Paper about inaturalist *The benefits of contributing to the citizen science platform iNaturalist as an identifier*

I was really lucky to be included in this paper.

This past week, I attended The Wildlife Society Meeting , and I was so pleased by the amount of researchers using iNaturalist – especially in regards to “human dimensions” of wildlife biology. That engagement of the public through tools like iNaturalist is magnificent!

Please push this paper far and wide! :)




More than once I have used an online translating programme. However, I have the basics in several languages which helps me to see whether those translations are likely to be accurate, because I don’t have complete faith in the programmes.


You mean 19k photos, observations and not one on a species level ?
I am surprised about this 1identifier: 10 Observers.
Identy is much faster

Ah, i think ik agree, i would expect a layout like


No guilt!

If you are interested there are lots of ways to help. Find one that fits your interests and skills?


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That observer has only 2, that’s two IDs. Across 19 thousand observations, no idea what any of them are. Really? I can sort of understand a few hundred, but many thousands?!

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I will confess to feeling guilty about not doing more ID outside of the occasional organized effort. But I’ve volunteered to do annotations for a project and I’ve got 40K+ observations to work through this winter and hopefully somewhere work in uploading the observations from a recent trip.

However! I must say it’s gratifying when pretty much every day I get a notice that something I pulled out of Unknown weeks, months, or years ago has gotten another, more refined ID.


I think there should be a number 8 reason - learning. I first noticed this when I saw a user without a lot of observations or IDs go through a ton of observations of a single plant species regardless of whether or not the ID was already research grade. At first I thought it was a little suspect but then I realized the opposite was true. They were simply looking at the same species from multiple angles to ensure they truly knew what they were looking at. I now sometimes use that strategy myself. Looking at 10 specimens of a species is on thing. 100 is better. 1000? Well you get it.


5. You can partake in dynamic, real-time interactions around the world

  • Engaging with iNaturalist prompts you to discuss and collaborate with all types of users in real time, with benefits for everyone involved.
  • Discussing identifications is a way of honing and expanding your own skills, including the opportunity for more experienced experts to validate the identifications of less-experienced experts, training the next generation of identifiers.

second bullet implies learning to me


Agreed. But I was looking at it from the other way around. Input from an expert isn’t required. One can learn from iNat like one learns from a walk in the woods. Look, ID, rinse and repeat until you are sure.

Edited to add: I did this after my first observation go an F-winged bark louse. I had no idea what it was beyond possibly being in order Psocodea. Even though the person who ID’ed my observation did not provide feedback I was able to look at many other examples, some good, some bad. I imagine this is how birders become able to to ID a bird from half a wing from behind a hedge without needing a mentor. There are literally thousands of observations of many species here you can use to train your eye.


I am honored to be one of the authors of this paper.


Not sure about that – I am a scared identifier – it takes me ages to confim ids . and I am sure many people are not good at identification to the finer levels.

Take courage. Nothing on iNat is carved in stone. IDs change with taxonomy updates, or new specialists coming to iNat. Start with the bits you are confident of. Follow your notifications. Clear your mavericks. (Try the link I put in an earlier comment for ways to help?)

Look back after a year or two … and see how far you have come. HOW could I not have known this is …


In some cases I have learnt by making mistakes…


Recently I overcame my fear of errors and started to do some “serious” identifying, but I got scared off by the enormous and unmanageable volume of notifications that came flooding in. It just became impossible for me to keep track even of the IDs on my own observations, something that’s really important for me. And yes, I know you can turn off confirmation IDs, but that also turns off confirmation of my own (sometimes tentative) IDs on my own observations and that for me would definitely NOT be a good thing. I’d be really happy to ID more if only there were a better way of filtering notifications, but until then I just find it too hard to keep up, sorry.


There’s no need to check all of them scan through and see if current id is different from expected or just ignore everything but comments, I’m not sure why so many people complain about notifications, if your id is wrong and it matters, you will be tagged, otherwise other iders can reid it fast enough.

Not being able to manage our notifications on iNat is a problem. I know of one person who left because of that. We are promised, they are working on that.

It is a practical issue which needs to be resolved.


Observing is much more fun and most of new users find out about iNat through ability to observe, it’s actually takes time to even find where to make ids (and some people don’t come to that step).
I’m not sure if it’s the same user, but I know someone who uploads thousands of observations, insects and stuff, all without id, not sure why they feel observations lingering in that pile are better than a simple general id.


It will be interesting to see whether identifier behavior changes if the notification system changes. (Sounds to me like staff isn’t working on it though. Tony told me recently there’s no timeline.)

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