Introducing iNat where there's no cell service--ideas?

A group of volunteers is seeking creative ways to engage folks in using iNat at our local wilderness park during the City Nature Challenge. The park has great access to diverse habitats via a well-developed trail system, so it’s an easy and fascinating place to explore.

What the park doesn’t have is cell service, so offering a demo or having people download the iNat app once they’re at the park isn’t possible. And the park doesn’t yet have an online presence (e.g. Facebook) to introduce iNat ahead of time.

Does anyone have experience showing people the wonders of iNat where there’s no cell service? We’d love to hear any ideas you might suggest. Thanks!

To observe you don’t need the app or cell service, tell people to start doing it first and download the app or open website when they’re finally at home.


Personally I find it too inconvenient to search for flora & fauna, observe, photograph, log and upload all at the same time anyway. I prefer to focus on searching and photographing, then do all the uploading later. For me, that makes the whole experience more enjoyable and less overwhelming. It also means I can take my time in cropping the photos nicely, adding some helpful notes where useful, doing any research I may wish into the species ID, etc. All of that is fiddly to do in the field (especially when there is bright sun or rain to deal with) and eats into valuable potential observing/photographing time.

But I do appreciate that, if the participants are total newbies who have never heard of iNaturalist before, it would be handy to be able to give them a live demonstration. In places where that is impossible owing to lack of signal, I can only suggest you make a video of the process which you can show to them in the field, and which they could watch again when they get home (you could upload it to YouTube and give them the link) to guide them through signing up and adding their first observations. And/or perhaps you could give them your email or phone number so they can reach out to you for support later if they need guidance while signing up and uploading their observations.


Ideally, you’d get your participants to download the app ahead of time. If that’s not possible, you can demonstrate the app on your phone. It works fine without cell service, and will upload your observations as soon as you have wifi or signal again.

They can take regular photos and record GPS themselves, or just add the coordinates via the website later, too. I do find the app very convenient way to keep images, gps, time, all together so I have less organizing to do when I get back to the office.


Two related topics that are worth reading:

I’ve been able to use iNat in “Airplane Mode” on my android phone too, with GPS enabled. I agree with @DanielAustin’s comments about editing, identifying and uploading too. I find that auto-sync leads to new users doing things like:

  • Multiple species per photo
  • App performance decrease with spotty reception
  • Separate photos for different angle of single species

All of which can be frustrating for identifiers (see: Classes uploading large quantities of poor observations). Granted, this seems like a design decision so that people don’t forget to upload their observations if they are one-time app users (see: “Duress” and “Contest” users).

My recommendation is to encourage folks to make a few observations before the event with some guidelines for how to make good observations. A great example is: iNat or iNot: A quiz to check understanding of captive/cultivated.


Excellent ideas! Thank you all! We’ll put several of these into use right away. And if others want to contribute, I’m glad to hear more.


Sorting out the taking photos step beforehand.
So you can concentrate on - what are we looking at? - when walking in your park.

INat is a bit daunting and confusing at first sight, so a little bit of practice to sort out the teething problems, would make it all much more fun for both teachers and pupils.

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old Android phones can be relatively inexpensive. you could buy a few (or ask around to see if folks have any that they could gift you) and preload them with the app and sign in with a park account. folks could use those phones to make observations just to see the flow.

then they could use their own phones to take photos which they could load later.

you could make a QR code or something like that which folks could take a photo of and which once they had internet service again could direct them to a park page or the iNat site or an iNat project page or the iNat app download page.


This thread and discussion might also be useful to you?

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Are there any places nearby that have public WiFi, like a cafe that the volunteers could hold an external event (announced via physical signage) like that at? That might be an option depending on how remote the park is.
Maybe they could have a guided hike that starts at a nearby building with WiFi for an iNat tutorial and then go to the parks to hike & use the app offline.


Maybe worth mentioning, Seek works completely offline. So could still use it to demo to visitors how they can use it to identify things. Maybe just have some pictures prepared and show how (a model trained by) iNaturalist can identify them to species.


The forum gave me an error message when I began sending individual replies–hence the deleted messages. Here’s a group reply instead:

I appreciate all of your thoughtful responses to my post. I’ll be combining several of your ideas into a plan for our group, and we’ll try them out. I’ll share what we learn. Looking forward to it!


If you are introducing new users to inat, please consider also encouraging them to become identifiers on inat, too. The site flourishes with observations and identifications


Our group ended up deciding to use a two-pronged approach for introducing iNat to new users in time for the City Nature Challenge/Wilderness Park BioBlitz:

We’re setting up a table at a local Earth Day event, where there is cell-service, and demonstrating iNat to anyone who’s interested.

We’ll also have a table at the park during one day of the CNC. For the park table, we’ve put together a “Diversity Quest” list of organisms to look for. Park visitors can photograph the list with their phone. If they take “Quest” photos, we’ll give them a bookmark (designed by @nvhamlett) with info on how to get started on iNat (see below). I’ll let you know how it goes!


I like the bookmark. Enough info and not a waste of resources.

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