Suggestion: Should I focus on one category or all at once as a beginner?

It is easy to forget that iNaturalist is not, primarily, a citizen science platform. It is primarily an outreach platforn, that is, trying to help people to connect with nature, or perhaps even take an interest in nature when they hadn’t before. Any citizen science on here is an incidental side effect of that.

Now with that said, I always recommend learning to ID at least something, and spend time on here providing IDs for other observers. That is the crowdsourcing and contribuition – because if someone’s observations are never identified, they may lose interest. This is the reason why I always go in acsending order when providing IDs – that is, oldest observations first. I know the frustration of having an observation sit for a long time without any identification help, knowing that the older it is, the less likely someone will ever look at it again. Conversely, it is quite fine for those on here who go in descending order – newest observations first – because a new user, especially, would like to see a quick response to their observations.


Than you everyone for the kind welcome and the useful links! I am actually from Orange County, CA [not sure if there is a ‘Meetup’ or ‘Group Meeting’ extension with this site, but that would be great too! (after all, I don’t want to randomly message people. :) ]

I actually found this site from Seek App. It took me a time to get hold of it and get the broad overview how this entire orchestra runs, but my main purpose was digital collection. As a former, young, ardent stamp collector, I realize I am facing the similar conundrum. As I grew up, I realized since the topic is so vast, some people conserve energy and just focus on one topic… I mean just like anything in life such as academic pursuit.

Gone or those days of a polymath naturalist since Linnaeus and Darwin (by the way I absolutely feel like him him since my childhood curiosity and wonder has been awakened by a simple app be it the fact it hasn’t reached Hal 9000 like AI intelligence!)

As the Zen proverb goes: ‘The one who chases two rabbits catches none.’ That was my main concern (So I was thinking if I want to see all the turtles of the world or lichens, then I need to plan and strategize in a different way, rather than just catching everything like a trawler. Thiings is my interest is so vast.)

But on Day 3, I realized the Seek app itself acts as a self-corrective and self-teaching system. I mean as a beginner, it is very hard to use it to ID bees, insects, anything in motion let alone birds, moths and butterflies and of course the constaint of locality (I mean try as you may to observe a jaguar but if one is in Singapore, then it won’t matter.)

I guess the app will only ‘reveal’ what it allows due to the constraint of location and AI’s deep learning and the amount of effort one is willing to put. Having said that I really like the following answer from @pisum

I guess that is how I will approach. Consensus seems to be: start small and take everything you can get your hands on…lol. Afterall, if I was in desert and wanted to only ID pelagic birds or arctic botany, it would be waste of time had I only stuck to those goals.

Perhaps I am overthinking it!


I started at home, with whatever showed up. Bugs, birds, botany and butterflies were all game. The basement and attic were rich sources. But Home turned into neighborhood, parks and became part of other travel.

As a recovering bird lister I look less at the lists and more at remembering names and ecological relationships. It makes for a deeper understanding of the whole thing.


I think that the operative words in the OP are “as a beginner.” Think of it like going to college: your first two years, you take the general courses required of all students. Then you declare a major, and your last two years are more narrowly focused on coursework related to your major. If you go on to grad school, you specialize even more, evenually to zero in on the specific topic of your thesis.

There is a reason why a career academic usually has a long list of publications on a fairly small subset of the possible topics in their field.

What I’m saying is: when you’re a beginner, discover the breadth of life on earth. As you grow and mature as a naturalist, you will naturally find the aspects which interest you enough to dive deep.