How can I maximise my number of observations?

I have around 1000 observations, which is nothing compared to other iNaturalist users. I’ve seen users with 30,000 or more observations. How can I make more observations if I am not able to photograph and upload every wild lifeform I see?


quality <> quantity. besides the fact that some other people are able to make a ton of observations, why do you want to make a ton of observations?


Don’t feel obligated to make observations just because others have. Many of those with thousands of observations have been uploading year’s worth of pics and are generally accepted to be “power users.” My personal rule of thumb is that I upload any new species, high-definition photos, or species I can’t identify, and I always take a camera when I go somewhere new. But everyone should set their own pace!


@carl_ramirez, I peeked at your observations to see what pattern they showed. It appears that you spend most of your time in a pretty urban environment but you use curiosity and sharp observational skills to discover life around you and submit a few iNat observations nearly every day. In my view you are a great model for how people can use iNaturalist to open their eyes to nature and contribute to our understanding of how we are affecting the natural world. Just keep doing what you are doing! And if you get a chance, check out some trails near you. There’s so much to discover.


Please describe how you observe, what do you do, how many observations you get on a usual walk?
My best day is this one, I never chased the biggest numbers, but what I did is at the start of the day my huband an I got a taxi to a forest I wanted to visit, there with the use of phone, macro camera and camera with tele lens I

  1. photographed each species of plants I saw, the same species I record usually not closer to 10-20 metres to each other, unless they’re interesting somehow
  2. phtographed insects, even phone can be good enough
  3. don’t forget small things like lichen, sit somewhere and look around you and you’ll find new things to observe
  4. photographed and recorded birds,
    after 4,5 hours in the forest we got back (photograph from the car when you can) and I found some insects on our property, I check for moths every hour or more often if I’m bored.

Don’t take it as if you need to travel, you can just go outside any day and do the same - record what you see and 1k of observations will be forgotten by you quickly.
For lazy recording I use a method of podcast lover, take your phone, open a youtube video you cl listen to and just photograph birds that fly by you, you can get hundreds of observations in a day easily, just don’t forget about iders who will need to check it all!
I also know a very good description of how you can get #1 in CNC, but it’s not in English.
The more you get out and do survey-like observing, the more observations you will get, it may sound obvious, but most of top observers also travel a lot, new places push you to observe more. Same goes for bioblitzes – participate whenever you can!


One strategy is to look in your existing observations for other species present. You can then duplicate the observation for the new organism. Optionally, you can also crop the photos to highlight the new organism and/or add a note/comment that this observation is for the X not the Y.


I think spending more time looking is the easiest way to make more observations. But if you have a full-time job and a family and other hobbies, it’s hard to find the time!

Another way is to expand the list of taxa you are interested in. Lots of people start by watching birds and then maybe add wildflowers. If you also look at trees and moths and lichens and mosses and beetles and isopods and worms and fish - well, your world just expanded enormously.

Finally, please don’t worry about how many observations you make. You don’t “win” at iNaturalist by getting the highest number of observations, you “win” by using iNaturalist get yourself outside more and learning more about the natural world around you. (And iNaturalist isn’t really a game at all, anyway.)


One thing I do is to make several observations from a single photograph, pointing to, for example, the different plants, animals or funga visible in the same shot, of course, sometimes I make a circle to and comment what Im talking about to clarify


I support this! I’m by no means a “power user” but I do make observations wherever I go about, whenever something strikes up my interest. In the course of about 2-3 years on here I’ve accumulated over 4,000 observations.

Being “stuck” in one place does have its advantages; it helps trains the eye to see things that aren’t obvious from the get-go, to search deeper. I’ve learned this firsthand after being restricted to my daily school routine once things reopened. It’s like a brainstorming dump! The obvious things show up first. Then, after some dedicated time and effort, the really great things start coming out.
Plus, I think that a constant awareness and appreciation of the wildlife around you acts as a sort-of mindfulness practice, as well as a way to develop a deeper sense of place :)

The way I see my contributions is I look for things uncommon or unrecorded in an area, at least on iNat. Of course there are those disappointing times when something that you thought was rare/uncommon actually is a more common species, but I’ve gotten used to that and it doesn’t bother me anymore. Filling in the map, finding cool things, making micro-discoveries—it gives a sense of satisfaction to me.


Highest number of observations will not win you anything in inaturalist, or even in life dare I say. This is a statistic that is unimportant, and frankly one you should not care about. iNaturalist is not a competition.

If you do want to have the chance observe more species, or observe the same species in different areas, is just to travel to various locations, of different habitats. Or do a deep focus of the places you frequent. Invest in a macro lens, a clip on one for a smartphone is sufficient, and concentrate on the small animals.


