Reuse iNaturalist observations on Wikipedia

By default - due to the default CC-BY-NC - license it is not allowed to reuse an observation on Wikipedia (or any other platform of the Wikimedia ecosystem. Yet there are a little over 36k observations reused on the Wikimedia ecosystem. This is possible since is is possible to change the license of observations on iNaturalist to one of the licenses compatible with the Wikimedia ecosystem. These are CC0, CC-BY and CC-BY-SA. Here I’ll describe the steps to follow to reuse your observations on for example Wikipedia articles. This tutorial will have two sections. First I’ll describe how to change the license and secondly, I’ll show how to import an image from iNaturalist to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository of the Wikimedia ecosystem. It is not possible to directly use the image from iNaturalist.

Select a compatible license

  1. Click on Account settings in the menu on the top right corner
  2. In the Settings windows go to “Content & Display”
  3. Scroll to the bottom of that page, where you will be able to switch the license of your observations, your photo’s and your sounds.
  4. Select one of the Wikimedia compatible licenses. The Wikimedia compatible licenses are indicated with a blue icon.
  5. Don’t forget to save the setting before leaving this page image

Import observations into Wikimedia Commons
The default way to upload iNaturalist observation (with a compatible license) is to use the upload form. This is a multistep process that involves first downloading the image from iNaturalist to your local computer before uploading it to commons.

However, there is an extension that allows directly importing images of observations to Wikimedia commons. This extension needs to be enabled first. It builds on iNaturalist taxon identifiers being available in Wikidata. I will not yet describe the steps on how to add iNaturalist taxon IDs to Wikidata, yet. Happy to do so in another thread. When a taxon described on Wikidata contains a mapping to the iNaturalist taxon ID, the iNaturalist2Commons user script allows an easier way to import iNaturalist observations. I refer to the install instructions on the iNaturalist2Commons page.

Once installed it is possible to import iNaturalist observations (with a compatible license) to Wikimedia commons using the following steps.

  1. Navigate to a category page of a taxon: e.g. **Category:**Otospermophilus_variegatus
  2. The following button will show:
  3. Pushing the iNaturalist import button will lead to a window with images from iNaturalist that are eligible for import:
  4. Select one of the image e.g.:
  5. and push upload image. This will open another window. Like with changing licenses on iNaturalist, it is important to not leave the page yet, but to confirm the upload by clicking on the “upload file” button at the bottom. Navigating away from this page with this confirmation steps means that the image will not be uploaded.

Once the image is uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, it is possible to reuse it on any Wikipedia article (across the different language versions)


Is it possible to only upload images from Research grade observations?


Good point, I forgot to mention. Indeed, only research-grade observations are considered in the addon. When however submitted through the regular upload form anything goes. It is always worthed to check on iNaturalist directly which is possible following the added link:


Thanks for bringing this up - There are tons of taxa on Wiki that desperately need images, but often the only ones available are on iNat and can’t be used because they don’t have the right Commons attribution.

I didn’t know about iNaturalist2Commons - I use


You should include a disclaimer here: Observations with the CC-BY-SA license will be excluded from GBIF imports:

Which iNaturalist observations are exported for GBIF, and how often does this export happen?

Research-grade observations with CC0, CC BY, or CC-BY NC licenses. iNaturalist generates data for GBIF once a week, and we believe they import it once a week.

This is where it would be really great if iNaturalist were to enable a dual-licensing feature: Allow licenses to be simultaneously under CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC.

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Agreed. I would probably use that.

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While it is desirable that a user would change the default image license for all their existing observations, it should be noted that it is also possible for them to change the license of a single image at a time. This can still be useful, especially if the corresponding Wikipedia article presently lacks a useable image.

Most users still seem to be unaware that their default image licence may restrict any possible re-use on Wikipedia, but are more than willing to change the license when asked. In over 250 requests since January 2020, two thirds of users responded and 95% of them changed their license so that it could be uploaded and used on Wikipedia. My thanks again to all those who have selected (or changed to) a compatible image license.


Keep observation license to CC BY NC for GBIF to import, and Photo license to CC BY SA for Wikimedia.

This is not a solution.

  1. I am not looking for an individual solution.
  2. This creates problems for researchers using the images, as the observation data is under a different license than the images.

The point of what I wrote is about maximizing reuse while respecting user preferences. There are many potential applications of the data which require both the observation data (time, location, notes, annotations, ID, etc…) and the image data. Having the two under different licenses would preclude far more of those applications.

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As it is nearing Christmas time, I would like to post a copy of Santa’s Nice List of those iNat users who shared their images for use on Wikipedia. Again, thanks to all!


How are you creating that list?

This is a manually generated list of users whom either changed an image license on my request, or that already had an image license that I could use to add to a Wikipedia article.

This list is only for iNat images added to Wikipedia by me and does not include ones I uploaded that do not yet have a corresponding Wikipedia article. It also does not include any images uploaded by the many other Wikipedia editors that might also use iNat as a source.


Reminds me that I had started to be active one wikipedia as well … and forgot about it. Maybe a last goal for this year to create at least one more article on a species that is not yet featured on wiki :-)


I just updated my copyright to work on Wikipedia. But I can’t help imagining that @Loopy30 is creating Santa’s Nice List by using the sniff test demonstrated in this funny and scary Christmas short All Through the House (Love, Death + Robots season 2).
Better be good!


There is also this tool that lists usage of iNaturalist images in Wikipedia:

This tool seems to track all images tagged with the Category:“Media_from_iNaturalist”. Does it also track images uploaded with the WikiCommons Category: INaturalist images reviewed by trusted reviewers?