iNat big year categories

With the start of the new year, maybe some of you are considering attempting an iNat Big Year. Having just completed one in 2023, I endorse your impulse! If it helps you get started, I wanted to suggest some potential categories for iNat goal-setting:

Bog-standard Big Year categories
– # of verifiable observations
– # of identifications
– # of species or unique taxa
– # of days with a verifiable observations (i.e., daily streak)

Quality-over-quantity Big Year categories
– # of leading or improving identifications
– # of newly added species or unique taxa for you
– # of days/weeks/months with a newly added species/taxon (i.e., new-to-you species streak)

[edit to add from posts below – some paraphrasing for clarity]

Social Big Year categories
– # of iNat people with whom you make an observation with
– # of finatics (metric defined here) you can capture in one image
– # of new users you help get started or welcome on iNaturalist

Any other suggestions from the crowd? If any of you commit to a big year in 2024 and want some encouragement along the way, drop a comment or journal post with your goals, and I’ll be happy to cheer you along!


Obligatory moose pic. One Big Year goal that I made up during the year and missed on was 365 moose observations, on average one per day. Alas, I think I’ll top out at ~330. One day I’ll attempt again…

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The fact that finatic himself is in the orginal image may mean the record will never be broken!
Do you think the finatic metric should stay as defined in that blog post from 2017, or be redefined as the number of observations he reached before he passed away?

There’s a @gyrrlfalcon comment at the very end of loarie’s post that proposes a finatic be defined as 105,710, the number of observations that he’s credited with now.

Because all of this is just for fun, I also think you can choose the metric for any iNat user you want to honor and celebrate. So a #kueda metric would currently be defined as 43,972 observations. There should also probably be the equivalent for a really valued identifier as well…

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How about an overall bog-standard Big Year metric of # of verifiable observations, plus # of IDs, plus # of species/unique taxa, plus # of days with at least one observation (whether streaky or not)? Something that sums up a well-rounded iNaturalist, perhaps?

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My personal records are very difficult to beat.
Longest streak 131 days, most observation in a month 5789! Most in year 18,760, most species in year 2400.
Trying to keep observing but the new species continue to decrease as time goes on.
Hopefully I can crack back into the top 100 of observers like 2020.

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I love this. I didn’t think to take a group photo of our moth night at Watson Preserve when @sambiology came. If we had done a group photo, we would have had
(3908+29162+96455+14589+44465+2119+22549+6639)/105710=1.94 finatics
obs numbers above based on obs up to Jun 5, 2022

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Exactly, it makes me remember all the events I have been to where we could have had a group photo. Especially with @silversea_starsong who now has more obs than finatic

Or @susanhewitt also has well over 100,000!

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@/gwark, myself and others had a related conversation about metrics. The conversation was tangential to the observation where it happened, but here’s the link if anyone is interested to read it for themselves (and unrelatedly also features an embarrassing ID mistake by myself, oops).

He suggested two metrics that I will add up top as possible categories for big year goal-setting. Both are really interesting big year categories imo because they’re locally scalable and (as @/paul_norwood pointed out) they are as much a metric of other people’s observations as of your own.

– % of species observed in a place

Apparently eBird calculates something similar. gwark wrote: “On e-bird, one of the things it shows is the % of species you have out of the total observed in the area you’re looking at. For example, [my] species list for last year included 91% of the total species reported for Sitka, and 48% of the species reported for Alaska.” We manually calculated the iNat equivalent for Sitka and Alaska for all species observed on iNat, and gwark is at 60% and 23%, respectively, for 2023. For my “home” places, I observed 31% of the species observed in Anchorage in 2023, and 20% of species observed in Alaska overall last year. The more species and taxa that are observed in your place by other people, the more challenging this goal would be to reach a higher %, but that’s sort of the fun of it. It’s also a good metric that plays to the advantage of those of us who reside in relatively low species areas, who don’t typically measure up with the impressive species numbers of naturalists who live or travel in more species-rich environments.

– # of species for which your are the sole observer

This is a measure of the number of species that you observed that no other iNaturalist user has observed. Like above, you can scale to place (e.g., # of species that you are the sole observer in your state or county) and/or time period (e.g., # of species that you are the sole observer in your state in 2024). This also has to be manually calculated. gwark explained, "You use the &not_user_id= option of the url string, and put in different people, comparing totals with and without them. " So for example, here’s how I would calculate the # of species for which I was the sole observer in 2023 in Alaska:

all of Alaska in 2023 (5361 taxa):
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2023-01-01&d2=2023-12-31&place_id=6&subview=map&view=observers

Alaska without muir in 2023 (5295 taxa):
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2023-01-01&d2=2023-12-31&not_user_id=muir&place_id=6&subview=map

So, there were 66 taxa for which I was the sole observer in Alaska in 2023 (5361-5295 = 66). Again quoting gwark, this metric advantages:

  1. The pioneer naturalist who visits (or lives in) lightly traveled (by iNatters) and/or difficult to access places/habitats, and documents what they find
  2. The enthusiastic specialist who is gets into an esoteric or difficult group that hasn’t (yet!) managed to get other folks as interested in their passion
  3. The solitary obsessive, who does lots of observing of many things, but doesn’t often bring others along
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Good luck with your next moose streak, and I think you can hit all three of the social metrics! I’ll help you with the finatics - maybe in Seldovia?

