How To Browse Regions / Create New Regions / Learn About Regions?

I routinely use groupings of regions, like there is one “Northeastern United States and Canada” that I find super useful:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=59956

and:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=52250

when choosing where to do ID’s, because some species I am more familiar with in some regions than others, and I don’t want to go too far out of my comfort zone because there are other species to check against.

I love this region grouping feature, but I don’t know where to find a listing of all the species, nor if there is a way to add or create new features. Basically I want to find a “Region” section of the site where I can learn everything there is about these regions and what ones exist and what they mean, etc.

One thing I would really love is to be able to search and browse things by ecoregion rather than by groupings of countries and/or states. I do a lot of work using the US EPA / CEC ecoregions which cover all of North America, and there are also WWF ecoregions globally. I notice many of the Level 4 ecoregions are already imported into the site, but I can’t find the Level 3 ones.

I also am curious if there is a hierarchy of regions, like if there is any sort of nested organization like Parent Region > More Detail > Even More Detail etc, and a way to browse regions like this. I would find this really useful, whether it’s states and counties and such, or ecoregions or ecozones/provinces (as Canada calls them) or other arbitrary groupings.

And is there even a “master page” for each region? Like there is for each taxon? I would really like this…and if it exists it is hardly clear how to access it.

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I’m just learning about places myself but, to get you started, the two URLs you posted above correspond to the following pair of places:

https://www.inaturalist.org/places/59956
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/52250

Hope this helps,

Tom

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You can search for place & create places here. I don’t think there is a way of browsing places on a map at the moment.

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It’s not really browsing via a map per se, but I just look at the explore map, pick an observation about where I am interested, and go to it’s observation page, and from there I can click on “more details” under location in order to see the list of places that contain that GPS location. Opening them in separate browsers i can then switch back and forth to compare them with each other, until I find one that is suitable for my purposes.

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On the web “Explore” page you can click on the “Places of Interest” button to see both standard places (mostly states and counties, mostly with a hierarchy) and user-created places, which vary from someone’s backyard to entire continents. The giant user created places became a big strain on the servers so you can no longer create large places. You can only see a few “Places” on the map so you might need to zoom in or out to find the one you’re looking for.

The user-created places vary in quality, some are labeled and assigned to parent places and fairly well thought out. Others are less well curated and there may be several slightly different versions of the same place by different people. There’s very little curation of the Places and the programming staff hasn’t had much time to devote to the Places section of the site so it’s not the easiest part of iNat to use.

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Thanks! This is all incredibly useful, thank you everyone!

I have one more question. One of the users has very nicely added all the Level 4 US EPA ecoregions, and I would love to be able to search and filter by these regions on the observation and identifications page, but it doesn’t look like you can do this for user-created regions.

Is this something I’d need to get in touch with staff about, or make a feature request about? Or is it something a curator could address, like making these “official” regions?

I tend to like doing things by ecoregion rather than political boundaries, and I would love to be able to filter all the various features by ecoregion, which I can’t currently do.

Have you tried using Place rather than Location?

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Wow, I had no idea there was a separate “Place” field buried in there, that completely addresses it! Thank you so much!

I now just need to figure out how to get the Level 1, 2 and 3 ecoregions imported and I’ll be good to go, and I’m sure I’ll be able to figure that out.

As mentioned above, non-staff don’t have the ability to add large places because it puts such a huge strain on the system (every single observation within the boundaries needs to be re-indexed). You could try making a feature request maybe? The US is so observose I’m not sure they’ll consider it though… :/

Oh yeah, that makes sense that that would put a huge load on the system especially if a lot of users were creating large and/or detailed regions. I’ve found from my own work with GIS that the load placed on a server is often heavily dependent on the detail of the region too. I haven’t checked to see what kind of detail the user-entered data on the level 4 ecoregions have, like whether they’ve been simplified from the original EPA dataset.

I would really like to have ecoregion-based searches though; they make SOOOO much more sense than political boundaries, and I think they would make the data much more useful to scientists, because the existing literature references ecoregions and the land forms they represent much more closely than political boundaries, when studying or tracking distribution of various organisms. And there is already a lot of server load being used to group things by state (in ways that make little to no sense ecologically, including huge states like California.)

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The trick is to find a KML file that describes the boundary of the region you’re interested in. The KML file is then used to create the corresponding iNat place.

I searched the EPA.gov site for KML files but couldn’t find any. If you figure this out, please let me know.

Thanks, Tom

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They are available as shapefiles (level 1, level 2, level 3), which are easily convertible into kmls. The problem is that they are too large for anyone but staff to enter into the system.

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For the record, can you briefly describe how “shapefiles” are converted to KML? TIA

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In QGIS you can right click the shapefile and save as KML, more info here under the first tutorial for IUCN to iNat. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/taxon-range-map-editing/146

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Sorry, “easily” is a relative term. As bouteloua said, you can use the free software QGIS. With the shapefile layer open, each individual feature (i.e. ecoregion) can be saved/exported as a separate kml. Let me know if you want more guidance beyond what’s in the tutorial.

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