The Growing Utility of Online Photo Sharing for Entomology Research

“The increasing volume of insect photo observations shared on iNaturalist and similar sites can no longer be ignored, and entomologists are finding ways to use it. A review in Annals of the Entomological Society of America digs into best practices for bolstering entomological research with this growing body of citizen-science data. Among various findings, the researchers note an over-representation among online photo sharing of butterflies and moths (order Lepidoptera) and of arthropods from the Northern Hemisphere, particularly North America…”


Amazing, an “assistant research professor of arthropod identification.” Who’d have thought.

Interesting article though, thank you for sharing it.

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iNat has been invaluable in my Lepidoptera research. It’s like having twenty field workers out covering territory I can’t alone. Of course, the data has to be filtered and inspected due to high error rates and sloppy data entry, but the observations still provide information that there is absolutely no way I could otherwise obtain.


Very nice graphs in this article …It seems iNat made a huge leap after summer 2018 while other websites did not make a huge progress?

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That is correct, iNat has exploded in content. Reason: it’s stupid easy, and nobody has to approve your observations.

Other focus websites and forums variously do not host photos, and/or observations have to be vetted by some supposed expert- how do I say “screw that” in an appropriate manner?

Thus being user friendly, iNat got the momentum going and carried it, while other focus sites have languished.

YES! There ARE problems with the open posting of observations! I can do a filter search on one taxa and every single observation is wrong. BUT as soon as you start erecting barriers to participation people will lose interest.

YES! my research using iNat has been frustrating, sometimes having to examine each and every observation. BUT there is real-world info there (ranges & flight periods) and often sufficient quantity of it, to make accurate range maps and such- not the rubbish in field guides and even recent publications that are guesswork.

To my mind (did I say this already?) one of the BEST impacts of iNat is observations by the unknowing that are of undescribed taxa. So for 250 years, 20 of that with internet sharing, entomologists have been searching and searching and searching, and then Sally Nobody uploads a photo of an undescribed taxon. AMAZING!



I would add that iNat doesn’t punish me for my varied interests. I can post moths, bees, myxos, and birds all to the same site and nobody will complain. I don’t need to remember multiple sites and logins. I can concentrate on making observations rather than the administrivia of posting them.