Implement Standard Marine Places for the world's oceans

It would be really useful to be able to summarise and filter marine observations by standard Places as we can for terrestrial areas. A few marine Places exist, but they are missing for large parts of the world.

For example, if I want to look at marine fishes off the coast of Brazil, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to do so. I can use “Brazil” and it picks up some from along the coast, but likely misses others taken a little way offshore.

This has been raised before in the Google Group here and here and does seem to have been proposed but not yet fully implemented - with the attached map as the template.

@deboas – is offshore Brazil just an example or is it an actual place that you’re wanting to use? i’m not super familiar with offshore stuff, but it looks like shapefiles are readily available (ex. so i don’t think it would too difficult to create a few places for now, if there is a need.

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Yes, please. I slightly changed the title of the feature request, because these marine places should be “standard” iNat places (vs. “community-curated”) so that they get incorporated into features like range maps on taxon pages/atlases.


Thank you cassi! Yes, they should be standard places.

It is an example, but one I would use. The problem with people creating large places ad-hoc is that it uses up a lot of indexing resources, and there are also size limits to the places that users can create. There are already various large marine places that have been created, but it would be much better to have a set of standard places as cassi has said. Perhaps some of the community places can even be converted to standard places as part of this request.


Is there any standard or process for what can be a standard place and how to request them? Just like this I guess?
For example personally I would appreciate places for Central American, the Caribbean, and all the global ecozones (only some of them exist now I’m pretty sure) but I don’t have the ability or GIS knowledge to create those and I don’t know if they’re “good enough”.
Sorry if this is too off-topic…


Other than requesting through this forum, I’m not aware of any other process.

Hopefully one of the iNat team will comment on this thread and we can see if it’s worthwhile to spin off another feature request for ecozones. There is a good set of WWF ecoregions globally (both terrestrial and marine) - would those meet your needs? What standard places would you like to see in Central America and the Caribbean that are missing?


I was thinking more like Neotropic region, Indomalaya region, etc. I know they’re huge so there’s more reluctance but it seems strange to me that there’s places for the Nearctic, Palearctic, and Afrotropic zones but not the others.
And I’m looking for places for Central America and the Caribbean as a whole. There are places for them but they’re all just single points. I’ve emailed the staff before about it (I wanted to make a collection project that included those areas) and they suggested just listing all the countries in that area. For my purposes that didn’t feel worth it (although that may indicate those places aren’t worth it…).
I don’t really need these places, I just think they would be helpful for the sort of searches I enjoy doing for exploring observations and identifying (and they’re also places I figure other people might use if they existed).

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Got you. Yes, those would make a lot of sense.

Of course! Sorry to be slow to understand.


As someone who primarily identifies tropical Indo-Pacific marinelife on here, I can confirm that it is an enormous pain in the a** to do so. I typically use the map feature and select a rectangle that more or less encompasses the entire region while excluding the subtropical and temperate portions that I’m not interested in… but it’s impossible to do this in one fell swoop… so then I end up needing to do separate searches in areas that didn’t fit in the rectangle (looking at you, northern Red Sea, parts of South Africa and Japan). This is such an important and cohesive ecological region… it would be great to easily search observations from it in its entirety. Same with the tropical West Atlantic… try drawing a rectangle around that without including the Eastern Pacific.


Suggestions for tropical marine ecoregions:

Indo-Australian Archipelago
West Pacific
Central Pacific
West-Central Pacific
Indian Ocean
Western Indian Ocean
Red Sea
Coral Triangle
subtropical South Pacific
subtropical North Pacific (i.e. Japan)
Eastern Pacific Ocean
West Atlantic
East Atlantic


Thanks Joe, that’s a useful list. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed in the near future.

It’s possible there are challenges with creating such large standard places, in which case that would be useful to know from the iNat team so that we can see if there are workarounds.


This has been a recognized “internal” feature request for several years, so, a courtesy ping to @loarie that this topic exists, in case he can weigh in with background.


Having marine places would make curating marine taxa (like cephalopods and cetaceans) significantly more meaningful. Atlases and taxon ranges would be more accurate too.


I agree it would be useful to have Standard Marine Places. We’re taking piecemeal steps in this direction with adding the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of iNaturalist Network countries (e.g. Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, NZ has a couple of legacy ones that don’t conform exactly), though they are not yet standard places. They’re based on the aforementioned, which is an incredible resource. However, each file still needs additional work to subtract the space of the associated country boundary in iNaturalist (the Standard Place) and then find & fix gaps, holes, and overlap along/within the neighboring places. It’s a lot painstaking work, and if you try to over-automate gap filling I think accidents like this can happen.

New places, more than many other parts of the site, can create a large infrastructure burden, which is why the size and complexity of new places are limited. When someone add or edits extremely large or complex (and/or highly observose) places, it can cause the site to slow down, so when we do these as staff we test and then schedule these kinds of changes.

This is all to explain that adding places for all the world’s oceans is a substantial undertaking that requires staff time/coordination, so I think it’s unlikely to happen in the near term in the context of other priorities, but it’s on our minds.

(Sorry I wrote this a while ago but didn’t post it until I rediscovered the tab… eek)


Thanks for this response, Carrie, that’s helpful to know. Great to hear that there is some work ongoing to address this. Perhaps if there is anyone with a pressing need for a large new standard place they could post here to help with prioritization.

Do standard marine places include rivers?

I’m running a little project on the aquatic life of the river in my city and right now, much like this user…

…I have to go through this incredibly time consuming search method to find observations. It would make my day if I could just type “River Name” into the search and be done. As far as I can see the only other alternative is to manually create a place for the river- and no thanks to trying to outline that polygon!

tl;dr- Rivers are hugely important geographical features. We need to be able to search them specifically!