I have noticed in my few years on iNaturalist that the observation maps of a given taxon frequently show a much wider geographic range than that described in the few published papers on that taxon. This clearly is not just my impression; I just scrolled through all three wikis:
Published papers that use iNaturalist data - wiki 1 (up to 2019)
Published papers that use iNaturalist data - wiki 2 (2020 and 2021)
Published papers that use iNaturalist data - wiki 3 (2022 and 2023)
…and one of the things that really stood out to me was that a high percentage of the papers – possibly even more than half – were specifically about expanding known ranges based on iNat observations. Many were explicitly titled “First record of such-and-such taxon in such-and-such place.”
What I am hoping for, though, is a paper that does not merely do this, but is specifically about this phenomenon. That is, if I was writing a paper of my own, and I wanted to state, “The iNaturalist citizen science platform often has more up-to-date range data than published studies,” is there a source I could cite for that statement? The thread, Literature specifically evaluating the usefulness of iNat data in science? does not seem to address that specific question.
I find from time to time observations of species in the wrong continent, and some of them are RG…
So yes, iNaturalist is very advanced, it even contains undescribed species, but its content must be carefully evaluated before publication.
Jason, I think I address your question to some degree in my 2021 paper on the identification of Petrophila moths. Check out both the introduction and discussion in this paper:
(If you don’t have access to ResearchGate, just DM me and I can forward a copy of that paper.)
Thank you. I will first try going down to the local university to see if I can access it from their library.
In the discussion section of that paper (p. 123), I make the following statement: “In some cases, the number of digital images may now approach or exceed the actual numbers of extant specimens in traditional collections. While there will always be biases in the distribution of observers, their movements, and their natural history interests (Fitzpatrick et. al. 2009), the sheer number of images will render geographic ranges more apparent.”