Neurodiversity and iNaturalist!

I was lying in bed last night, thinking about this topic and how fascinating the brain is.
I can remember thinking about the brain a lot when my mom was losing herself to Alzheimer’s. As she slowly lost the ability to recognize me, and then to speak proper sentences, and then to speak at all, I spent a lot of time thinking about how these connections in the brain were deteriorating. Why, when she could no longer speak proper words, were the letters F and K so prevalent in the noises she was still uttering. Does this have any connection to why that short word that starts with F and ends with K resonates with so many of us?

But the big realization last night was a linkage between a challenge that I know I have, and its implications on what I do here on iNat. I have always had a facial recognition problem. If you asked me to describe someone’s face, someone I know well, I would have difficulty coming up with the words. At times, I will confuse two people with similar hair colour and facial features, calling one by the other’s name.
Last night I realized that this has impacted my current obsession, moths. I have trouble seeing the features, is the ST line wavy or jagged, solid or broken? I can read the description, decide that what I am seeing matches that description, and go with that ID. It’s not until the expert points out the differences, that it suddenly becomes clear. That’s why I’m so grateful to folks like @mamestraconfigurata, and every other IDer who has corrected my ID, and who responds to my question: What are you seeing that leads you to that ID who help me out?


I am also bad at faces and bad at recognising useful information in images! This is why I can be found following very simple rules in Identifying mode, moving things along to people who know more. I love my lichens and liverworts, and only have one lichen and no liverworts I am confident enough to identify to species.

I don’t particularly have vocal stims, but motor stims and flaps and tics all feel different to me, though the more stressed I am the less I can tell the difference. This is why medical professionals need to understand more about the inside of the heads of tourettes folks, rather than just diagnosing based on observation of tics. (That and I want to learn more about me, and the data just isn’t there. :p)


I’ve been curious about prosopagnosia (face blindness) as a condition. I’ve known one or two people who probably had it and wondered occasionally myself if I’ve got a mild version of it, but it’s probably more a matter that I tend not to remember people very well who I meet only occasionally – their names, who they work for, etc. Can be kind of embarrassing when someone walks up to you at a meeting and starts chatting like an old friend and I’m wondering “who is this person?” Definitely not cut out to be a politician. I can remember characteristics of my favorite organisms and have pretty good search images in my head for a variety of animals in the field, but it doesn’t carry over to humans. I should probably be keeping field notes on the humans I meet, with ID characteristics, for future reference.


People with both ADHD and autism have some similarities, I guess the ability to hyperfocus is one aspect that affects the workflow on iNat the most.


As far as I know i’m not on the austisum spectrum, but I have had bouts of severe anxiety and crippling emetophobia throughout my life. I can be in full on panic attack on a bus to an exotic location but as soon as I’m out iNatting, that goes away pretty quickly, so it’s a wonderful distraction from my sometimes tumultuous mind.

Hyperfocus, I’m sure, is a state I’ve never achieved. ;-)


My name is Susan and I’m a Naturalist ;) I am 68 and I think I am neurodivergent because my 33 y.o. daughter was diagnosed as on the spectrum about 4 years ago and has informed me that I probably am too. The more I learn about it, the more it helps me make sense of my life. My obsession is with the classification of much of what I see: birds, butterflies, dragonflies, insects and now, the great frontier for me is Moths. Combining photography with my love for the natural world and the solving of puzzles with Computer Vision and the possibility of identification makes iNaturalist a perfect fit for me. I’m an introvert too and feel guilty that I am enjoying the pandemic a bit too much. I’m so glad I found iNat because i feel it gives my quirkiness legitimacy.


Mira here…repeating myself (likely) but here goes:
I identify as non-neurotypical, or neurodivergent. I have Tourette’s, meet the criteria for diagnosis on the spectrum and share genes with an entire family of diagnosed ASD individuals with varying presentations, ADHD, OCD, PTSD (probably in part from living in an inhospitable world to all the other stuff ) and can easily be (have been) identified as an HSP though my feelings on the psychology industry and utility of the DSM, the inherent lack of empiricism of the diagnostic labeling game and the subsequent issues of stigmatization have me less interested in naming my “deficits” and more interested in finding places where being Mira is an asset, like iNaturalist. While alternating between tics and stims I found iNat which is the first online community I’ve engaged with and while many of you have articulated things in this thread that I relate to, this sums it up in a way I’ve often tried to.

I’m a noisy anxious person who can’t be still but outside in observation mode I am like a completely different person as my autonomic nervous system responds to the natural world. I’m literally unsure of how I survived my childhood in the sensory-overloaded NYC of the 80s but here I am now, moving further into woods and finding people that get me on the computer. iNaturalist has been life-changing and has allowed me to feel I am collecting in a useful and valuable way which is part of my compulsiveness-I have to feel things are useful and/or meaningful. I can’t stand crowds much and I’m oddly more comfortable on stage than in a one-on-one conversation…unless I’m conversing with an insect. That has its own set of issues though, doesn’t it? :)

Anyway, humans are generally exhausting. iNaturalists not so. Conclusions: iNat is good for me.


