iNat Success Stories

Hey everyone,

Whenever I do talks and outreach about iNat, I like to discuss successful uses of iNat - for community engagement, gathering data, etc. But I’ve been using the same (older) examples for a while now and would love to change things up. So I’m starting this topic as a place for people to share success stories for anyone to use when they’re discussing how iNat can be used. Examples of using iNat data are great, but I’m especially interested in examples of more ephemeral outcomes, such as engagement and community growth. Hopefully that’s not too vague… Thanks!

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Along with two other UNSW researchers (Associate Professor and a PhD), I recently met up with Valerie Taylor, the famous shark conservationist and cinematographer. Among other ideas, I ‘pitched’ iNat to her and discussed accessing her old footage and uploading it to iNat. We’re still putting the finishing touches on the discussion and finalising some details, but she’s quite receptive to the idea. So over the next few months, I’ll be uploading her photographs and stills from her footage to iNat via an account set up in her name. Many of these images are from 50+ years ago and represent never before seen underwater footage. I’ll be uploading underwater images taken from her from around the world. I know everyone here understands the value of this data, but to briefly explain one application:

In the next few weeks I’ll be going through footage she took from the Great Barrier Reef’s Heron Island and creating a project for all the fish she observed. Then in late January/early February I’ll be heading up to Heron myself and seeing how fish biodiversity has changed since, e.g. which species are no longer there.

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This past summer, the staff and summer interns at the nature preserve I was working at did a month long iNaturalist bioblitz competition. We had prizes for the most observations, highest biodiversity of observations, most taxons, most IDs provided… and a few others. Across the 15 staff members who took part in the competition, we had 39 first research grade observations of species in our county, including even some birds and mammals. We collected 1,372 observations of 422 species, but mostly we had a ton of fun. It not only was a great way to get us all out on the land and looking for new things, but also exposed staff members to a new educational tool that is now being used across our departments.

Feel free to PM me if you want more specific details!

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Wow! I look forward to seeing those! I went to Heron Island in October and was surprised to find out there really weren’t many observations uploaded to iNat.

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My local conservation authority ran a citizen science project both for engagement and to gather data, of which iNat was a integral component: https://cvc.ca/conversations/butterfly-blitz-whats-in-our-watershed/ (iNat project here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/cvc-butterfly-blitz). I think it was quite successful.

I could get you in touch with the organisers if desired.

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5 posts were split to a new topic: Presentations about iNaturalist

My full time job is working as both a teacher and administrator for an online university. For the last couple of years, I’ve been using one of the weekly discussion forums in my non-majors Biology and Ecology classes as an opportunity to have students (who are by and large “non-traditional”, ~35-40 yrs old) access iNaturalist, enter their location and find organisms that are common to their area. I have them use the map, about, taxonomy, etc. tabs to write a bit about their chosen organisms as well as why they chose those organisms. Students really seem to enjoy that activity.

I also teach part time at a local community college and I’ll create extra credit opportunities for students using iNaturalist. There, so many of my students are not really outdoor types and are often afraid of or uninterested in nature. The assignments are usually just having students enter a certain number of observations for x-amount of points. I usually get substantial participation. Needless to say, the flora and fauna of campus are well documented! :)

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I suspect my story is rather a lot like others on this site, and a bit boring. However, I can truly credit my introduction to iNat for my current vocations as an MPA Watch volunteer, Heal the Bay Aquarium education volunteer, NHMLA field event iNat mentor, Superproject/Bioscan participant, Coastal Cleanup Day site captain, and more. My involvement with iNat informed a different way I experience the world and, especially, urban nature in a large city like Los Angeles. Moreover, a shout out to all the new friends I’ve made as well! I’ve also just enrolled in the CA Naturalist program offered through Catalina Island Conservancy this winter/spring and your question, Tony, is much on my mind as I ponder a capstone project of my own.

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Last year I started working with a local park, Carl Schurz Park, as their volunteer naturalist and their liaison with iNat (suggested by Daniel Atha of NYBG). CSP is a gorgeous park with interesting topography, a good number of dedicated volunteer gardeners, and a flourishing Conservancy. The gardeners mostly live right in the area (it’s a super-nice area), and most of them are older ladies like myself. They were willing in theory to engage with iNat, but didn’t really know how to. I set them up with a Biodiversity Project and a Place, and did my best to teach them how to make observations, which wasn’t easy, as a lot of them are not really very internet- and smart-phone- savvy.

I also did a bunch of short nature walks with them, within the park, on different topics. (In spring and fall the park already has bird-walks from Gabriel Willow, who is a super entertaining urban naturalist as well as a superb birder.)

The volunteer staff really had a blast on my walks, as most of them really only knew about the garden plants they work with in their part of the park (each one has their own flower bed/ plant area) and they really enjoyed hearing more about the complex web of nature.

