Using iNat at a resident youth camp

I work at a resident youth camp in the summer, and we have a “critter contest” that is quite popular among the campers. In the past, campers would capture “critters” and bring them to the Nature Center for points. In line with Leave No Trace principles, we want to move away from the live capture of organisms, and use iNat as the database for this endeavor. I would need to be able to discriminate among different groups who are competing, and also figure out a way to ID the participate, have a datebase to dump the “critters” into, and organize the endeavor in a user-friendly way that the campers could use. Most of the campers have phones or tablets, so connectivity is not an issue. The advantage of this virtual critter contest is that we could use the data to log what we have at the camp, expand the types of critters that could be observed for the contest, and also be cognizant of Leave No Trace principles. Any suggestions or help on how to best set up this project would be much appreciated. I use iNat on a personal level, but am not terribly familiar with projects such as this. Thanks for any help.


I’d probably make a project for the camp critter contest for all of the observations to go under.

I would need to be able to discriminate among different groups who are competing

As for this, you could get the kids competing to change their iNaturalist profile picture to a specific colour to differentiate the groups maybe?

Another option is having team-iNat pages for everyone to pool their observations into depending on the group. Like all members of the “Green” team would upload their observations under that joint account? This way everything can be cohesive in the same project. This would make it more of a hassle for kids who want to continue using iNat with the history of the group on their page once they leave the camp though.

Just some quick Ideas!


I agree using photos is a lot better than collecting the critters.

There is a “Teacher’s Guide”:’s+guide .
Review any rules regarding youth using iNaturalist.
Also, having a group of students share an account might not follow the rules, especially if a lot of observations will be taken. Maybe a small amount is acceptable.
Make sure no one sets the copyright restriction to be “all rights reserved”. Maybe “no copyright” is safer.


Like @zee_z suggested, a project is probably the way to go here.

For this you could add an obligatory annotation field with the different team names and have the individual kids simply register it under that annotation when they add the observation to the project (I imagine this will be need to be done manually either way, but is easy in the app).


Here in NC we have the EcoExplore program that sounds maybe similar to what you are trying to do. It is run out of the NC Arboretum and targeting younger school kids. Maybe reach out to the organizers for some tips how they do it?

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My biggest piece of advise is make it optional. offer another alternative because we have found many times that if people want to use iNat they are usually amazing users but if thy are pushed into it as a part of a class, etc, neither the students nor the community as a whole have a good experience around it (see: “duress users”)


I looked at that project page and am very impressed ! What a terrific idea

I would make every team their own collection project–define the project as “observations in the camp area uploaded by this list of users (the team members)”–and then make an umbrella project to view combined stats of multiple teams. You would need to define the camp area as an iNat place.

I guess though if this activity repeats annually, you could end up a lot of teams/projects over time.

The campers must be at least 13 years old to use iNat. It sounds like your activity is animal-based, but of you do include plants, keep in mind new users/younger people often struggle with the concept of wild vs. cultivated plants. (Perhaps if your camp area is completely natural this won’t be an issue.)