I live with my parents, and in the last month or so there’s been days where they’ve both been back at work and I’ve had the house to myself again and I’ve had nothing scheduled and it’s been perfect. However, it seems like Fridays my dad is working from home for the foreseeable future (currently about 5 minutes, admittedly), and that’s why I’m sat concentrating on my computer rather than doing all the useful stuff I should be…


I’m curious if there are any aphantasics among us. I only recently learned about this particular neurodivergence when one of my family members learned they have aphantasia.

Considering this runs in my family, I wonder if my own mind’s eye is weaker than the average. I know I can certainly call up images in my mind, but I don’t experience vivid image recall. I further wonder if this is a hindrance to learning how to identify taxa, or if, when your mind’s eye is absent or weak, you just rely on different faculties to do the same job.


I don’t, but i kind of have some interesting ‘opposite’ stuff. I can very clearly remember places and maps, more or less as a photographic memory. Same with how plants look. However, I can not remember numbers at ALL and am not great with names either. I might recognize a face but that doesn’t mean i will know the name.


Oh, that bring a lot of interactions (not with you Charlie or anyone there, but someone I know IRL) into a new light.


My joke response for when people seem to know me and I can’t remember them is “I’m sorry my brain only remembers plant names.” I had one person who responded “Cynthia, like Hyacinths” and I did remember after that!


i have definitely told people that my brain is stuffed too full of plant names so i forget other things :)


Same here. I can remember hundreds of plants, but human people… Ehhh…
Some people have criticized me by saying if I took more interest in people, I’d remember their names… But let’s face it, that Phytolacca americana is more charming than many people.


Does anyone have synesthesia? I experience color with everything: all senses to varying degrees (sound most strongly) as well as color with emotion, and color with letters. Sometimes this can resemble sensory sensitivity. For example I like music just fine but I almost never have it on while trying to do something else–far too distracting–and loud environments upset me.


i think i have some subtle form of synesthesia-like thing. I don’t always associate things with colors, but if i associate colors with things i can understand them better. For instance, i use vividly colored conditional formatting and such to look at data. I use vivid mapping layers to look at elevation, wetland condition, etc. Also i have a funny thing where i can just look at or drive by a plant or a place if it is something i am familiar with, and feel a wash of sensory emersion just like i am standing there. For instance I see a pine tree while driving and i feel like i can almost smell the needles and feel the bark. I think I use this to identify plants quickly. I had always just thought everyone could do that, but maybe not. I can basically ‘read’ plant species within a second or to in many cases, even while on the interstate. Which isn’t to say it all is good stuff, there is lots i struggle with too. But for me, i get lots of upsides of my weird brain also.


I started using iNaturalist during my first year of university. I had always felt more at home among insects, although when I made human friends I forgot about my previous passion for a while, but at the time I began using iNat I was an immigrant with no friends. I discovered iNat through tumblr, and I loved having something to do that connected me to the new place I was living in. It gave me a sense of awe with the idea that each interaction with any individual organism is worth capturing. As an autistic person who also suffers from PTSD (I don’t know if that’s a neurodivergence but the overlap of symptoms caused me to be misdiagnosed with ADHD so I consider it relevant) iNaturalist helped me cope with the biggest change in my life. I developed the sense that I may not have had human friends (although I made some eventually) but I still had friends everywhere, and was contributing to science even when I wasn’t studying. iNaturalist is my favorite ‘social’ media because of how voluntary the interactions are. I also sort of use the site as a backup to my memory, since because I have PTSD my memory often feels unreliable, I can look at my observations as proof of where I am and what I saw. Right now I currently can’t observe since I don’t have a phone, and I’ve noticed my PTSD symptoms occurring more frequently without the distraction. So I guess I had become reliant on iNat as a coping mechanism without really meaning to.


A lot of neurodivergent people have PTSD or more often, CPTSD due to society’s poor reaction to their differences (bullying, ostracism, etc – which fortunately are extremely rare on iNat!). I happen to have CPTSD -and- PTSD (the former from shitty childhood and mostly resolved, the latter from military service and painfully fresh) so know you’re not alone.


Thanks for both links. Very interesting.


If anyone is curious about the autism spectrum in general, i have over the last few months obsessively researched it so i’ve got lots of various resources and such. I think this is maybe the most useful adult autism test thing:
i also highly recommend this youtube channel
and there are other things too. These are more oriented towards adults wondering whether they may be on the autism spectrum. I’ve read some really interesting memoirs on the topic too, and of course there is also NeuroTribes which i read a long time ago (without really applying it to myself…) but want to read again now. But it’s sad/heavy.