I have recently been really getting into ID-ing plant diseases and plant pests, so I was also able to ID some of those for them while also reassuring them that the great majority of the plant pests and plant diseases that are present in CSP park are not really a threat, do not need much intervention, and will “even out” naturally as time passes.

The park uses no fertilizers, pesticides or weedkillers, and is home to a population of DeKay’s Brownsnakes, which is pretty impressive for a relatively small park in Manhattan!

I guess gardeners are a natural source of potential nature people, and older people in good shape tend to have more time than a lot of younger people.

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Hi Tony!! A successful uses of iNat here in Ecuador was the Bioblitz of which you were a part… “Vamos a los Parques Nacionales” ´cause for the first time rangers and other people were able to upload their pictures and contribute to the knowledge of the biodiversity of 12 National Parks (11,000 records of flora, fauna and fungi in just 48 hours). Currently rangers continue to use iNat and this year the challenge will be extended to more than 40 protected natural areas.

In Ecuador, iNat is being used more and more … that is a very good news and example for you!!

Hugs

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Thanks for the great stories everyone, I’ll message some of you for more info.

That’s so great to hear, Pancho! Seeing how knowledgeable the rangers were about that amazing park was a highlight of my trip.

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Thanks for the shout out, Reuven! I’ve written up an article on the first year of the Butterfly Blitz for the Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada, which will be published in March. It’s got a bunch of summary stats on participation and engagement as well as species observations. I’d be happy to share it once it’s available.

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Our project success is prob. like many other projects, but here in Vermont, USA we have built up a really great community of naturalists. At the end of each year, I try to do a recap blog for some highlights. Here is 2019: https://vtecostudies.org/blog/volunteers-help-the-vermont-atlas-of-life-build-biodiversity-big-data-in-2019/. The chart showing our growth just shows annual reporting keeps on going up and up every year.

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I started using iNat to get identifications of the organisms (esp. dragonflies) my husband I photographed in Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico. That was back in 2014.
Eventually I learned enough about the dragonflies that I could start helping others on iNat. That grew into my creating a website for Yelapa’s dragonflies.
As my skills increased (like to advanced beginner), I started taking on other projects - such as I created maps for all the dragonfly species found in Mexico, and then I increased my website to be for the whole Cabo Corrientes municipality.
I think I’ve interested a lot more people in documenting odes they’ve seen in Mexico on iNat. and am now using many of those photos to create a down-loadable free PDFguide for Jalisco’s dragonflies.
None of this would have happened without iNat. Thanks!!

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I like the way that story unfolded. At each step the products were useful and interesting, but they led to bigger things with bigger impacts. Nice!

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In 2017 I helped organize an All Species Community Big Year (kind of a mashup of a birding big year and a bioblitz) for my hometown of Sitka, Alaska.

We didn’t end up having as much capacity to promote and support it with events throughout the year as we had originally hoped, but still ended up with 84 people contributing over 10500 observations of nearly 1700 unique taxa (which seemed pretty good for a small town at northern latitudes). Several folks who were introduced to iNaturalist as part of this project continue to be significant contributors of observations for the area.

Here’s the project page: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/sitka-big-year-project

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Hi - this might have been mentioned already, but I started the Personal Bioblitz at Rutgers University (worldwide, 76 days each spring. many non-Rutgers people participate) five years ago, and the ‘community effects’ and more of this annual project was published in BioScience. Please e-mail me at lena.struwe@rutgers.edu if you want to see the article. Here is the website for the project:
https://herbarium.rutgers.edu/personal-bioblitz/

We also now run the Rutgers Flora and Fauna project and checklists by automatically collecting observation data by anyone and everyone reporting anything from areas that are owned by Rutgers University - see here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/flora-and-fauna-of-rutgers-university-nj-usa

This has encouraged people to seek out ‘white areas’ on the map, and start reporting from farms, research stations and less visited areas, as well as shown us where hidden biotopes and ecosystems support high biodiversity that was previously unknown.

Finally, Natalie Howe was contacted by someone that had seen her iNat observation photo of a new species, and it was used in the original species description. One of my observations from Costa Rica was the third ever report of a species in the world, and the first photo/image ever of it (apart from the type specimens). There are so many of these examples.

Good luck!
Lena Struwe

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ART! I’ve been amazed at the responses I get when I show people/ or my students close-up pics from iNat. Some are inspired to find out more about the organism, but others become inspired to make their own images either photographically or in more original art. Macro photos also can be inspiration for students (or any adult, I suppose) for writing. Assasin bugs can be super-heros, villians, etc. Mosses become entire worlds. iNaturalist can be a window into a whole new worlds; the power of seeing through the eyes of another organism (as we well know) can be downright spiritual!

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