Spreading our Wings: iNaturalist is Now an Independent Nonprofit

Hey all: In case you missed it the announcement, iNaturalist is now an independent nonprofit organization!


This is massive. I’ve seen another org break away from a parent org to become independent, and it hopefully will open up opportunities for grants and partnerships that would be closed as an embedded org. Way to go iNat!


This is exciting! I hope it leads to an independent view of taxonomy that rejects extreme and destructive revisionism, but even if not I am excited for you all!

Am i correct that if we had recurring donations those have just stopped, and we can re-sign later if we want?


It’s different for recurring gifts PayPal vs. everything else. Unless you were donating via PayPal, you gift is just temporarily paused and will restart tomorrow. Watch for an email this evening.

So no need to make a new recurring gift unless you received a PayPal cancelation email, in which case watch for an email about restarting. Thanks, Charlie!


Congratulations! An amazing first 15 years, and I can’t wait to see what the next 15 hold.


I guess I am in the minority, what with feeling sad about losing the affiliation with two such stellar organizations, for which I’ve held some reverence since my childhood: the Cal Academy of Sciences and National Geographic.

So, it is heartening and reassuring to see all the outpouring of support for this occasion.


Congratulations iNaturalist! I’m looking forward to seeing how you guys grow and the new partnerships you make…hopefully with me!!! :D


That’s a big step. Congrats to everybody who put it all together.

Reading the blog and FAQ, it’s hard to miss the reality that the organization is framed by legal, political, cultural and economic precepts rooted in the USA. I would be interested in knowing whether the move to not-for-profit corporate status will be a purely US thing with local sites operating essentially as franchises or will there be rejigging of local structures at some point?


I feel like, while i’m sure CAS is a good organization, having iNat pinned to a California, USA based entity makes it a lot less able to be the global force it should be. I hope iNat continues to expand with more representation outside its origin of California, and as this process continues it may have been hard to stay pinned to an organization that’s by nature pinned to one city. I am not sure about national geographic but it really seems they slashed a lot of what they were doing a few years back, and seem more just a media producer now, not a force of science and geography. Too bad.

(Disclaimer: i have no idea if a more global focus has any bearing on why iNat did this, i just think it’s one potential upside. There will probably be downsides too as with any change)


I have to say that I have a very similar feeling, but not from childhood nostalgia: I am an Inaturalist user from Europe, where ObservationOrg as a similar platform based in Europe is quite big and increasingly popular. I am always an advocate for both platforms, but I use Inaturalist due to more than a few characteristics I found quite useful for Citizen Science projects. At the same time it was always good to know and nice to mention that Inaturalist was backed by a “scientific body”, similar to like ObservationOrg is, - in Inaturalists case through to the Cal Academy of Sciences and then also to National Geographic - especially the connection to National Geographic as one of the largest environmental/education organization that it known (and active) around the world was always a door-opener and giving legitimacy/ justification for using a non-European platform. I guess it is generally very important for many Europeans (and I guess also for people from other world regions) to know 1. what happens with the data that one puts on the platform, how is it used, where is it stored, etc. (I know that there is information about it out here, but these topics might get scrutinized a bit more when there is no bigger organization in the background that people already give a lot of trust to like the National Geographic). I think it would be great for users, to have a bit more of a regional connection/ representation to Inaturalist - from where Inaturalist comes from, it is clear that it is US-focused, but maybe there could be some new way to give room to and channel voices from different world regions and communities to bring in their ideas when it comes to the future path of this great platform? (please apologize my wordy post)


I like that we just wrote with a similar thought. I think this topic might be wirth some discussion(s) in the forum…

1 Like

I also think the line between ‘rigorous science’ and ‘community science for everyone’ is very difficult to walk and while they sometimes overlap, they sometimes do not. I think often iNat does a good job of navigating that, i also think sometimes they do not, i won’t use this post to rail on about my concerns i’ve already posted about here, rather my point is that as iNat changes and evolves it needs to continue to address this question. Is inaturalist to ‘connect people with nature’ and the data is only a ‘byproduct’ and not important? Or is iNat an essential tool for conventional Western science that must be held to rigorous data standards? It seems obvious to me the best path is somewhere in between those, with added emphasis on different ways of understanding nature. I feel like the site in general and especially the community beyond the admins, especially the site coordinators, try to follow that line but often bounce far one direction or the other. In some ways strict scientific protocols are enforced even if they make the site hard to use, and in other ways precision is lost when it doesn’t need to be. We all have different views and for sure what to me is to far one way or the other won’t be to someone else. But it’s the tightrope iNat has to walk. If it loses all its scientific rigor and repute it ends up like Project Noah - turns into an instagram for charismatic megafauna and eventually fades into obscurity. But if it focuses on scientific jargon and rigor to the exclusion of people outside narrow academia, it ends up just being a less well-curated GBIF or NatureServe. I won’t rehash my views on taxonomy, moderation, etc now because people are sick of hearing my views, but i hope during this time others are able to share their views as well, including people who are not within the narrow group of curators - and indeed also people not on this forum.


I’m sorry to see the loss of the link to the Cal Academy of Science, but this may be (and I hope will be) useful for the growth of iNaturalist. Keep up the good work!


Since I’m one of the old fossils who prefers to donate by check, what’s your mailing address?


https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/giving has all the details –


Thanks! I looked for it, but not deep enough.


I suspect the internal reasoning might become clearer after explaining something that is deliberately unelaborated in the announcement:

Very soon we will announce a generous grant that will give independent iNaturalist a solid start.

For an example from another large non-profit, although NPR is ‘public radio’, it is very good for the long-term health of the organization that it is an independent 501(c)3, and that the fraction of its funding that actually comes from the federal government directly is so small (<1%) that it does not even appear in the chart of NPR’s average consolidated revenues (FY18-FY22)


Disney owns National Geographic.


Maybe Disney will aquire iNat and my disney plus membership will count as a iNat donation


By “local structures” you mean members of the iNaturalist Network, correct? Those are all localized portals into iNat administrated by partner organizations in those regions (eg ALA in Australia, INABIO in Ecuador). What do you envision?

That’s helpful feedback, and I agree that iNat will have to earn trust, which will take time and effort. Are you saying the main concerns will be data security and potential commercialization of data?

It’s a bit more complicated than that. To be clear - and it’s confusing - iNat was a joint initiative of Cal Academy and the National Geographic Society(NGS), which is a nonprofit organization.

The National Geographic Society partners with Disney on National Geographic Partners (NGP), a different entity which is where Nat Geo’s commerical ventures are - magazines, tv production, travel, etc. As for how much money NGS gets from NGP and Disney, I have no idea - I’m sure the partnership between those two organizations is incredibly complicated.

Anyway, the details of National Geographic’s oragnization are a bit afield of where iNat is now, but I wanted to try and clear that up a bit.