Using iNaturalist-generated maps and other data

Apologies if this is in the wrong subforum or inappropriate!
I have been working on a project required for graduation where I use iNaturalist and herbarium data to compare and contrast the floral composition of the Fabaceae within New Jersey. While I’ve used photos from iNaturalist (if they have the appropriate Creative Commons license) in projects and presentations, I’ve never used any other aspect of the data. For my project I would like to be able to present where species have been observed in NJ, which iNaturalist generates as a map (example:
How would you go about doing this? I’m assuming I can’t just screenshot the generated map and use that. I saw that Google Maps has its own terms of service ( but the overlaid data is another level of complication. Does the data associated with the observation (and not the photos) belong to the observer? If so, how could I cite this properly?

So basically, I do not want to break any copyright rules or do anything unbecoming in the scientific world. Any and all advice is appreciated!!

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If you’re using any GIS software (ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Earth, etc) you can download the CSV file of the relevant observations and display them in your GIS software.

This is the best option in terms of ensuring that you have a relevant and easy to read map that displays just what you want it to in the way you want it to.

You’d still have to cite the data sources you used for your basemaps and such in the GIS software, but most of those you’d be using come say how to cite them on the page you download them from.

Here is the iNat FAQ page concerning citing iNat

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in regards to plotting the points, you can also do it in R if you use it. This is a recent figure I made (using iNat data) for a paper I’m writing at the moment:

it’s pretty easy to change the map limits to reflect your area of interest instead of the whole world


I agree with @earthknight that the most flexible solution will be to download the data and plot it yourself in some kind of software, either GIS or R as @thebeachcomber noted.

However, if you want a “quick and dirty” solution you can just screenshot the maps. To cite a screenshotted map, I would use a citation for Google Maps as well as for the underlying data. To get a data citation I would just replicate your iNat search in GBIF, filter/restrict to iNat records, and then download that dataset. GBIF will give you a doi and citation for each dataset that you download (and you’ll then have the dataset on hand if you want to go the route of making your own maps in software).

Citing iNat, Google Maps, and GBIF dataset should cover the map and observation data you would use in a screenshot.

If you’re comparing and contrasting, don’t forget the Compare tool: as an alternative to the Observations page.

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There may be RG observations that haven’t made it out to GBIF because of the observation license used by the observer, so worth a cross-check to see how much that affects the results.


I’m creating some very simple heat maps from iNat’s Explore page for some current research. I start with the map of observations, but then to unclutter the image, I choose the “Map” layer instead of “Satellite”, and then go to Full Screen view (button to the left of the map). When I have the right zoom magnification for my purposes, I just do a screen capture. This gives me a clean map for a given taxon and area that I can then crop and annotate as desired. Copyright notices will be added in publication, etc. See the examples in these screen captures:

Antheraea polyphemus TX thru 20201231 labeled

p.s. The latter annotations are added in Adobe Photoshop and Mac’s Preview apps.

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Thank you all for all the great replies!

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