When I first started on iNat, I would usually get fewer than 10 observations per outing because I was really only looking for species I hadn’t seen before or stuff like that. Since then, I’ve learned just how surprisingly important it is to get repeat observations. When I go somewhere, be it new or old to you, I try to document more or less everything I see and can get a good picture of. It allows me - and others - to get a much more accurate idea of what species can be found in these specific areas, and how common they are. Now, I often get upwards of 40 observations per outing. Nowhere near the hundreds some are able to get, but enough to classify it as a successful spree in my eyes.


I would echo everyone’s points here, and also that it’s your account and so long as you follow the broad iNat rules you can observe however (much) you’d like.

If there is one suggestion I would add which @pisum sort of alluded to is that if you are going to make lots of observations, if you are able, try to make as high-quality of observations as you can. As someone who doesn’t filter taxa and just IDs everything locally, I have come across users that upload thousands (often hundreds in a day) of poor-quality observations, by which I mean they are blurry/distant or only show a single portion of an organism. If you are able, photographing several features of an organism can help immensely with IDers being able to identify your organism, which can turn an observation from a broad ID to a learning experience.

It differs for each organism, and this wiki provides tons of info, but within photo recs → guides there are explanations of useful features to photograph for many common taxa:

For example, for plants one might photograph only the flowers. While sometimes diagnostic a much more useful observation would be one that shows one shot of the flower and a clear shot of the entire plant. An even better observation would show those two things along with close-ups of the leaves and stem. None of these examples are the right or wrong way to post observations, but the more you provide in an observation the greater the chance it has of being identified.


Something that helped me get to the next level was getting involved in bioblitzes and the iNat community. Find someone who knows more than you and connect with them. Entire groups of organisms that once seemed unknowable to me are now within my scope thanks to several wonderful iNatters.


The high volume users I see are either photographing every single tree/bush/grass along a trail or spending lots of time day and night in a variety of habitats. (Set up a moth sheet on a warm night and you’ll be amazed.) Everyone’s advice here is great and you’ll figure out over time where your interests lie.


Indeed, time is really the limit for me personally - if I could afford to quit my job I’d have an extra 10 hours of exploring the forest every day, my observations count would explode :laughing:


I agree with others that number of observations isn’t the metric to rule them all, but it can be important (i.e. a larger number of observations in a certain area for a certain species can give you important information on seasonality or how common a species is). I also like the advice of just look at different habitats or taxa you don’t generally observe.

However, I thought about this type of idea before of maximum observations, and I think I have a way that is much more work than anyone is likely willing to put in, but it would be cool if you ask me. You could use a go-pro or video to map everything you saw and then design an AI for extracting all lifeforms from the video. Definitely would be a massive undertaking (for good accuracy I’m assuming you would need hundreds of hours of curated video, and then ways to deal with whether the model only works well in certain environments or places or taxa or things like that).

I’m not gonna do it and it seems like a ton of work, but if someone could pull this off then I’d say they have a good chance of maximizing their observations. (as a side note, maybe satellite imagery could help you observe tons and tons of trees, but thats another story).

Anyways, the best and most realistic advice has already been given by others, which is just get out there and take some pics.

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I think that could also work with drone video. Like I’m imagining if I had a large property and an autonomous self-charging drone on a flight plan to cover the entire property. It could fly low to the ground and take millions of pictures in a year and that software should be able to extract a lot of observations :)

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The moth sheet is now very high on my list of things to do this spring/summer, thank you!

I’m not worried about my number of observations (after all I could unleash my literal thousands of cormorants pictures upon the world, but there’d be little value to that), but I was pretty frustrated with my number of species. What I’ve noticed, as Marina said, is that people with a lot more species logged usually observe a lot of plants, mushrooms and lichens, which I don’t really do. I’m pondering buying a compact camera like the Olympus TG6 to use alongside my DSLR, since a big reason why I don’t take plant photos is that it’s an absolute pain to switch back and forth from my birding lens.


A smartphone takes good plant photos, so you could use camera for birds and phone for plants and come home with a lot!


When I was contemplating buying a camera for iNat photos, because my phone just wasn’t good enough, I was talking to a friend of mine who takes great photos. He said that if you want to take very good photos of birds, you need to dedicate yourself to that, at least for the space of that day’s hike. Otherwise, as you’ve noted, it’s a pain to switch back and forth among cameras.

That said, I ended up buying an Olympus TG and it’s been great for my (fairly undemanding) purposes.

And moth sheets are addictive. I ended up not getting enough sleep, so I went to a non-lethal moth trap that I set out in the evening and come back to check the next day.