Norman Woods Bio Blitz Fail

In INaturalist, as in gardening, there are no failures, only experiments. But the Norman Woods Bio Blitz acme pretty close to failure territory. It was probably all my fault.

But in case INaturalist wants to make it easier for incompetent amateurs like me to organize Bio Blitzes, here are the things that went wrong.

  1. It was too complicated for me to limit the geographical extent of the project. A group of neighborhood kids and parents wanted to explore an oddly dense forest in the middle of our town, and we couldn’t make the geographical limit smaller than the whole town. It would be great if, on the “New Project” page, you could click on the map, and then draw the limit around the area you want to explore.

  2. A couple people with android phones could not find an “observe” button in the app. I couldn’t help because I only know the Iphone app.

  3. Once we started making observations, they did not appear in the project. I thought all observations made within the geographical, time, and taxon limits of the search would be automatically added. No such luck. Even my observations weren’t added, and I created the project. Do people have to be invited to the project by username?

Anyway, we had fun catching bugs and searching around in the woods, but it didn’t produce much in the way of useable/interesting/fun data about an urban forest we are interested in.

There is another forested patch of city we’re going to explore sometime soon and I’d love to know how to work these kinks out.

Many thanks!


Hi Norman

I think you have already answered some of your own questions.

It is good that you started using the projects function. It is, imho, one of the great features of inaturalist.

More responses specifically below

There is a way to create a new place using a google KML file, but I just checked it does not seem possible to specify that as a project area. I agree this would be a great function. Unless there is a way that I have not seen.


  1. Using Phones

My experience was to try out different input mediums and see what works and what doesn’t. Android and Web interface (not just on inat but in many places ) is in English, while my focus groups are basic education level English speakers - so I usually do some trials with a few people before launching an event

You may retrospectively make changes to your project options and oyu may still be able to see the observations
There are 4 ways of including an observation / observer in a project

  1. People “Join” the project - then whatever observations they add that follow the criteria will automagically show up. See this project Monsoon Beauty 2022 (94 people joined 83 observers - some joined members are non observing members)

  2. Add people by their user name - if you have a limited group and wanted to exclude any random person from joining then this is the best mode - once again whatever observations these added users post will automagically show up. See this project - people have been manually added

  3. People add individual options to the project via the “add to project option”. To me this is an important feature but is it more effort on the part of the observer. This option shows up on the web interface easily. See this project 171 observers but only 63 joined the project - so most used the add to project option

  4. Create a project for a region, date range, taxa etc - this will be applicable for all observers who match these criteria and all their observations show up. See these two projects

General Comments

Inaturalist and projects have a learning curve that needs time spent on all details Some things that I have learnt are

  1. Start small and reach out to all the people directly and go over the process with them.
  2. Keep notes on what you are doing and how - in case you missed any steps, since it may not be possible to do things 10000 times it is better to keep notes :-)
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask on the forums - this is the best place with the best people.
  4. Communicate with your focus group - using any channel feasible
  5. Use the journal pages for wider dissemination

Please do continue eventing / blitzing - you will only get better and it is a lot of fun.



I checked this observation of yours

I am also wondering why this is not showing up. I think it may have to do with the difference in the “chosen” region

The project is for Norman, US, OK Town
While the observation is
Encompassing Places
North America Continent
United States Country
Oklahoma, US State
Cleveland County, US, OK County

Thank you so much ram_k! Very useful info here. And your monsoon project is gorgeous and fascinating!. I’ll follow it. Best, Raphie

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@ram_k has provided some great advice.

Like many of the features on the site, there are ways to do things that require a bit of creativity (like search URLs, for example). There are probably many ways to get your project to do what you want, none perfect, but will get the job done. Having the location be able to be precise would be awesome, however, custom Places on iNat are a huge resource load and it is not advisable to make ones for niche purposes.

A simple solution may be something of the sort; create a project, filter the date and time to exact date and time of the event, and either filter to only users that have signed up for the bioblitz or only collect observations from project members. The former is more complicated as it puts more work on you, whereas the latter there is risk that anyone can join which may include unwanted observations from those not involved. Filtering to observations only within the town or county will help minimize any erroneous observations. As a practice exercise, you could do a test using observations you’ve already collected in the past (or even this bioblitz). I recommend filtering one thing at a time in case there are any errors.

I also wasn’t able to figure out exactly why the observation wasn’t included. Or, any for that matter. It must have something to do with the filters. As suggested in the paragraph above I would remove all of the filters you currently have on the project first, then narrow down from there. If you want to include all species you can just remove all of the filters you currently have on the list; it will automatically include everything. I’m not sure but the date says “September 4th”, maybe the year is wrong or somehow unspecified? The other thing I would check is if there are any places that share the same name as “Norman, US, OK”. There shouldn’t be, but if there are try to use a different one until you find one that works.

As for the Android app, there is a little “+” symbol on the bottom right. If any observations were collected using the phone camera, those can still be uploaded using this feature, or usually you can share the photos directly to the app itself.

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Out of curiosity, I created a test project to see if I could resolve the issue. It appears to be an issue with the location filter, which is weird because when I look at Norman on the explore page your observations show up . I have no idea how locations work on iNat, so I’m not sure why there is a discrepancy between the project and explore pages. Using Cleveland County for the project worked, though.

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I’m not 100% sure what the issue is, but I would check out the issue with the date mentioned above. You could also remove the taxa allowed (since it seems like you just want any observations, there’s no need to make it more complex by adding taxon requirements).

I think the main issue is probably that the location filter is a Google Maps location and that observations being made aren’t showing up in that location for whatever reason. I would suggest making a kml file for your place and making the boundaries a bit bigger than the actual site to accurate for coordinate uncertainty. You can see more info on this thread:

As others have noted, you can change the criteria after the fact since a project like this is basically a saved searched, so you should be able to get all observations made as part of the bioblitz added with a little tinkering.

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for your project (, you’ve assigned it to a place ( that is actually just a point on a map, not a polygon that represents the boundaries of the town. filtering on a point rather than the area in a polygon will return no observations. you need to use a place that is a defined as a polygon.

if one doesn’t exist, you can create one here:

if you want instructions on how to create a KML file to define the boundaries of your town, see

sometimes your city or other government might have other kinds of boundaries available for easy download. for example, boundaries for Norman Parks can be obtained here:

if you want to draw your own boundaries from scratch, there are many tools available to help you create such a KML file. you can search online for web pages that will do this. Google Earth and QGIS are free apps that you can install on your computer to handle this as well.

the unification of the apps is on the roadmap:


Hi @raphael1c,

Good news - – it’s not too late.
On your original Forum question at, I gave directions for specifying your woods as a place and setting that up in the Project. I don’t think you got back to that question to read the replies.
Anyway if that’s not clear you are welcome to message me directly. Once the project is set up, all those observations people made should be in it.


Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s useful for people like me who try to organize their first bioblitz!


Fabulous! Thank you so much to all who have replied. I’ll read through more carefully when I’ve got time. All this is HUGELY useful. R

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OK, so I made the KML file for Norman Central Woods, and imported it to Inaturalist. I changed the filters so that it would include all taxa. And I broadened the date range from Sept 4 to Sept 3-8. And it worked! All the observations are in there now. I think I’ll be able to set this up beforehand next time we try it. Many thanks!!


Hooray! I looked at the project and it’s very attractive. Congrats to your participants. There may be some folks who still will be adding their observations from the BioBlitz, and those will appear as well. Hope you do many more projects.



Some where, on the idea givers comment, there should be a place to mark “solution”, so that future readers would know that this thread had a successful outcome.


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