Focus of Observations

Good Morning - new INaturalist observer here…looking forward to contributing. I was looking through the website and see that generally speaking, Birds, insects and Plants appear to be the ‘majority’ of observations - while fungi, fish, reptiles tend to be observed less. As a new ‘observer’, should I try to observe more of the less reported species (fungi, mollusks, amphibians, etc…) just report what I see regardless? Thank you!

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Hi, welcome to iNat and to the forum!
You can observe anything you like or which catches your interest. iNat is about engaging people with nature.

If you want to focus on rare or underobserved species, that’s fine too.

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I completely agree with @trh_blue on this – observe what you like! It’s nice to have a mission of serving the community, but what keeps you coming back to iNaturalist is whatever feels satisfying to you. Maybe you notice a park nearby that hasn’t been “done” on iNaturalist. Maybe you like cataloging your yard through the seasons. Maybe you want to become the world’s expert on identifying slugs by their slime tracks. Maybe you just like photographing pretty flowers and leaving the IDs to someone else. Maybe you aren’t much of a photographer but can help ID the fishes that other people post. There’s rooom for all on iNaturalist! Be yourself and you’re welcome.

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I think you will always see things skewed towards plants because they don’t run away and there are a significant number of volunteers to identify them. A lot of what is worthwhile on iNaturalist is what you can get a good picture of. Most of the people out there are just operating off of a no-frills camera-phone (myself included) so there are rare times when I get animal shots. I’ve quit trying to get pictures of fish - the only way to really observe most fish is to have some method of catching them and then taking close-up photos of details. Although it’s a shame because there are quite a few projects documenting invasive fish.
Fungi are a bit more difficult than plants (and perhaps not quite as common) so probably that’s why there are fewer records. It’s important to get the underneath of the fungus when photographing, but the fact is even with that my fungi often go unidentified. It helps to know what sort of substrate they are growing on, but I can’t always tell what a rotten log used to be, so it can be tough.

Of course, a lot of iNaturalist is learning as you go, so just keep putting observations out there and seeing what others say. There are lots of people that just put a few observations and then wait for them to be identified. Depending on what it is and the quality of the photo and the number of volunteers identifying things like it, it could take a while, so there’s no point in waiting around for someone to ID something, just keep going! The more observations you put on the more feedback you get, and the clearer the picture becomes of what observations are identifiable and which are being used. And as you interact with people, you might find someone in your area who is studying a particular thing, and then you can help them out.

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Yes, to echo the other answers posted, welcome and let your interests lead you.

There are any number of facets to iNaturalist. This FAQ provides a lot of insight to how features are intended to work. I wished i found it earlier. :relaxed: It’s a real leg up on the different aspects of the app.
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help

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It’s up to you but if you’re looking for suggestions:

  • Try to document species that are found in your area but have no observations in your county
  • Pick a local spot you frequent (your yard, your favorite park, your walking route, etc.) and try to document as many species there as you can (this is what I’m doing)
  • Join a project that interests you and work on the goal they are trying to achieve
  • As you suggested, pick a less observed group of organisms to focus on. You will probably need to learn what parts are important to photograph to make sure it can be identified. I suggest picking a smaller group than say plants or insects. Instead pick something more specific like sedges or grasshoppers.
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And take a spore print.

Sedges will be difficult without putting the flowers under a dissecting scope.

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I wasn’t suggesting sedges. It was just the first thing that popped in my head as a group of plants.

What you choose to photo will also depend on what kind of camera equipment you have, which likely contributes to some of the taxonomic “biases” you might see among submitted iNat records. If you are just using a smartphone, you’ll likely focus on things that you can get close to and don’t move much (plants, fungi, insects, some herps). If you have a telephoto SLR camera, then it opens up opportunities to photo wildlife at a distance. I usually carry both, shooting interesting plants with my phone and animals that are more elusive with my camera. But whatever works for you.

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