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This may be difficult to assess, but a great metric would be # of observations for species not yet included in the Computer Vision Model. What’s included changes over time, so iNaturalist would have to save a data value on whether a species is included at the time of observation.

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Yes please.
Would love to know how many species I helped to add to a CV update - either by obs, or IDs.

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I like that one! Added above.

Also not sure how it would be calculated, and it looks you’ve previously asked about it on the forum. Would be cool though. Maybe someone will figure it out and suggest how it might be tracked.

Big years for big contributors are nice. I had a big year, but I am fairly new to this and buying a new phone with greater zoom had a lot to do with it.

First I wanted to post more observations than 2022. (2022 was only 89, so it was easy.) Then I wanted to post more than 2021 plus 2022. (Total was 111, so also easy.) Then I wanted to post more than 2020 (Joined iNat in May) plus 2022 plus 2023. (Total of 125, so, again, easy.)

Then I wanted to set a record for my number of observations in one day on Celebrate Your Geekness Day on July 13, and I made that goal. It was 19. (Don’t laugh!)

Then I wanted to double my observations for this year, and I made that goal in late November. Last, I wanted to take my total observations over 400 and I made that goal.

Now, I know some of you are having a big laugh right about now. Also, I get that the “Power” users are making massive contributions to iNat, contributions that I admire and appreciate very much. (Thank you!) And, I am sure you need to keep your motivation high to make contributions like that.

But my message is for the folks like me that may never be a power user: This “big year” happened for me because I bought a slightly better piece of equipment - a smart phone that had 30x zoom instead of 4x zoom. (I’m saving now for an even better piece of equipment! LOL!) So here is what would make 2024 a REALLY big year for me - finding a charity that loans the right equipment to students in elementary/middle school so they could get hooked on nature, the same way we are. We NEED them to love nature and fight to preserve it.

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Thanks for sharing about your big year, it sounds like you enjoyed yourself, which seems more important to me than any particular numbers!

When @muir and I were talking in person, I think one of the things that came up was the importance of keeping it fun.

For some of us (certainly me, and it sounds like you), a new bit of equipment might contribute. For others, it might be a trip to somewhere new, a visiting expert or new field guide that opens the door to previously unnoticed groups, or perhaps a compatible nature buddy (or group).

From my perspective, it’s great that people are contributing however seems helpful and fun to them!

I think many of us are motivated by numbers (species counts, and other big year categories discussed above) and enjoy pursuing them. It’s certainly been true for me at times.

In that pursuit it can be tempting to compare myself to others. Although I’m a power user by almost any definition, my annual species counts will likely never be among the top on iNaturalist (which is part of why I started discussing alternative categories/metrics with @muir on the observation he linked above).

I like @muir’s approach of looking at it more in terms of besting his own previous high water marks. However, even that can start to cross over into Type II and Type III fun) for me, so I engage in them sparingly.

These days I more often motivate myself more with streaks, annual species count benchmarks (which I know I can achieve with a little effort, but aren’t a big stretch), and perhaps most importantly, something I call “renewing acquaintances”.

I like to think of myself as “getting to know the neighbors” when I’m doing all this iNaturalist observing. Each year I try to make it a point to revisit most species I’m familiar with at least once to take a picture and say hello (so to speak) to renew my acquaintance with that species. I suppose this might not work so well for people who mainly observe when they travel rather than around their home, but it works well for me.

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My targets run the other way. Get the ID backlogs down to zero :rofl:

Have nearly caught up with Africa, for the ‘honest’ Unknowns.
My second target is - follow guidelines - if you don’t know what the green stuff is, just dump it in plants.

Just over 8K African planty stuff at Kingdom. Wil be - mostly - difficult dicots - but I hope to find - something??

Second target is Unobserved species for my weekly hikes.
784 species seen (not just plants).
Unobserved, plants only, is 2493

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That blog definitely had the right cover picture to portray those two types of fun.

Wow, this is a very interesting statistic, I will definitely keep an eye on my numbers. Thank you. But is it possible to see exactly which species I observed that no one else has seen?

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Maybe the API wizards would have a way, but I don’t know of anything easy, unless you’re considering an area with relatively few species.

You can begin to narrow things down by searching within taxonomic groups.

If you’re really interested, you can manually check by visiting the species page for each of the species you’ve observed and see if there are any other observers.

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Of course the wizzards have you.covered :wink:

https://elias.pschernig.com/wildflower/leastobserved.html?user=ajott

or this one

https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_observations_species_counts.html?order=asc&user_id=ajott&per_page=500&page=6

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