What are your iNat browsing tips?

There are many ways to browse around iNaturalist observations. Most of us have our particular interests, whether it be based on taxonomic or geographic familiarity or curiosity.

So, what do you do to find the stuff you are interested in on iNat? Do you:

  • Use alerts? What kinds and how well does it work for you?
  • Filter on the Explorer? When do you prefer map vs. list vs. grid views?
  • Follow users? Do you use it to alert you to stuff your are interested in, or are you more interested in following the person, or both?
  • Do you subscribe to the emails? Check the new stuff in the app or web?

I have my pattern dialed in, but I’d love to hear what others do so we can all learn new tricks. I’ll start out the discussion.

My main area of interest is the Northern Rockies and surrounding, especially the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I have an alert set up for all observations in Yellowstone County, because I’m trying to foster the community here and don’t want to miss an opportunity to encourage users here and interact with their content.

However, the main way I interact on iNat is using the Explorer to filter for all taxa in Montana or Wyoming (and sometimes Idaho when things are slow, but I’m not as familiar with range overlaps, so I am more judicious when I am unsure of fine IDs.) I use the grid view with the standard settings to see most recently posted, so that it works like a “status update feed” for the organisms in this range.

I experimented with following users, but I am familiar enough with the users in these areas to know quickly whether they are active or new or just traveling through. I pared back my “follows” since it just cluttered the updates feed with redundant information found in the Explore function.

I get the daily email update. Normally I keep up with update on my phone or browser, but sometimes notice something I missed in the email feed. I also get emails for any message I get. 90% of my usage is on the phone, so I’d miss messages without the email forward.

What do you do?


(I should preface this by mentioning that my browsing is 99% website based, hardly anything by phone.)

I do all of the above, but what I actually do most is re-visit saved Identify bookmarks, for either places or people. For example, a long-term project of mine (and several collaborators) is revising the vascular flora of the White Mountains in California and Nevada. So my bookmark for that place (developed using Filters in the Identify view) is:


An example of a bookmark for a specific user (again developed via Filters) is:

Each time a bookmark is revisited, all newly posted observations meeting the same filter criteria show up at the front of the line (by default – this can also be changed in the Filters).

I prefer the Identify view to the Explore grid view because it initially looks similar, but comes with a lot more functionality for efficient browsing of, and input on, the observations. It took me a while to discover and learn that functionality, but now I can’t browse without it! But if one prefers the Explore view, just remove /identify from the URL - most of the filter options are the same in each.

You may notice that I include “Needs ID” and “Research Grade” observations in my filters. This is not the default filter behavior in Identify mode, and I need to specify this to make sure I see everything, and catch any mis-identified Research Grade observations. (Also, my taxon filter for each is for vascular plants [Tracheophyta], since I am not much use with anything else. :wink:)

Because there are so many different browsing preferences for the vast diversity of iNaturalist users, I have often wished that some of the Filters defaults could be changed and saved as “sticky” account settings by each user. There is an open feature request for that. There is also a request to save bookmarks internally instead of in one’s Internet browser (or, like me, in a separate text file).


My main interest right now are freshwater microbes, and for the most part I use this filter to find stuff to attempt to ID:


Since microbes cover so many different kingdoms are often hard to even ID to kingdom, I sometimes use adhoc filters like searching for all obs ID’d at most to Kingdom that aren’t animals and that have words like Pond, water, or lake in the description or tags. When I find a new person posting microbe observations I look at their other observations to see if they posted anything else I’m interested in.

I’m also interested in bryophytes, but haven’t been actively ID’ing them on here for awhile. I have alerts set up for any bryophytes in my locality that I still ID when I notice them, as well as one for springtails. That’s all the alerts I use. Right before I stopped ID’ing mosses, I created a collection project that was just a list of people who tended to post good observations of bryophytes and I used that to do my ID’ing. This was because it gets very frustrating trying to ID small things like moss from zoomed out photos. It’s hard enough to do even when you can dissect it under a microscope.

I use grid view by default, but I use map view when I am looking for geographic outliers. Don’t really use list view except for my own observations when I need to compare timestamps to figure out where things were.

I only follow 3 people. One of them is someone I brought over to iNat and wanted to encourage to stay on here, and the other two are people who tend to only post high quality observations of taxa I’m interested in. I’m selective about it so it won’t clog up my dashboard.

I unsubscribed from all emails, and only use the app when I’m stuck somewhere without my computer and need something to do.

I use Identify rather than Explore for almost everything because I love being able to bring up the Identify Modal. The one time I do use Explore is to limit my search to a bounding box. I’ll bring up Explore in the map view, zoom in to what I want, re-do search in map area, then go to Filters->Identify to move the bounding box to the Identify search. Then I’m able to move through the observations with the arrow keys and see larger photos and more info without having to go to the individual observation pages. I’m interested mainly in mammal identification and I don’t restrict to any geographic area by default.

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