Identity-Based or Social Community Building Projects

I’ve noticed a recent explosion of folks using the traditional project function to create identity affiliation projects - “LGBTQ+ Naturalists”, “Neurodiverse Naturalists”, “Christian Naturalists” etc. I assume the purpose is to create community/meet others? Or visibility, perhaps? It just strikes me that these seem to be proliferating suddenly and are likely to be appearing more in response as folks see these existing ones, and that projects, as a space that collect observations of different species (not users!) are fundamentally a slightly odd way to acquire what seem to be identity badges. (I understand the impulse! Multiple of the labels in the projects I mentioned are umbrellas I fall under, and I think visibility is good.)

My question is if this is indicating demand for some type of “meet community” or “be visible to community” space that is user-oriented rather than observation oriented - ie, a dedicated forum, perhaps? FAQ links that can route folks to other dedicated forums out there? I’m curious if anyone who’s in one of these projects uses the project space/collected species observation for observation or identification purposes, or just as a sort of “hey this is a fact about me” badge that can be put on observations. If it’s only the latter, I wonder if folks have ideas for alternate community formation or visibility mechanics that might save some of the server burden of traditional project collection.

Edit: getting replies like people are assuming I’m saying these are “wrong” or something - I am saying what I mean here. I’m curious about the experience of folks who use these to explore the compiled observations/what their use functions are. See above: visibility good. (Assuming we don’t get any iffy backlash projects being made which I assume community guideline responses could be used to get rid of.) I know they’re not a violation of the ToS or anything like that. I’m curious about how they’re being used! There’s often like 3 ways of reaching a given result on iNaturalist and I want to see the approach of others.
Yes, I know projects can organize communities (ie roadkill newt advocacy project; California Lichen group hike project). This was a new use that doesn’t have a geographical meet-up or advocacy function built in, so I was curious about folks’ use for them.

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Why do you think projects exist to collect species and not users? How’s that different from any place project?


Projects are there to collate observations of any kind and to (potentially) build a community around them. That includes obervations made by a group of people or people who identify a certain way. So I think it’s a fine use of projects, as long as the projects don’t violate the Community Guidelines.

For what it’s worth, the three projects you mentioned are all “collection” projects so they don’t really add much of a burden to the site. For very large projects (especially umbrella projects), those can add some extra burden when someone loads the project page but otherwise they should be pretty light.


Simply because they organize observations (rather than just being a space users join). Although it might be cool if there were a type of project that was just users joining without adding observations!

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Ahh, good to know, I didn’t realize they could be collection projects! Are they using the

User: Search for and select iNaturalist users whose observations you would like to include in your project. The project will then only display observations made by those users, provided the observations meet the other project requirements. You can add multiple users. For situations involving groups, such classes and trips, this is a good way to only include observations by members of your group.

collection function? This makes more sense than what I had guessed - traditional project where at every upload users are choosing to individually add each of their observations to these projects.

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Even though there’re more direct projects, many of them are just that – things to join.
Yes, they’re collectional projects, manually adding thousands of observations would take weeks, you just join and do nothing more, though btw you don’t need to add observations to traditional projects when you upload them, you always can do it later.

There are several projects that are based around Discord communities that seem like what you are referring to:

These all have communities of users that interact outside of iNat (on Discord) and can check out their observations on iNat. This seems to me like a great way to enhance the social aspect of iNat. There are probably other examples as well (people who know each other from Flickr, etc.).


I imagine it can be a nice way of filtering for like-minded users to possibly interact with - from the project page, you can see if other users are posting things near you, or focus your identification efforts on those observations within that project.

I do sometimes worry a bit that people might place themselves at risk by being too open with their identities while also regularly geolocating themselves through observations. There are definitely places you do not want to be advertising that you’re an lgbtq+ person who regularly walks alone on a particular hiking trail at particular times, for instance. But hopefully anyone who joins those projects has thought about the possible hazards already.


I’ve often wondered that myself - what’s the advantage? There must be some.
However, I don’t really care. I know a number of LGBTQ+ naturalists (and have considered joining that group - I’m not gay, etc) - just out of solidarity. Their business, really, why people join. I only belong to projects that collect data.
Macht nichts! (It doesn’t matter).

I’m often in a rural area that’s tolerant, but where there’s fairly little LGBT visibility. When I see the LGBT project badge on someone’s observation I feel a bit of “I belong here.”
Being out in my own profile is reassurance that if someone interacts with me, there’s no surprise coming - it’s like wearing a badge or lapel pin to the same effect. The intolerant can back away without interacting with me.


Great response! It gives me a better sense of the advantage. Personally I feel like I never belong anywhere, and don’t really want to. Hence my wondering. “Belonging” is a bit of a foreign notion to me.

There’s no such thing as a person who belongs nowhere, if you feel that it already means you belong to a certain group, it’s up to you to join projects, but it shouldn’t be seen simply as a label (even if that can be helpful too), those projects gather statistics on certain users and who doesn’t like statistics? Actually, it’d make more sense to start a Neuro-medium iNatters as it actually would be more interesting to find out how many “normal” people are into iNat, they’re very rare out here.

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Thanks. Your comment made me think. I realized that I do ‘Belong’ to iNat - it helps to define who I am and what I do. I’ve just spent so much of my life feeling that I don’t belong anywhere that it is hard to get past that mental barrier.


Maybe belonging is too reductive a framing?
Being invisibly different can feel disquieting, because you don’t have good prediction as to how it’s going to go if your invisibility falters. Some people who dye their hair blue aren’t looking to be part of team “blue hair” so much as to be quite sure that they know what happens if someone blue haired walks into the room.

On my gender journey, I crossed over from “very butch woman” to “ordinary/short man”, and as that happened, I moved through the world with less outward friction, but much more of the anxiety that is “keeping a secret” or “playing a part”.

I think with the observation I’m not quite feeling “there goes my team” but “if they’re out here, I can be too.”


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