Value of projects

I understand the use of projects like “Galls of North America,” which holds a diversity of taxonomically unrelated organisms, which all make galls. Adding a gall observation to the project helps gall experts find it and identify it. There is no other way of categorizing something as a gall in the rest of the iNaturalist interface that I know of. But what’s the value of a “Birds of Texas” project for example? You can already find all the bird observations from Texas without the project.


I guess part of those projects with more easily searchable criteria is that project curators may have the option to view obscured locations, projects generate statistics, and identifiers can easily access the group they want. Also, in general, they encourage users to make more observations in that subject, I think. That said, I don’t know much about the iNat culture surrounding projects and can’t speak for anyone. I’ve made two so far and there are a number of reasons why I thought they added something to the site. I think it really can be subjective and depends on who you ask and what specific project you’re asking about since projects can fulfil many different purposes.

edit: others have mentioned journal posts, which I totally forgot to bring up. that’s one of the main factors for me.

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One of the huge benefits is building a community through features such as journal posts. A classic example is the Australasian Fishes project. You could easily do a standard search in the explore tab for the taxa in this project, but that wouldn’t generate any kind of community involvement because everyone is doing their own thing. As a project, however, Aus Fishes puts out multiple journal posts every month; these can be summaries of recent interesting finds, profiles of top contributors, news about publications using data from the project, etc.

On top of that, Mark McGrouther (who started the project) paid for some custom code so that he could deck out the project page with some fancy graphics; you’ve got an animated slideshow at top highlighting cool photos and a sidebar showing agencies/organisations involved with the project.

I wrote a paper recently reviewing Australian iNat usage, and wrote a section on this very topic. Pulled straight from my paper:



What’s the need of using search if you can go to project page? You can have a lot of activity in a project, see statistics and write posts, that’s the value of any project. I love seeing how one place gets more and more observation, observers, species, and subscribers love to read about it.


Very cool.

Can I get the details of your paper? Very keen to have a read of it.

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open access here :)


Many projects cover areas that don’t conform to pre-established areas like “Texas” or “London”.

Often an area of interest or concern has different borders than pre-established areas, overlaps several but doesn’t completely enclose any of the ones it overlaps, or is specific to a type of ecosystem that is is not established as a “place”. In addition, when it comes to species that have a status that leads to their location being automatically obscured a person may establish a project area larger than an already established place in order to capture observations that took place within the AOI, but would otherwise be left out due to how the location obscuring system registers observations.

In addition, a project lets you more easily track contributions, activity, seasonality, changes over time, etc.

Sure, there are some projects that have been set up that probably didn’t need to be (part of that is, I think, due to a lack of clarity for new users on how to use the search parameters on iNat), but there are a lot that do serve a good and useful purpose.


Projects are used for many reasons as well as being for a specific region. Even specific region projects serve as a point where some organizations can hang a sign on it and users can become a member - Birds of Texas is one of these projects. Some organizations use this as a portal to their web sites, and as has been said for posting information for member/users by use of the journal. Parks BC had a huge umbrella project to bring together and expand observations within their parks.

I think this helps answer your main question As well there are other values of projects.

There are a few projects that are just for Omphaloskepsis - I have one just for organizing/planning a big road trip and it brings together several disconnected regions. I could have just kept a bookmarked complex link for this but I am sharing this with three others for that trip and I can manage/change the search without having to send out a new link. Another grouping of disconnected places is World Heritage Natural Site Observations

There are projects that bring together organisms for recognition. Beach Blobs is one of these where relatively unknown beach organism are added and hopefully identified. Going through the knowns can be an education in itself. Cryptobiotic soil brings together soil crusts which are created by living organisms such as algae, cyanobacteria, and fungi.

Some of the projects bring users together for a cause, desire, or ideology. The City Nature Challenge projects bring together users for a cause - looking for nature in their backyards and cities. I have a project where users make their submitted observations by not using anything but foot/arm power to get to that subject from their primary home Footzoom.

There are projects that are of specifics that would be hard to search for - Banded Birds, Interactions (s Afr), Found Feathers, Animated observations, and Eggs & Egg Coverings of Terrestrial Invertebrates. Although some of these can be found by bookmarked searches, it is nice to be able to share such a search.

While working on unknowns I put together several projects that gather together homoplastic organism because sometimes people group together organisms and mistake organisms for each other regardless of taxonomy - Branchy and/or Seaweedy Organisms Marine and Fresh Water (multiple Kingdoms), Jellyfish, Comb Jellies, Salps, and other Transparents/Transluscents (multiple Phylums).

Into The Great Unknown is a collection project of various other projects of organisms that are commonly left unknown. Reviewing these observations helps me refine my identification acuity as well going to the sub-projects, I can do regional searches for things like local known algaes.

Again some self indulgence, I have created a project of Kleptoplastic Organisms whereby plastids, notably chloroplasts from algae, are sequestered by host organisms (still needs some work).


Yes. I made lots of Projects for small adjoining parts of a Resere area of significant ecological value, and an umbrella project linking them, so that I could, from any observation, look at all observations from the immediately surrounding areas, or a few taxonomic groups from the umbrella area. It is tremendously useful and inspiring to me to be able to navigate quickly around the umbrella area to, eg, see the state of an adjoining area, or further downstream, via the Project stamps in the observations, and see the umbrella area’s overview map of the whole.

It was only a couple of years later that I discovered each observation automatically contains links under the location Details to the Places it is in. While not as elegant or graphically satisfying, this would have met my greatest need without the Projects.

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What you describe for me is still a great use of projects, I can’t imagine a reason of why a project shouldn’t exist unless it’s a uplicate of another one in every setting.

Thanks for the answer and link to this paper. Certainly it’s what drove the creation of the Marine Life of Victoria project as well. My organisation runs several citizen science projects focusing on specific species or groups of marine animals, but we were getting a lot of divers and snorkelers who wanted to know if more of their sightings could become useful data points. We thought that just sending them away to an online platform they’d have to figure out for themselves probably wouldn’t result in ongoing contributions or learnings, whereas having the project as a landing point actually allowed us to plead the case for why we need more observations of Aus species (especially marine ones), and give people a sense of why their observations matter.

I’d certainly agree that there is value in cultivating a community of enthusiastic contributors and being able to share news especially around how the community’s obs are being used in research etc.


I think that might have been why some of us couldnt’ understand how you were structuring your projects… it seemed like a lot of work for little reward… but then I saw also that you were making presentations to council, and that alone made it practical. And another factor, your “micro-community” likely see value in it that I as an outsider wouldn’t… Ultimately, it comes down to workflow… what works for you is different to what works for me and so on. Having choices is not a bad thing :)

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