Institutional use of iNaturalist

I am a volunteer helping set up a field station Herbarium. We would like to use iNaturalist to simplify internal communication and data collection. We created a project and required data fields. All is working well.

Here’s the catch. If a project member ever becomes disgruntled, they can easily remove their personal observations from the project using the ‘add to project’ toggle.

  1. Is there any way to preserve the data in the project if the person opts out of the project? (Downloading csv files, yes but then you lose all the wonders of the iNaturalist interface.)
  2. Is it allowed and would it make sense to create an institutional iNat account, using say " that would only be used for the herbarium observations?

You have two good questions and I can only address one. I recommend periodically downloading the data from observations in your project, as a back-up. That way, you won’t loose the data even if somebody deletes their account.

Each time you do the backup, add the data to your existing backup file. Some day, if you’re going to use the data, use your spreadsheet’s ability to return only one copy for each set of duplicates. Or if you’re better at computers there’s no doubt a non-clunky way to do this. Anyway, keep your own backup which you may never need.


While I don’t think this is explicitly prohibited, iNat is mainly for individual encounters with nature. I do know of several museum accounts, but they don’t tend to be responsive.


Are you talking about collecting data for existing specimens in the herbarium, or as a way to standardize collecting the correct data in the field before a specimen is collected?

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Institutional accounts are allowed under some conditions, and I think this could be a case like that, depending on the situation.

I’m assuming that the project type you are referring to is a traditional project. If so, individual users would always be able to remove their observations from a project like this if they chose. For collection projects, there isn’t a way for users to prevent their observations from appearing in them currently, so this wouldn’t be an issue.

As others have noted, iNat is primarily about recording individuals’ encounters with nature. If the account is being used for documenting new/continuing observations that are being added to the herbarium by students/workers, then this seems reasonable. iNat definitely isn’t intended as a replacement for collections management software for large scale uploads of historical collections however. One other aspect to take into account is whether the herbarium will be adding data to GBIF or similar - if so, making iNat observations will essentially duplicate these and could create confusion for data users, so this should be avoided.


i think cthawley’s reply covers most of the major points, but if you’re going to try to do an institutional account, the way i would do it is to create individual accounts for each person in the organization that needs to interact with the system. for example, johnbarr would continue to have a personal account, but for work at the field station herbarium, he would use, say, a fsh_johnbarr account that is tied to an organization e-mail account. this way, the organization can get into the fsh_johnbarr account through the organization e-mail if it’s ever needed, the organization can keep rights to the media in the observations, and potential damage is limited to just that account if a volunteer ever decides to go rogue.

I believe that institutional accounts are actually encouraged in some cases, if tied to an e-mail that will stay with the institution even if the first person leaves. The idea is that managing the iNaturalist account is part of the position in the institution and so the account will remain stable despite personnel changes.


Thank you all for your generous responses.
We’ll be meeting to go over our options.