughtful and science-based replies the community generates.

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I’m new to iNaturalist and it’s been amazing to get help in identifying different species. I’ve always tried to identify what I’ve seen, but never knew if I’d got it right. Also I have some ID books but can’t afford books for every group. Good bryophyte books are very expensive. I’ve now seen 15 moss species that I could never have named on my own. I’m really grateful to people who’ve helped me and it’s given me a reason to go out every day even in the pouring rain!

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