Finland - iNaturalist World Tour

We’re featuring Finland on the World Tour today.

Here are the GADM Level 1 and Level 2 places we’re using. Are these places correct?

What else can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Finland?

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I think iNaturalist can get much more Finnish users, if targeted the right way.

Many Finnish naturalists (especially birdwatchers and experienced insect collectors/photographers) use two established observation systems ( and respectively), and I don’t see them moving over to iNat.

However, there are many Finnish Facebook groups created for identifying species from photos, and these have been getting more and more popular during recent years (largest of them has >10,000 users). This is the kind of users iNat could get more of, including both less experienced hobbyists & the general public, and quite a few highly skilled experts. Few things could be done to make iNat better for them:

  • Finnish taxon names. This is actually underway - I work at the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility (FinBIF, the national node of GBIF) and provided a list of names for iNat (@tiwane) just last week.

  • Translation into Finnish. Current translation of the site is somewhat clumsy. (I don’t know if this is due to technical limitations of the system - Finnish language has in many ways different structure than English.) I haven’t looked if the apps are translated, or how to improve them.

  • Sharing the data to FinBIF, so that people see that their observations really are available for Finnish researchers, authorities etc. to use. We are planning to do this at FinBIF, by getting the data using the public iNat API.

Having these would make using iNat really appealing for many. Then the last step would be to let people know about iNat. I guess most people here have not heard about iNat yet, but this is changing. I just hope that there will be many new users identifying the observations also, as a large part of the Finnish observations currently remain unidentified.


Subdivisions of Finland have seen many changes during the last few decades, and the GADM places are somewhat outdated.

Level 1 are former provinces of Finland. These are not officially used anymore, and I guess that most people don’t really know them, because they were used only for 12 years (1997-2009). I remember seeing them lately only in non-Finnish applications, which might all be getting the data from GADM.

Level 2 is the highest subdivision of Finland currently in use. The GADM names are partially outdated, and use a mix of Finnish, English and Latin. (Edit: as do the current names also. The old names might have been correct some time ago, I’m not sure).

To update the names into official ones:

  • Southern Ostrobothnia (GADM name) -> South Ostrobothnia (current official name)
  • Southern Savonia -> South Savo
  • Tavastia Proper -> Kanta-Häme
  • Northern Ostrobothnia -> North Ostrobothnia
  • Northern Savonia -> North Savo
  • Päijänne Tavastia -> Päijät-Häme
  • Finland Proper -> Southwest Finland

The rest of the names are up to date.

Päijät-Häme (Päijänne tavastia) is divided into three parts in the GADM data. It should be just one like the rest of the areas. (Is this technical limitation of GADM, since this area overlaps three GADM level 1 areas?)

Eastern Uusimaa does not exist anymore, it was merged into Uusimaa in 2011.

Source of the names:ä+termejä+sekä+maakuntien+ja+kuntien+nimet+fi-sv-en-(ru)

Finland is also divided into biogeographical provinces. These are often used among biologists and naturalists, and many identification guides etc. use them as a basis for distribution maps. (Their borders are fixed, so administrative changes do not affect them.) They would be of interest to many using the data, but most people don’t know about them.

Some more info about these: I could get the data (names + polygons) for you, if they could be used on iNat somehow.

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If FinBIF is a node of GBIF, and iNaturalist already shares data to GBIF, wouldn’t the data also be visible in FinBIF at the same time?

Unless they exceed size limitations, you should be able to upload these provinces yourself as community-defined places in iNaturalist, for all to see and use. If the polygons are too large or complex, then Staff would have to assist.

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Not automatically. Also the casual observations would be valuable to have, tagged appropriately. These are not available through GBIF.

you should be able to upload these provinces yourself as community-defined places

Thanks, I’ll look into uploading them.

BTW, I came across this sign when visiting an island off Helsinki. It has been placed by someone from the city of Helsinki, but I don’t know more about it, or are there more of them around:


mikkohei13, thanks so much for sharing your ideas here (and info on the GADM places) - it would be great to try to get those things you mention: names, translation, and feeding to FinBIF in place to see its impact in Finland but also try to streamline an approach that might work elsewhere.

RE: translation it looks like its 77% translated on the Web and 59% on Mobile - do you know anyway we could help encourage this?

Glad the names are moving forward. Do you need any help with the export work?

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Thanks @loarie - I have been looking into how to do translations and how to get the obsevations to FinBIF.


Currently the Finnish translation is clumsy and inconsistent. Looking at the translation system at Translatewiki makes me wonder if this is due to how it works - it seems to display text strings out of context, which makes it difficult to do anything more than word-to-word -translations (which will be clumsy), at least if the translator does not have deep experience with iNat. For example, “identifier” or “id” can have two translations, and both have been used for different parts of iNat.

iNat also uses some technical terms which are not well known (like “establishment means" or “invasive”). Word-to-word translations of these can be completely meaningless. I guess the only way to translate a complex system like iNat properly would be to have one experienced person to oversee and edit all translations. (And that kind of volunteers are hard to find, I know…)

Getting the data

The iNat API seems fine for getting the observations initially, but I think there are two issues with getting updates:

  • If someone adds quality_metrics to an observation, that does not seem to change the updated date. This makes it impossible to fetch observations that have been changed like this. (Without reloading everything, which could be a slow process.)

  • How to find out which observations have been deleted on iNat? Deletions should be synced to third party database also. I see there is an /observations/deleted -endpoint, but that only shows deletions for a single authenticated user.

Or have I missed something? Where to get advice for technical issues with the API? (help@inaturalist…?)

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It seems odd that there are two geographical entities for Åland Islands. They are:

The first is a country-level object and seems to hold all the observations. The second is a part of Finland as it should be and seems to hold no observations. What is the reasoning behind this or is this just a kind of bug? As far as I know, the status of the islands as autonomous province of Finland has never been in question.

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The country-level place came from GADM, which has Åland listed at the country level for some unknown reason: Since it’s a standard place, someone from staff would need to edit it.

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@mikkohei13 and I have corresponded about this particular issue. Changes to the boundaries of countries in iNaturalist are unfortunately somewhat difficult, but we will be able to do this, I’m just not sure when.