Tool for finding areas with lower amounts of IDs

I’m wondering if there is a way to use data from iNat to figure out which areas have a particular volume of observations. There’s probably a better way to word what I’m asking for…

For example, I live close to Las, Vegas NV and there are millions of people living here and visiting every year. A lot of observations are made on a very regular basis at many of our parks and outdoor areas. I know scientists, students, and God knows who else use the data on iNat for important projects. It would be more beneficial for the iNat community to have observations from “less observed” places instead of getting daily updates from “Big City Park A” or “Bird Watching Area B.” Is there a way to overlay this kind of info onto a map, aside from the big world map of observations? Excuse my lack of tech speak, but maybe like a “green zone” area for places that are frequently observed, an “orange” zone for areas that haven’t been observed in a period of time (6 months?) and a “red” zone from an area that is rarely or never observed?

Just an idea. Hopefully this makes sense to somebody.

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(A note that I moved this from Feature Request to General because I think it needs a little more brainstorming and detail to become something actionable.)

If you want to help areas with lower amount of observers and in their turn – iders. You can check year in review to see those countries, hard to do with areas within those.


are you just talking about a reverse heat map? or are you actually thinking of partitioning the map into logical areas and places – more like a choropleth? how would you define “less observed”? (or looked at another way, how would you determine what to color green vs orange vs red?) and how would you use the information? (for example, suppose there’s a parking lot next to the beach. the parking lot itself might end up being a “less observed” area, and shoreline might show up as a more observed area. but does that mean people should try to observe more in the parking lot?)

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All I know is a manual way to infer this using Explore. In the Explore map, simply zoom in/out to see which locations have less or few total observations. You may need to refine the taxonomic group to see this or else there may be too many obs. in many locations (although a few locations still have less or few total), and it may differ by taxonomic group. As you imply about Las Vegas, generally areas like cities with the largest human populations have the most obs. for all taxa overall and for many or most groups in particular. More remote areas have far less (e.g. near the poles). Some small countries like many islands have less in general overall, which also can be a factor of less iNat users or less awareness of iNat there (not only due to human population itself). Similarly, by searching locations in Identify you can see which have few obs. by the number that are returned by your search.


As @brian_d says, the easy way is to use the map view in the Explore view. When I do that for Nevada, I can see that there’s a big area northwest of :as Vegas where there are hardly any observations, for example.

The harder way would be to download observations with their coordinates and load those into a GIS map. Then lay a grid of whatever size over that and total up the number of observations in each cell. Obscured observations will screw this up, but you can either not use obscured observations or assume that the obscured observations are a small enough subset of the total observations and that they are randomly spread throughout your area of interest that they won’t skew the results enough to matter (those assumptions may be true for an entire state, but I suspect they’d become more of a problem in smaller areas). Once you’ve done all that, it would be easy to symbolize each cell by whatever system you prefer.

I should also add that although just “looking at the map” in my example may sound too approximate, it’s also possible to precisely quantify the number of observations per location by filtering location in Explore or Identify.


Good point!

I suspect that the easiest way at present is to look a the heatmap of observations in your area and look for empty spots.

Here’s the Las Vegas area:

If you’re zoomed out it’s a heatmap, and when you zoom in far enough it switches over to individual observations.

Be nice if the transparency of the heat map could be adjusted though.


you can do this if you make your own map. for those who don’t want to make their own map, i’ve added a semi-transparent version of the iNat heatmap layer to my iNat map page:

that said, i think iNat’s heatmap implementation results in a visualization that can be misleading and not super useful at times. for example, here’s all observations over Houston:

a lot of the area shows up as red, but there’s actually a lot of variation in the red. just to show what i mean, here’s a different kind of visualization over the same area that gives a better idea of the variation observation density (from

(in this second screenshot, you have a much better idea of where there are larger populations of wealthier Houstonians – and also where there are more iNat observations.)

that second screenshot provides a view of the data that’s similar to what you could get from the Explore page, but the Explore page switches to pins at a certain zoom level, and even if you make your own custom map, the grid tile layer also starts to suffer from some of the issues that heatmap does at more granular zoom levels, too. but it’s probably more useful than the heatmap view for this particular use case:


I make my own heatmaps in ArcGIS with the observations in my conservation area, and can display those as I like, but I do so offline and via downloading the observation data. I have neither need or desire to go through the API process to try to get the the entre iNat observation set to display online the way I want over minor preference for a slightly different display type.

I would certainly use such a tool. I always figure highly populated areas get seen most so I avoid New York, Ontario, California, etc. while identifying and type in lesser populated areas to my filter to sort of cover more ground.
If all else fails just look at population figures on wiki. It’s not always perfect, as some areas like Nova Scotia have a huge amount of uploads per capita, and often compare to the volumes of much bigger, more populous areas like Quebec. But you’ll notice the exceptions as you go.

If you want areas with less IDs - I tweaked this URL to Africa for me.
24K Unknowns are waiting across the world …


All I have to do on my smart phone is go to Explore which is the left most option next to activity, observe, and me to see where observations have been made.I can see that a large number have been made at a local park a half mile away and more at another park near there and some at people’s homes. I don’t know any way to choose where people observe other than INaturalist articles addressing finding new spots to observe with the general user.

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