How do you utilize citizen science data *at work*?

Inspired in part by What is thing you wish folks better understood about your field of study? - Nature Talk - iNaturalist Community Forum

For those of you on this forum who are professional '-ologists, land managers, botanists, etc, how do platforms like eBird and iNat impact your job/research/projects? I’m particularly interested in the contrast of pre-2010-ish (eBird started 2002, iNat 2008) to now.


I’ve worked for or in collaboration with USFWS Inventory & Monitoring for 5+ years now. Prior to iNat and eBird, there was little information on what species occurred on National Wildlife Refuges beyond those listed in the refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). CCPs are generally very vertebrate centric, with particular attention given to waterfowl for many refuges. Now USFWS has an iNat project that provides information on species occurrence for many taxa. Additionally, eBird provides amazing data on occurrence and abundance for birds on wildlife refuges.


I work for state government doing wetland assessments and mapping.

I use iNat for mapping, but do filter mentally for more reputable users and locations because a mis-mapped location can do more harm than good.

I use the algorithm for plant ID, especially the species where i “know this one but forgot its name” and can just pull up the algorithm and check. That’s only in the office though. In the field cell service is too iffy and there’s also a bug where when i turn on the algorithm it turns on auto sync too (eww). I also use it to keep track of species i key out, and look at the approximate range of species to see whether a possible ID is reasonable.

I use iNat a lot to collect data. Creating species lists for a wetland, ground truthing for mapping, noting unusual range edge things, creating a general overview of the biodiversity of an area, leaving ‘bread crumbs’ in areas i’ve looked at, etc etc. I’ve done this a little bit less than i used to lately because the constant issues with taxonomy make crosswalking with my work database impossible. So it’s a bit more informal lately.

We have a project where people can add observations to be used in our wetland mapping, which is really helpful, though only used by a few people.

We do site visits for landowners, small preserves, etc and some of them really appreciate using iNat to make a species list of their land which they can also get photos from and add to later. I’ve started to do this more now that obscuring works better, because many land owners prefer location to be obscured.

I sometimes use it to train new employees, though most don’t get as enthusiastic about it as i do.

iNat has been a big gamechanger for field work, though also some downsides that have gotten worse lately as i mentioned in another thread. Either way i do expect it to stay really valuable, unless some billionaire muskrat buys it and wrecks it (no not Gerald, the other famous muskrat).


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