Tips and Tricks for Teaching Others About iNaturalist

Hi All,

Long time user of iNaturalist with an MSc in Conservation Biology.

I’m currently working in a role involving increasing community engagement for National Parks. Working with park staff, I was encouraged to host a program at a local library to teach some community members about iNaturalist. My approach to this will be:

  • A short PowerPoint presentation about iNaturalist (its purpose, basic use, some dos and don’ts for posting observations)

  • A demonstration walk around the library (I might also bring some specimens in, in case rain ruins that possibility)

I hope to use this as a way to get the community close to my park excited about nature. We also started a project asking people to post observations of potential invasive plant species. I hoping to use this program to advertise for the iNaturalist project.

Does anyone have any experience with hosting programs similar to this? I want this to be fun and successful. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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There are a bunch of presentations available on Slideshare for ideas/use:
https://www.slideshare.net/search/slideshow?searchfrom=header&q=inaturalist

Some more examples / tips here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/teacher’s+guide, see links at bottom, such as this training presentation

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I’ve helped Sequoia and Pinnacles National Parks run Bioblitz’s using iNaturalist and I’d say the most important thing is think about what the goals are of the activity.

  1. Using iNaturalist to get good data - figure out high level users by mining data from those parks. Invite those people for focused BioBlitz with zones to be covered and taxa of interest highlighted
  2. Engaging the general public - presentation on how to use and a guided walk work well. Also giving them goals about the number of observations or areas in the park of interest really help. Usually with this crowd going over how to use their phone to take good pictures is well worth the time. With beginning groups I usually focus on plants because what they need to photograph for ID’s is easier to remember and plants are easy to find. Here is a slide deck I use that focuses on plants:
    https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/10iwyGwg6U9dsnKi_79PNAG8hoQB2OKPQKogtrDjtfq8/edit?usp=sharing
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I’ve done a bunch of presentations, mostly to very small groups (10 or less). While this may seem inefficient, the most successful thing I’ve learned is to think about the audience and present specific examples that they can relate to. Land Trust or Refuge people like the idea of a continuously updated list of their biodiversity as a reference for reports, presentations and grant proposals. Nature nerds love the idea of using iNaturalist for scoping out great places to hike. Teachers want tips for the classroom. Researchers are excited that they can reach out to observers for pilot-project information or (within reason) seed collecting.

So the presentation is a very short slideshow about the two lobes of iNaturalist (database and social media) and then I switch to live pages (what is an observation, how you can use iNat) that I’ve stored as bookmark tabs for that audience. I’ve found they are often so engaged they want me to pull up more pages. And some turn out to be power users, which is very rewarding.

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