How to become knowledgable enough to identify species?

Hi everyone! This is my first post on this forum, but I have recently been getting into using inaturalist to record my sightings and learn more about the plants, insects, fungi, and animals that I am observing around me. I am wondering if anyone has any resources they can suggest for me to learn how to better identify a wider variety of organisms on my own? Books, online resources, online classes: I’m interested in it all!


Welcome to the forum! It would probably help if you could let us know which geographic area you are looking for. Biodiversity can be very different from place to place and most field guides are focused on a particular area of the world. Other than resources, I think practice and interaction with more knowledgeable identifiers in your local area on iNaturalist will help a lot. It certainly helps me learn new things!


It’s a bit of a vague question, so enjoy a bit of a vague answer.

You should probably start by narrowing things down by taxon and your location. Figure out what area interests you and what wide group, and then search for materials about that, google something like “molluscs of north Dacota” or “aquatic mammals of Mongolia” and you’ll find something: a book, a key, a list, a web page. (This is vastly easier for some combinations than others. There’s a million books about something or other of UK, not so much about Benin.) Pick some creature that you found that’s interesting and that you can’t ID, and go from there.

You can use INat to do something similar: select an area and a taxon on the map, click on the “species” and you’ll get a list of the commonly observed ones. Then you can look at the pictures and familiarize yourself with the most important ones one by one. Usually there are some very easy to ID species that are impossible to confuse with anything, learn about them first, then tackle the giant list of confusing look-alikes. (This is not a very… rigorous or reliable way to learn things, but it’s a way to start.)

1 Like

Welcome to the forum!
I think there are some existing threads that may be useful for you, including: (which is more generally about educating oneself with iNat, not specifically IDing as a beginner)


There was a course for wasps this year and the textbook is available online


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.