Integrating iNaturalist observations into a Floristic Study

I am currently starting a floristic study in a wilderness area in Oregon for bryophytes. Unlike pass studies/publications that include only a reference to a herbarium specimen for each species included in the flora, what might be some suggestions for adding iNaturalist observations. The final goal being more publicly accessible data produced from the project?

I have thought of adding a link to the observations in the manuscript after the herbarium specimen citations, but this may become cumbersome as multiple observations are made of the same species and space can be limited.

Any suggestions regarding the use of iNat observations in this study are very welcome.



I’d suggest checking out this paper: where the author used an iNaturalist project to augment his floristic survey.


(edit: sorry, meant this to be a reply to the main topic, not specifically to elka-bamboo’s reply)

Yes, an iNaturalist project is a good way to provide access to the iNaturalist observations through a single portal, which you can cite as an Internet resource. You could also consider creating an appendix or supplemental data set containing all the observation links that couldn’t be included in the main manuscript.

Finally, if you decide to rely on any observations as the sole record of a taxon in your area, be sure to capture and archive a “snapshot” of each such observation to support repeatability and falsifiability of your study, since observers can edit their observations at any time. If the archive is publicly accessible, make sure that the observation license and the photo license is compatible with such use, or get permission from the observer first.


Also, I moved this topic to the General category, since it is not specific to curation or Curators on iNaturalist. Good luck with your study!


Agreed with Jim, a supplementary file is a great idea, and something that I’ve personally done for similar surveys that I’ve published. It would also be useful to note collector/voucher numbers in the description of each observation where you happened to both collect and photograph a particular lichen so that the two can easily be cross referenced. Whenever I deposit vouchers at my state herbarium, I also include a link to the iNat observation in my collection notes for that specimen


I’ve participated in a study looking at phenology along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the aim was to involve citizen scientist volunteers to expand the dataset. The students set this up as a traditional project and added observation fields relevant for their study so they could download a spreadsheet for data analysis. Getting volunteers to make identifiable observations is relatively easy for flowering plants though compared to bryophytes, which you often have to key out using microscopy to verify the ID so I’m not sure how useful that approach would be for you.


Hey Zane! I included iNaturalist observations in my floristic inventory (vascular and nonvascular plants) of Coyote Ridge and Flat, Inyo County, CA (iNat project: mainly by linking my herbarium specimens with associated iNaturalist observations using QR codes on the labels. Corresponding iNaturalist observations also have their collection numbers cited in the comments. I got this idea from and used the mail merge code in Heberling and Isaac 2018 (, but didn’t use the iNaturalist app to record collection information like they recommend in that paper. It looks like the paper that @elka_bamboo cited also used Heberling and Isaac’s methodology with some modifications in their floristic inventory.

For the sole record issue that @jdmore brought up, if the observation was mine, I printed out these photos and submitted them to an herbarium as a photo voucher (e.g., which is what my local curator recommended to facilitate citing these specimens in the manuscript.

I feel this is a really cool idea with numerous upsides that only requires a little extra work when in the field (and office/herbarium)! Producing high quality diagnostic photos of bryophytes backed up by herbarium specimens, I think, will do much to advance this field, reduce barriers to entry for bryophyte beginners (me), and facilitate identification of local species.

Happy to discuss methods further and/or send you a copy of my thesis if you’d like, just message me separately :)