Inat Productivity

Quick question for everyone
Is it better to prioritize more species inless observations(less duplicates) , or more observations and similar number of species(more duplicates). Usually when uploading my first 100 observations I end up with 40-60 species through 100 obs. However, today I ended up with 87 unintentionally, by far more than I ever had before(very few duplicates). Is this level of productivity better, or is my average 50 species per 100 better?

I’m sure others will put it better, but i think either is fine. Its OK to have 100 different species in 100 observations, as well as 100 observations of a single species (e.g. daily tracking of a particular organism through various stages of development). Just keep these things in mind:

  • Photos of the same organism at around the same time should be put into a single observation.
  • Photos of different organisms should be in different observations.

As far as quantity is concerned, I believe either approach is fine. But are you sure you’re asking yourself the right question(s)? Everyone has a different way of using iNat, but without wanting to judge anyone, I personally am not a great fan of the quantity approach. The question I always ask myself is not “how many”, but “why” and “what contribution” can this observation make to the iNat community and beyond. For example, among plants, I tend to post an observation with:

  • a species new to me I’d like to learn more about (of course!)
  • a familiar species in a new place which says something interesting about its distribution area
  • the first/last flowering/fruiting etc. to document phenology
  • a photo which illustrates a particular diagnostic feature clearly in the hopes it can be helpful to someone else in the future, and so on…

Or in the case of arthropods, another of my passions, it could be an interesting interaction, or behaviour…
Then as far as possible, I try and spend time over fully recording, presenting and uploading the observation to make it as useful as possible to others.
Finally (particularly since I also started some serious IDing for others)… I ask myself: is this observation worth the time and effort others will put in to ID it?

At the end of the day though, there is, of course, no right or wrong approach to how you use iNat, so whatever makes you feel good in your relationship with nature :blush:.


Do whatever you find the most fun. Of course researchers value your contributions. If you are enjoying yourself, you will spend more time observing, more time in nature, and will likely continue to contribute in the future. Don’t let yourself burn out by fretting over details, unless that’s what you enjoy!

Baseline data is critically important, especially as the climate undergoes dramatic change. Anything you upload could be important to research – we can’t fully predict what will be needed.


More species is more likely to be valuable. Lots of observations of the same species are probably going to be redundant, especially if they are close to one another.

1 Like

At the first you should answer to the main question of Inat)
“What do I want to reach here?”
And only after the answer you can select your way to be productive.

It is ok to collect new species. It is ok to map every bush or flower in some area. It is ok to make observation on a feeder outside your window. It is ok to make observations when you travel, even if it is just photos of pines, larches or birch trees every 100 meters.

Also, don’t forget that you have to make observations of casual species to find something interesting and rare, if you are not an expert in the group.

For example I try to photo every bumblebee I meet. Yes, I have over 100 obs of B. pascuorum. But I observed about 30 species in total. The same for some other groups.


It’s entirely up to you and what you find more interesting//enjoyable/personally useful.

Each method has its advantages and uses for others.


I agree with the main consensus here - do what you enjoy most. Anyways noone can really predict what the data might be used for… and thus I do not agree with the sentiment that to observing more species will always be best.

For example, at one point during corona curfews I started a backyard project observing amphibians. As it was a pretty variable species with individual patterns I aimed to see how many different indiviuals I would observe and also how loyal to location those indiviudals would be. I myself was just interested in those questions and did not care about whether it would be useful for anyone else. I ended up being the top observer for this species by faaar (more then ten times the observations then the next observer). Whatever.

I later found out some of those observations have been used for a scientific paper on typical retreats used by amphibians and one of my pictures even was used as illustration is this paper.

I wouldn´t have guessed this use beforehand. But of course for such a study it is “the more the better”.

Other researchers might wanna look for intraspecies variety or certain behaviours oder temporal patterns or whatever.

I now have some organisms I just do like a lot and I take pictures of all the time. Others are common but I barely photograph them (which actually is a completely other kind of issue, of common species beeing heavily underreported). And others I just do know so little about that I also take pictures of them frequently, because it happended several times in the past that in the end the were a new to me species I just did not realize.

So, find the niche you enjoy and go with it - most important thing is that your observations are useful for you. Others will determine in time, how useful your data is or not for others.


Animals and plants move around. They grow, develop, reproduce. Posting common species X in location Y every year has a lot of value for indicating that it’s still present. Posting X in Y at many dates within each year tells about phenology (what happens when, e.g. flowering or fruiting). Posting multiple photos of species X may tell about individual variation or about interactions (e.g. plant/pollinator associations). There’s probably a limit to how many photos of X in Y at date Z will be useful, but we don’t know what that limit is. So do what is fun.


As others said do what you enjoy. But I will share my priorities:

In a new place I have never been, try to get one of every species. I don’t repeat a species too many times unless there’s something unusual about it or i ‘reset’ my inventory (like if there are two swamps i want to inventory that are near each other i may still observe each plant species in each one). Certain invasive species i observe again and again.

Other days i am covering lots of ground, like a road trip or a work day that involves a lot of travel. Then i may observe the same species multiple times, as with tree species along a road, but they will usually end up spread out.

If i’ve already been somewhere I focus on things that are seasonal. Things that are flowering, fungi that aren’t usually visible, and insects.

On my land and a few other places i visit a lot, i try to just inventory every organism there. I dont aim for a lot of duplication but if can happen if i forget if ive seen something before and that is fine.

Occasionally i use iNat for wetland mapping and in those cases i observe something from each wetland i want to map. Usually a ubiquitous or common plant that is hopefuly identifiable from the photos. I try to get things others can verify, but sometimes the photo is blurrier than expected.

I don’t do much ID help any more but i chose to focus on areas of expertise. I’ve been on iNat since 2011 and at first i would literally see every plant observation on the continent, because iNat was so small. Over time it narrowed to just California and New England, and then i mostly stopped doing ID from California as my time there became further removed (i lived there until 2009) , the volume of observations increased, and taxonomy diverged more and more from what I knew. Eventually i stopped. In New England i narrowed to Vermont and mostly just to a small set of observers who i knew or who made observations i found interesting. But ultimately some personal life things came up and some gripes i have with how iNat works, so i just kind of stopped. Now i just do them if i come across them. But same applies for that, do what is fun. It stopped being fun for me so i stopped.


I have a question in relation to this. If I find 17 patches of burdock in one day on a trail, 7 in one small area, 5 in another and the rest scattered, each patch being multiple plants. Is it all one observation? How do you deal with it?

Probably not one observation, but it is really up to you. In general, the best practice is for each observation to have one individual focal organism. If you want to make an observation of an individual from each patch, that is up to you. Most people probably wouldn’t, but if you have a specific reason to do so, there’s nothing wrong with it.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.