Help with Adding a Level IV Ecoregion

I’m working on a project (outside of iNaturalist) using observations recorded within each Level IV ecoregion in the Mojave Desert. All of the Level IV ecoregions have already been added as places that can be filtered by with the exception of 14G (Amargosa Desert). I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to add this region to iNaturalist with the help of various tutorials I found on the forum, but I haven’t had any luck. Would really appreciate any help with this. Thanks!

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welcome to the forum :)

You need a KML file for this place (whether by drawing it manually in something like Google Earth, or an already existing file from the government, national parks, etc), and then upload it at


You can find a shape file for all the US level IV regions here. If you are familiar with GIS software you can then extract the shape you need and convert it to KML through several online services. If you need help then message me here. :)


I can show you how to do it using the shape file without needing GIS software but probably not until this evening.

Do you not consider Google Earth to be GIS software? :grin:

I meant by just editing the text of the file.

I’m not familiar with GIS software at all, unfortunately. I’m trying to use QGIS since most things I read said that was easiest, but after dragging the shapefiles into the program, I’m not sure what to do next.

i don’t think it’s a super intuitive task if you’re not familiar with GIS stuff and trying this for the first time. the process in QGIS would involve roughly these steps:

  1. open the shapefile (i would get the CA-specific one, not the one for the whole US) by adding it as a new Vector Layer.
  2. the program will prompt you to do a conversion of coordinate systems. you can pick a template that works for Southern California or for the entire US.
  3. open the Attribute Table and filter + select the features named “Amargosa Desert”
  4. since Amargosa is split up into multiple features in the EPA shapefile, you’ll have to use the Geoprocessing Tools to Dissolve the multiple selected features into one feature (as a new layer), since iNat will expect that you have only one feature per place.
  5. once you have a merged feature, you can select it and Export it as a KML file.

normally i would just paste some text in here that would allow you to create a KML file relatively easily, but the polygon is complicated, and it’s too much text to paste in one of these forum posts. but if you’re still struggling, i can post a video of the process or find another way to share the text, if that’ll help.

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This explanation was very helpful, thank you. I uploaded the KML file to iNaturalist and it does show up with the correct boundaries (to my eyes, at least) but using it as a filter for observations does not turn up any results even though there should be plenty of observations within those boundaries. Is there something I forgot to do or did incorrectly? Or do I just need to wait a little while before observations will appear?

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great. i would just give it at least half an hour or so and see if anything shows up there later. sometimes it takes a little bit of time for observations to index properly to new places.

The process can be done in QGIS as pisum outlined but is easier with Google Earth since it also performs steps 2 & 4 automatically. The trick in GE is identifying the appropriate feature since there is no obvious attribute table. That can be done by zooming to the approximate area of interest before loading the shapefile and selecting to only load those features within the current view. Once selected the feature can be saved as a simple outline in a KML file.

Just a short note. It doesn’t look as though step 4 is required since the the place is now active on iNaturalist (~100 observations) and still has ‘holes’ that exclude the mountains.

Still not showing up with any observations for me, but I’ll check back later to see if anything changes. The gaps for the mountains should be accounted for in the other Level IV ecoregions for the Mojave that have already been added as places. Thanks for providing an alternative solution!

Thank you! I will check back periodically to see if it updates.

sometimes if you need to trick the system into showing you results sooner than later, you can add additional filters, like so (filtering for taxon=life):

yes, you’re right. somehow i got it in my head that we were only dealing with California. but if the entire desert is taken as whole, it’ll be structured as just one feature rather than split up into many features. that said, in other cases, it may be necessary to combine features – so future people looking for a general guide for doing this kind of thing still might find some value in that.

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Thanks for the additional tip. It looks like it’s functioning normally in the filters now, so many thanks to everyone for all the help!

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I see you already figured it out, but in case anyone else was wondering. The zip file includes a .shp file. You can find free online conversion easily to change it to .kml file. Then open the .kml file in Notepad to edit the text. The shape file has multiple ecoregions in it but they are labelled so you can figure out what parts to erase so your new .kml file only has the ecoregion you want. I probably found it easier to intuit considering I used Notepad to type up html for simple websites in the 90s. I was going to look at my files to refresh my memory and give you a better idea of what parts need to be removed.

I used this process previously to make these:

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