Question from a newbie

Is it helpful if I add observations of the same plant/animal in a similar location? For example, if I see record a honey bee in my yard should I also record it in my neighbor’s yard a block away? Or, if there are many Big Leaf Maples growing in the wetland behind my house is it enough to record one or do people want to know how many there are? Maybe I should count and put in the notes? What if there are Big Leaf Maples 1/2 mile away? Should I count that as well?

I’m not sure how people are using the data for projects and if the number of times something is seen is helpful or if it is just best to record it once.

I’m having so much fun with this! Thank in advance for the help!


It is entirely up to you, how much time, patience etc you want to allocate to entering stuff.

Under the ‘official’ rules of the site, each observation should represent one and only one individual organism.

If you wish to record a bee in your garden, and your friend’s garden, and another from the nearby park etc, it is perfectly OK to do so.


You can record each bee in your gardern that you would like to! Every observation is helpful (esp. for maps of small territories) and there’s never “too much” if they fall under the rules, so if you think you have will and time to, do it, if don’t, there’s nothing bad in that either.


Besides, uploading observations of each individual (assuming that it is a different individual and not the same one that has a wide range of movement), serve to determine the abundance of the species; when you want to measure diversity in a specific site, use two variables: species richness (number of species per area) and abundance (approximate number of individuals of a single species), thus you get species diversity.
Another feature of counting each individual would be long-term projects to see how populations behave over time.

1 Like

@jana266 Welcome to iNaturalist!

One part of your question that hasn’t been addressed yet is how people use the data. It is a big and complicated thing to answer, so I’ll just say that while iNaturalist data are useful for many things, quantitative analysis (such as calculating an unbiased diversity index) using other people’s iNat observations generally is not possible, or at least must be done with extreme care. iNat has no ability to enforce sampling rules, and therefore wisely makes none. You could take an observation of the same maple every day for the rest of your life, you could record every fifth maple, or you could do what most users do and take an observation of what you feel like when you feel like it. As someone who has spent much of my career analyzing other people’s messy ecological datasets, the best advice I can give you is that unless you have a specific use in mind, the best you can do is state in your notes what sampling scheme was followed, if any. Even then, iNat data are generally most useful at the level of the whole population of users, rather than looking at any one user’s observations.


Hi Jana, welcome to iNat! I’ll echo the sentiment that you should observe what you want and how often, as it interests you. But if you are inclined to get involved in a specific community science/research project to hone in on particular things to observe or ways to observe, you can try:

Every once in a while a researcher will message me asking for more details about a particular observation, or whether it’s possible for me to make a collection and send to them (as long as it’s ethical/legal to collect). You never know what opportunities will pop up. :)


Hi @jana266 . You pretty much answered your own question when you wrote: “I’m having so much fun with this!” You’re obviously doing it properly.


I can only echo this comment. I’ve been taking pictures of the same 2 or 3 km along the Red River, Winnipeg, Many, especially in the dead of winter, are the same species, but I believe it is a record of the life found in that area all year round. It has also made me aware of what birds breed there, the condition of the trees/shrubs, and what insects live in the area. If the data are of no use for research, I have at least gotten to know my own back yard (so to speak) really well. Plus my dog gets a decent walk!


As others have said, it’s largely up to you. We are volunteers in this citizen science enterprise and we have some latitude.

If I felt so inclined I could go to a local park at certain times of the year and record 50 individual Canada Geese. It would eventually bore me and is not likely to help anyone else (unless you’re a researcher who really wants lots of Canada Geese, in which case ping me). I would rather sample many different birds, plants, and maybe the odd groundhog. Of course, it might be different if I saw several individuals of a locally-rare species; I’d probably want to record them all.

One thing I do to illustrate the number of a species is to take one or more close-ups of an individual and then wider photos of their group, like this:

In part it depends on your interests. I’m a generalist, but if you’re really interested in a species or genus you might want to be more detailed in your recording.

Another thing that enhances my experience is Projects. There are many kinds, but I recommend you start with a local place-based one, like a National Park, one or more taxa, and maybe something for fun. Participate in a BioBlitz. You may also find some of your Observations automatically added to Projects of a more serious nature, such as this one for Wildflowers. Seeing what others are observing helps me decide what to photograph, and how many.

By the way, my joining a few Lichen projects reflects my ignorance, not my expertise. This is a learning opportunity.

Also, while you’re still new here, fill in whatever you can in the Annotations fields. For animals (including birds and insects) that usually Alive/Dead, Life Stage, and Sex. For plants it’s Flowering, Fruiting, Budding, etc. You won’t know all, but do what you know to make your Observations as detailed as possible.

And, yes, have fun. Revisiting past nature walks by uploading photos has helped keep me busy and sane during the pandemic.


I have observed over 15 species over ten times. It is okay to take another photo of an organism that you already added to your observations. I have taken seven pictures of seven robins and uploaded them on more than one occasion


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.