Needing citations for description/history/context of iNaturalist platform

In a paper I’m preparing which deals with the use of iNaturalist in natural history investigations, I make a generalized statement about iNaturalist as follows: stands out [among other citizen science platforms] for its breadth of coverage (all life), worldwide coverage, and it’s exponential growth (refs).”
I would like to fill in “refs” with some accessible, preferably peer-reviewed references which support my assertions. Can someone suggest one or a few foundational references to plug in here? I’ve been using Google Scholar to search for such backup material but its offerings are often taxon-specific or tangential to the point I am making.

Thanks in advance.


This one might be useful, though it is continent- specific: Mesaglio and Callaghan. 2021. An overview of the history, current contributions and future outlook of iNaturalist in Australia. Wildlife Research (online early) .


Check out these:

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.7307



These might be some reasonable more general citations that put iNaturalist into a broader context of biodiversity data and other citizen science platforms, although these don’t get into iNat in much detail:

Mentions how citizen science data, including iNaturalist observations, are being digitized and put on GBIF much faster than museum records:

Heberling, J. M., Miller, J. T., Noesgaard, D., Weingart, S. B., & Schigel, D. (2021). Data integration enables global biodiversity synthesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(6).

Mentions iNaturalist as one of ~10% of citizen science efforts that are global in scope:

Chandler, M., See, L., Copas, K., Bonde, A. M., López, B. C., Danielsen, F., ... & Turak, E. (2017). Contribution of citizen science towards international biodiversity monitoring. Biological Conservation, 213, 280-294.

Discusses how eBird is helping fill gaps in biodiversity records and mentions iNaturalist as helping to expand to more taxonomic groups:

Amano, T., Lamming, J. D., & Sutherland, W. J. (2016). Spatial gaps in global biodiversity information and the role of citizen science. Bioscience, 66(5), 393-400.

You can also cite a GBIF DOI for iNaturalist RG records if you need to cite the current number of records and taxa at a given time.

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I’m not going to get on my soapbox about it, but wouldn’t it be better to reach a conclusion based on evidence… rather than to go in search of evidence that supports a conclusion you wish to be true? :thinking:

But if these papers are out there, then conclusions based on evidence already exist. This is presumably for the introduction

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Well sure evidence exists, but evidence exists to support almost any conclusion if one is willing to cherry-pick.

To me, there is a huge difference between:

  1. I suspect X, does anybody know of any research supporting or refuting X?
  2. I have decided Y and cannot find research to support it. Please help me find research supporting Y.

Do you think of these as the same?

Your 1 and 2 are obviously not the same, but I think it’s fairly clear that Chuck’s situation is a 1 (especially since he literally states he has already found papers supporting X, just at a more specific-scale)

Chuck’s line

is a statement of fact. It’s not cherry-picking when all the relevant papers say the same thing. If there was a paper which said the opposite, i.e. that iNat was not growing exponentially, that it didn’t cover taxa across the whole tree of life, or that it didn’t have worldwide coverage, then sure, your point is valid. But you won’t find any papers mentioning those things because they don’t exist given those statements would be patently untrue


I don’t know why you think I’m arguing the claim isn’t true. I’m just pointing out that the evidence to support it was at most incomplete when the claim was written, or there would not have been a call to fill in the evidence. From a research perspective, this strikes me as backwards. If the evidence was complete and convincing, no more would have been required.

The issue here was not that the evidence didn’t exist/was incomplete, but that Chuck could not find it. Given the citations provided by subsequent commenters, it is clear that evidence was complete/did exist, so it was indeed an issue of just not using the correct search terms when trying to find the papers, being paywalled for some articles and lacking access, etc.

Anyway, I’m not going to continue this argument, it’s hijacking the thread

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Three Frontiers for the Future of Biodiversity Research Using Citizen Science Data and Rapidly mapping fire effects on biodiversity at a large-scale using citizen science also deal with relevant iNat metrics/claims

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That is literally the definition of having incomplete evidence. In any case, it is clear I am not going to convince you, so I too will bow out of this thread.

It’s kind of common knowledge on iNaturalist that it has experienced exponential growth. There are several posts on the iNat blog about it and I have personally tracked the statistics for Euphorbia. So, this isn’t really a situation of:

But more of, “The evidence to support X is well-known, but I’d like some good citations that explain this.”


In this situation, I think it would be appropriate to also cite the summaries posted by the staff directly like the last year in review post: This probably isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but here’s another one giving an update on the increase in the number of species observed: (There’s an interesting post linked there too: Even though they’re not really academic, they talk directly about the data and are too the point you’re making. Especially if you combined that with an academic article, I would consider that pretty strong support. I guess some reviewers might not like it, but I know I would see those posts as extremely relevant.

Sorry to create such an unnecessary kerfuffle about citations and evidence. My query was completely out of context. @thebeachcomber and @nathantaylor are correct. My statement simply sets the stage in an introductory paragraph for the remainder of the investigation. It represents common knowledge and is well-supported but I just couldn’t find the best references to document the statement. The Amano et al. reference and @loarie’s 300,000 species post in October 2020 are very relevant to my statement. Thanks!!

For further context, the title of this DRAFT paper is: “Distributional biases in observations: An exploration of Texas Lepidoptera on”, co-authored with Sam Kieschnick (@sambiology). A teaser with some preliminary data about the content of this paper can be found in my recent journal post here:


I am definitely including @thebeachcomber’s paper (with Corey Callaghan) among the important references in my research!

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