How to draw a new place for iNaturalist using Open Street Maps (November 2023)

Hello!

Today I wanted to check the observations in my neighborhood, Vila Indiana, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil.

For that, I needed to draw the shape of the map and somehow add it to iNaturalist. I found out that many others had trouble with the same task, so I decided to write this tutorial to share how I did it all in the browser! No need for fancy, complicated software installs.

Drawing the map

The iNaturalist interfaces for new places ask for a file describing the boundaries of the place in the KML format (Keyhole Markup Language), originally developed for Google Earth and the current standard of the Open Geospatial Consortium.

You can draw and get KML files from many places, but a good place to go that requires no installation, and is free and open source is the uMap project (source code here). So let’s demonstrate how to use it.

On their interface, just click on the big button saying “Create a map”

On this new map, navigate to your location of interest and start drawing a polygon by clicking on the polygon shape in the tool bar

After drawing your shape of interest, it is time to download your map in the KML format. For that, click on the cogwheel on the toolbar, and then on “advanced actions”.

A download button appears below. Click on it.

A window for sharing your map will appear. On the bottom part of it, you will need to select the “kml” format to export to iNaturalist. Now download it and that is it, you have your KML file! Now let’s add it to iNaturalist.

Adding to iNaturalist

Alright, now let’s move this map to iNaturalist. First, make sure you have an iNaturalist account with at least 50 observations. If not, get out there and observe some wildlife!

With your KML file in hand, go to More → Places in the iNaturalist interface using the navigation bar:

A nice page with a big map will appear. On the bottom of the map, you will find a button where it is written “Add a New Place”. Click on it.

Now you will receive a big yellow warning. Read it through and fill the details for your new iNaturalist location. On the button, click

Click that button, select the “Save Place” button and that is it. Congratulations, you have created a new iNaturalist place!

This was mine, for example:

https://www.inaturalist.org/places/vila-indiana

Now that you have a place, you can do things like create (and maintain) a Project using it as a location, see observations, connect to Wikipedia and much more. Have fun!

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this link points to the Swiss instance, which uses Swiss tiles by default, which are unavailable – at least to me – in the US.

i suspect most people should use either the French instance or the German instance.

it may also be worth noting that folks who were interested in getting an existing place from OpenStreetMaps (as opposed to drawing it manually over an OSM basemap layer) can do this using Overpass Turbo. see https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-to-import-a-place-from-openstreetmap-into-inaturalist-using-overpassturbo-web-based/41046.

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Thanks for the feedback and the pointers!

I am based in Brazil and this instance worked just fine to me. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the other instances. Whatever works :)

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