Using signs to engage new participants to collect data via iNaturalist

Hi all, I’m starting up a new local project to encourage visitors to specific areas to submit photo observations of plant-animal interactions. We’re in the process of designing the signs to explain the project and provide a link to submit pictures.

I’m wondering if anyone on here has used this methodology to engage new users, or increase opportunistic observations in a specific small-scale location. Any advice on what kind of design has worked (or not) is helpful. examples welcome!

For folks not familiar with iNat, I’m considering including a 2nd link for non-iNat users to upload photos as well. Thoughts on whether this would be welcome or just confusing?

Thanks all,


Following to see what other folks suggest!

My thought would be that for the most part I would want to funnel photos/observations through iNaturalist, mostly because I think it’s such a great resource for folks to learn about their local organisms. Also might be helpful to have the iNat community as IDers.

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I recently designed a 9" x 12" sign to invite people to observe pollinator bugs in urban neighborhoods such as Minneapolis, Minnesota, where there are native plantings along sidewalks. The yard sign is freely available for anyone to download here. Hope this gives you some ideas!


@kueda might have some good advice on this. I believe that he did something similar with his burn recovery project for Mr Diablo back around 2012/13 or so (don’'t remember the exact year).

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The LA Natural History Museum community science program gives people the option of emailing in observations or tagging them on social media, and then uploads those observations to their iNaturalist account. They write in the “notes” section who emailed them the submission to give credit. So you could say something like “upload your observations to iNaturalist or email them to [email address].”

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This recent thread may be of interest and there might be others:


Volusia County, Florida posts a series of signs in their parks with suggestions like “Take a photo of an insect and post it on the iNaturalist app”. I don’t know how successful these are, but there are occasional visitors who will dutifully post photos of the signs.


Sometimes people take a photo of the sign itself and upload it; please be specific in your instructions.


Welcome, Desiree! Nice to see you here.

I use QR codes with links to the app for folks who’ve never heard of iNaturalist. In workshops I’ve done, I’ve had folks uploading observations within 5 minutes of walking up to my information table. (I’m doing one tomorrow in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park!)

For a non-iNat upload, maybe providing a QR code to the upload page would be enough.

For folks who already know about iNat, have an account, and have the app on their phone, I think your text and example photos could be enough to encourage them.


Here is an example of a sign that uses to encourage people to report marine mammal sightings. We also have a sign that encourages visitors to use iNat. I’ll try to remember to take a photo of it tomorrow.


Hope your information table isn’t right next to the landscaping beds.

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Using QR codes to download apps can be unsafe, so I decided to not use one. On my sign I originally had a QR code but had a bad experience with a free QR code generator, then an IT professional advised me that QR codes can be problematic. I suppose it doesn’t hurt for folks to take a little time and thought before joining iNaturalist.

Here is the sign I promised yesterday. It is located at the tourist information booth just past the ferry terminal exit.


What does this mean?

A QR code is just a type of bar code, an encoding of textual information.

If a QR code encodes a URL, the code reader recognizes it as such and directs your browser to that site. That’s no more safe nor unsafe than the site itself.

Some QR code generators offer an “editable” option, where you can change the code to point to a different URL. In that case, the generator’s web site acts as a redirect service. The QR code has the URL of the generator site, not the site you provided. If you don’t trust the generator site, don’t use that feature.

If you don’t trust the source of a QR code, or you’re unsure if it’s legit, the code reader should offer the option to just copy the encoded information out as text. Then you can view it to confirm it’s what you expect it to be.

I was a professional software developer for 40 years. I don’t know any way that QR codes can be “problematic” other than in the way I described above.


I did an internet search for “QR codes threats” and decide to remove the QR code on my design. Simpler! People can just type in and get to the site pretty easily.

You said that they upload observations within five minutes of coming to your information table. I was envisioning them turning away and immediately uploading the landscaping shrubs beside you.


Discover Life in America is doing exactly what you described, OP.

By the way, you can create a Project, I believe, for Plant-Species interaction (I think others that do that already exist, but you can do it for just your target area if you like) and ask collectors to Collect the Plant (and hopefully a photo of the animal interacting with the plant,) then select your Project, and your Project can ask a bunch of questions about what animal species was interacting with the plant, etc.

Ah! That is a risk, but we were specifically looking for bugs that day.

I also give folks brief instructions, including marking garden plants as “cultivated”. (Nearly all were at that location.)

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