iNat times out when trying to load place polygon: 504 Gateway Time-out

Platform: Website

Browser: Chrome

URLs (aka web addresses) of any relevant observations or pages: NA

Screenshots of what you are seeing (instructions for taking a screenshot on computers and mobile devices: Not really needed: just a blank page with " 504 Gateway Time-out" across the top.

Description of problem:

Step 1: Create a polygon in Google Earth Pro. (smaller than Texas)

Step 2: Save the polygon as a .kml file.

Step 3: In iNat > Create a Place, fill out the relevant “name,” “type of place,” and “checklists allowed” fields.

Step 4: Choose the .kml file you created from the “choose file” dialog.

Step 5: Wait several seconds to possibly a couple of minutes.

The page refreshes and the error message appears. No place is created.

Note: There is nothing special about my polygon. It has a name, and the polygon itself, and that’s all. I have done this once before and it worked fine. If anyone who knows more about KML files wants to have a look, I have made the file available here:

Thanks in advance for any help!


I tried using your file to create a place and it timed out as you said. The kml file itself opened in Google Earth just fine. Only thing I can think of is that it’s a very complex shape.

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In short, this place contains too many observations. We need to improve the warning and error messages for clarity in these cases.

Although this polygon’s area is under the size limit, as the file name indicates, this covers all of the beaches of California and nearshore waters. These are some of the most densely observed parts of the world, and this likely includes hundreds of thousands of observations, if not a million+. If this place was successfully added to iNaturalist, it would likely slow the site down for everyone for 24-48 hours while all of those observations were indexed. This is why we have added limits on place creation as iNat has grown.

It looks like we should update the warning message on the place creation page to explicitly mention the number of observations as a limitation as well.

Can you describe how you intended to use this place? Hopefully some viable alternatives can emerge.

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Thank you so much, Carrie!

I suspected it had too many vectors, but did not even think about all of the observations that it would include. I had two reasons for trying to create it. The first was my own reason of wanting to use it to subtract all of those marine observations (in a project) from the one other place I had created, which was meant to capture only the observations from northern California forests of coastal influence, and ended up getting the beaches, as well. Obviously, I should have just created a place for the forests, but I do not know how to create a place with more than one polygon, and the coastal forests are not adjacent to each other the way the coast beaches are, so I ended up including the beaches in my first place, which was not really what I needed for this new project, which is just about forest inhabitants. (It had worked for my original project that I created it for, because that was specifically about ferns, so having the beaches in there was fine, but now I am trying to repurpose it to work for all of the forest flora and fauna, and I don’t want sea creatures, seabirds, beach plants, etc.)

The second reason, I rationalized, was that “who wouldn’t want a place that included just the beach and marine life of CA?” But as you have pointed out, I have bitten off too much, here, so have to rethink the whole thing.

Pity, because it took about an hour to make that polygon. Please let me know if you have any better ways for me to approach this. My two goals are to create something useful for everyone, and to create something that works for the Northern California coastal forests project.

Thanks again!


@carrieseltzer Did you have a chance to think about how this should be done? Thank you so much for any ideas! :pray:


there are a lot of places created to represent various ecoregions, including in California. you could look through them to see if any of them might suit your needs:✓&q=ecoregion&commit=Search.

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I found the Flora and Fauna of the Northern California Coastal Forests & Beaches project and I see that it uses a place created by someone else in 2018 called Northern California coastal forests (with over a million observations now, this place could not be created today).

Can you say more about the purpose of the project? How do you intend to use the project itself? If it’s about filtering out data geographically for an external use, then you could still use the place you created in an external GIS to exclude data from a GBIF export (or series of smaller iNat data exports).

It was just about getting a sense of how the coastal forests are doing, now and in the future. How many species do we have in observations today? Which ones; and which are the most and least observed (realizing that many of the “least observed” were probably misidentified)? Also, if someone were to go visiting in our forests, this project could be a helpful guide on what to expect to see.

That’s interesting that I attached an unintended place to my project. I was sure I had created a place for the Ferns project, but now I see that I actually attached three places to that project, none of which were created by me. Well, good. I’m glad I didn’t already create a huge place.

The thing is, my project was just supposed to take advantage of the abilities of iNat to collect species into a project that can then be looked at and analyzed with the iNat project tools. But I don’t want to strain the system; I just don’t know any other way to get the picture I’m looking for. If I use the regular “redo search in map” tool, I have to work with the rectangular format, which means you can really only look at a very small area if you are trying to exclude extemporaneous data.

I guess one way to do this would be to find or make a small place for each coastal forest, but some are tiny micro-forests, and I could see this taking weeks to complete. Not to mention then there would be even more “place bloat,” which I don’t want to be responsible for, either.

If you can think of anything else that would work with iNat projects, please let me know. Otherwise I will just let it go for now.