View true locations on maps for observations with trusted hidden coordinates

Hopefully this isn’t already explained somewhere, I’ve searched the best I can but haven’t found anything.

I’d like to go to map view under my observations and see the true locations of my observations.

I tend to obscure all of my observations, and when I view my observations in map view I see the obscured locations instead of actual locations. This is a bit frustrating - sometimes I know where I found something and might not recall its ID, so I’d like to find that based on location. Or I may want to visualize areas I have explored based on observations there. These things are not possible if all of my observations are obscured to myself.

I know I can download my data with true coordinates and import into GIS - but this is a bit of a pain to do all of the time.

Is there an existing function to allow viewing true coordinates of my own observations in map view? Why isn’t this the default? If I click on a specific observation I can see its true location.

Honestly, i think it’s just harder to code. I would like it if this were the case and also if I could see true locations of anything obscured that anyone had given me permission to see. But it may be too database intensive to be worth the sever load and time. I’m not sure.

I thought users saw the actual locations on their own submissions even if the location was obscured. At least I think it used to work that way.


you do on the observation but not on the species range maps, query maps, etc, at least that is my understanding.


Here’s what I see… note rectangles in frequented areas indicating obscured locations.Capture

I would also very much like to see this feature if it were at all possible to implement. I just think it would be extremely helpful to be able to view your own obscured observations as if they were open observations, because the location is open to you.


just curious… why are you obscuring most of your observations?

that isn’t really relevant. There are a lot of reasons people might obscure observations.

I think this would be valuable to be able to do though it may be there is a way to do it that i have forgotten. In the end i just downloaded mine and put them on arcmap but most people can’t do that.

I’d also like to be able to turn off obscured observations from species range maps.


i wouldn’t say it’s not relevant. every system is designed with certain assumptions in mind. if the system was designed with the idea that people would mostly keep observations public and obscure only certain observations – say the ones at home, or for certain taxa that are vulnerable – maybe you create the map so that the obscured observations will stand out.

so, for example, i actually like to see the Explore map the way it is because wayward points tell me that i’ve recorded a species that is probably vulnerable in some way or another. i can click on a point to see the actual location. this works in my case because these wayward points are a small minority of my observations.

so i think it would be nice to understand why the opposite use case – where someone is obscuring most observations – exists.


i’m pretty sure they wanted to view a map of the real locations of their own obscured observations, not share that map with others. One of the main points of putting data into the site is to be able to use it and the data isn’t very useful for most things when obscured. And why they obscure it definitely isn’t relevant. Most people choose to obscure because of some privacy or private property issue, or sometimes to obscure the location of something they see as sensitive to harassment.


i bet most people don’t have that many obscured observations, and the ones who do probably can work with GIS.

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Working with gis is a pain and it would be way easier to be able to just pull up a map on inat. Is there a reason you don’t want people to be able to do this?


Here was one response to this request in 2017:

loarie: Unfortunately the tiles on the maps that show all observations are cached so we can’t easily show private coordinates for some obs mixed in with public coordinates for others.

And, as far as alternate use cases, e.g.

If this feature were implemented, you would still be able to do this by viewing your observations while logged out.

Alternatively, you can already use some other existing tools to check for auto-obscured or threatened species, but that’s a separate topic to continue elsewhere.

@alexgraeff: Also, I just updated the title of this feature request to reflect the case where another user has trusted you to view their private coordinates. e.g. through the Relationships feature or when given permission as a traditional project curator. The title is a bit clunky but I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase it, so please edit if you think of one. :)

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i’m simply trying to better understand the reasons for the request to fully understand the benefit. this sounds like something that would be a relatively significant change to the way the system works (architecturally) and perhaps a change to how some people might expect the system to work. so i don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask why the change is necessary.

my assumption is that obscuring a lot of observations should be relatively rare, or at least limited to few locations, for most people. so i don’t see how this would help most people, and the people it does help are probably people who are able to use gis just fine.

that said, maybe when they’re redesigning the Explore page, it might make sense to change things…

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-it came off to me as you implying people shouldn’t be choosing to obscure, or giving someone a hard time for obscuring, which you should not be doing.

-the devs will know whether something is reasonable or not, unless you’re heavily involved with the development side of things you don’t need to interrogate users of core iNat features to determine whether or not a feature is viable.

-self obscuring is very different from auto obscure. People are choosing to do it, and would presumably not be adding these observations if there weren’t such an option. Again, it’s core site functionality. People can use it as much or as little as they want to.

-setting up the download query, downloading all my observations (takes a super long time) or a subset (have to do it again and again to look at different things)… wait for the CSV to come, opening Arc, importing the csv to an arc project, setting the projection, choosing and setting the symbology, loading all your other layers, and navigating to a location to look at observations takes probably literally a million times as long as having an option to click on a map. And then if you want to navigate back to inat you have to do some of that in reverse. Unless a real time streaming iNat map service is made available on iNat (which sounds like it is too niche for them to do) this is never going to be anywhere close to an option for most iNat perusal.

-Most people can’t afford Arc licenses and a computer that can run it so it’s an obstruction to a lot of people.

Truly this feature request may not be doable for a variety of reasons, but i don’t think any of what you are doing here is helping to figure that out.


there’s nothing wrong with asking to understand someone’s process / use case a little better. i don’t know why you interpret it as interrogation (in the negative sense of the word). you can chooose to believe that it’s not helpful, but it at least helps me to understand things better.

btw – there are lots of GIS options that are free or nearly so, and some of these are cloud-based.

anyway… i don’t want to take over the topic. so i’m going to leave it at that.


I obscure my observations to protect species and habitats. Human traffic in sensitive areas is one of the major threats to many plants (especially the pretty ones that people want to photograph), and I’m of the opinion that many of the places I visit should maintain low human traffic. Even if I only obscure a select set and leave the common species obscured, for example, people can still piece together where I may have found rare species based on common species observed around the same time on that day. Obscuring all observations limits this ability.

I do want my data to be useful, and it is useful for regional distribution and phenology (may other purposes, too?) even if obscured. That being said, I am absolutely open to sharing locations for research or other appropriate uses if an user requests.

As for GIS - I do know how to use GIS, and I use a free package (QGIS) - but it is not practical to load my observations repeatedly.


ok. thanks for your response. you must be the only person I’ve heard of doing obscure-by-day ( on their own. i suppose if / when that goes into effect a lot of us will have a lot more obscured observations, too.

it would still be a workaround (for now), but if i were in your shoes, i think i might still do the CSV download but rely on the Private Place Guess field to get me in the general vicinity of things. then i might use a dummy observation at Life rank to get to that general location, and you could use that observation’s observation detail map to see other Life in the area. (it would pick up other people’s observations, too, but that might not be a bad thing.)

EDIT: oh wait… nevermind… the other observations in that observation detail map still would probably be obscured… but the Private Place Guess should still get you in the right vicinity of things.

I struggle with this as nature gatekeeping already excludes some of the most important groups. There’s a lot of bias in what groups one chooses to share with and I increasingly worry that keeping the data in silos does more harm than good.

Just hoping the obscure by day never happens. It would more or less break Inaturalist for what I use it for - years of hard work down the toilet. But I’ll leave it at that as it’s pretty far off topic here.


I am interested in how you use iNaturalist, then. I do sometimes struggle with the fact that I obscure my coordinates, so I’m interested in how that practice impacts what you do. If more appropriate, we could continue this conversation somewhere else.

We could probably have a long-winded conversation about group exclusion and what the impacts are, I’ll leave that alone for now.