Explore vs. Places: different boundaries, why?

When I search for “Chuquisaca” from the Explore tab all I get is a bounding box, which far exceeds the Department’s area, yet when I do the same from Places I get the correct boundary. This is strange since when I do the same for “Tarija” I get the correct outline in both cases.
Is there someway I can correct the Explore behaviour for Chuquisaca?

Geography info is stored in 2 places on the site. The explore search uses Google Maps. The site has no control over the names or definitions of the area used.

Some places are stored internally on the inat database. If your place exists here, it is always better to use these. Use the place search which is under filters-more filters to access it

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See bottom left of the Filters panel.

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So when I search for “Tarija” in Explore and get an iNat place_id with the correct boundary I’m assuming that’s because Google doesn’t have a BB for Tarija.

Tarija appears to be a department and a city within the department. Both are mapped in Google Maps


How inat places and google places are linked to each other based on a name search, I dont know.

Is there anything we can do when place names are misleadingly used or incorrectly defined?

The place Austin, TX, USA is incorrectly/misleadingly defined. When I select “Austin, TX, USA (TOWN)” in Place when searching or in Location in Explore, I get the area shown in the map as the Austin Nature and Science Center, which is a part of a city park, not the whole city. If I select it in the Location field in search details, I get the actual city boundaries. I discovered this a long time ago when I was new here. Someone in this forum explained it to me. I thought it was weird that the Explore interface said Location but used a place instead, but I learned to work around it by always searching for my own city using the details instead of the main screen.

But I tripped over a similar problem for Big Bend National Park recently. I thought, surely I’m not the first person to see a specific plant in Big Bend, and tried the same trick. No, I was not. That name defines a big square area encompassing some of the national park and a nice chunk of a sister national park in Mexico.

UPDATE: Actually, searching from the search details (which uses the word “place” for the field) gets a better map but still includes parts of the Mexican park. But that’s Google’s problem, isn’t it?

This is the sort of minutia that will discourage non-techie users. I have a background in programming and database use, so a distinction between two similar fields like that is annoying but I can deal with it because it fits a mental pattern. For most people, I suspect, it’s just a bug and makes them think poorly of the application. If the name of their city in a highly visible field in the interface doesn’t show their observations, they’re not going to trust it. I thought I’d discuss it here. What do you think?


It’s one of those cases with no good answer. The site cant store and manage every piece of geographical data. It’s not computationally possible for inat to add every park, town boundaries etc into their database. For Google and Google Maps, it is easy.

The challenge is then you interact with the names that Google uses.

The challenge for the site is to better figure out how to translate searches on the google maps interface to things that are in the inat database, and then default to that.

It would not have occured to me that the “Locations” and “Place” would be so drastically different.

As it is it seems like “place” may be a better default and it might be a good idea to put that where the location field is now?

Not really, it’s better in theory, but in practice there’re much more searh options in locations.

Actually, I think my question is slightly different. I’m not asking that we individually define every place. I’m asking whether we can get the misleading place names corrected.

For example, the Austin, TX, US place isn’t actually Austin, TX. It’s a teeny tiny place inside Austin that has its own official name that it could use. (For that matter, when I put “Austin, TX” in the most visible place/location field, the area it defines is shown with a different name. Why is that?) There could be rules about names of personally-defined places that include using a qualifier in addition to the general geographic location found in Google.

Is there a way to look up who defined a place so we could ask them to change it?


look at the bottom-left corner of any place page, and you’ll see who created it, if the creator is recorded. the issue with Austin is that there’s a point place “Austin” which nobody but staff (probably) can modify because it’s defined as a town and it has no creator. it’s sort of useless because it has no boundaries. so it looks like someone created “City of Austin” which has proper boundaries but which also has a name that many people might not think to look for.

it’s even worse in Houston, since not only is there a point place “Houston”, but there’s also a “City of Houston” with only very, very rough boundaries. i usually end up using “Greater Houston” since i figure getting back more is better than getting back less.

Changing the point places will probably require nudging staff to make changes to the place data or to otherwise address this: Some non-standard places are not editable even by curators - Bug Reports - iNaturalist Community Forum. but they have many priorities, and i bet this doesn’t rank high on the list.

The other topic of discussion related to Google geography vs iNaturalist places, including how they get linked together, has probably been brought up in 20 different posts in the forum at this point, and i think the bottom line is that this is unlikely to receive any attention any time soon. if it ever gets any attention, it will be at the same time or after the Explore page is revamped, probably.

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