What is an well balanced generalist iNater?

I am interested to know if there is a way to determine the average proportions of observations that fall into each Kingdom for iNat users. What proportion of observations would be in each Kingdom for an average well-balanced generalist user? I know some iNat users are just plant people or animal people or fungi lovers. I am thinking of something like statistical variance for someone who tries to explore all Kingdoms as a generalist. Is that even something others are interested in?


There’s a great paper with a statistical analysis of observations among different groups of users. @tiwane do you have the link bookmarked?


Thanks @egordon88 - No, I don’t have a link to that paper. It sounds like what I am looking for. Thanks

I don’t recall that one, sorry.

It breaks down users like “60% mostly upload birds with a few mammals and plants”, “10% mostly upload plants and insects”, etc. I’m looking through the forum unsuccessfully … maybe @kueda remembers


There was a separate topic imo, but don’t remember the name of it.

Observing the Observers: How Participants Contribute Data to iNaturalist and Implications for Biodiversity Science | BioScience | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

ah ha!

Figures 2 and 3 copied for convenience


Within a kingdom like Animalia, there is substantial variation in what iNatters focus on. Some of that is driven by interest but also by what camera equipment the user has. When I’m shooting birds, I might ignore most insects (except Odonata or Lepidoptera). If I don’t have my telephoto camera, I might use my smartphone to capture insects I can easily approach. I suspect some users will gravitate towards small or non-moving organisms if they rely mainly or completely on a cellphone. I suppose a “well-balanced” iNatter would go into the field with more than one type of camera or multiple lenses for a DSLR for different subjects.


This is fascinating - thank you for sharing!

Weirdly, looking at my own stats for 2022 and 2023, I feel like I don’t really fit into those! In 2022, 60% of my observations were plants, but only 37% were angiosperms (Liliopsida or Magnoliopsida), and the rest were mosses, conifers, or other groups of plants. That looks a bit like Group 1, except that only 2% of my observations were insects! And only 23% were fungi and 9% were birds, so I’m not really falling into those clusters either. So far 2023 isn’t a clear case either, with 33% of my observations being angiosperms, 18% fungi, 2.5% insects, 7% birds…

Anyone else see themselves, or not, in those clusters?


Dare I say… we’re all unbalanced in our own ways :upside_down_face:

…which leads to the collective balance on iNaturalist, such as it is…


A well-balanced iNat user is one who doesn’t get fired, divorced, or arrested because of their use of iNat. They also probably don’t wonder if an iNat user should be called an iNater or iNatter.


Seems like a low-enough bar that we all should achieve good balance.


I only clear it because my boss is strangely ok with me coming to work in trekking clothes with the occasional muddy trousers. It might say more about me than about balance.

On a more taxonomic front, that article is very interesting, thanks @egordon88 ! I’d be very interested in seeing a tentative breakdown of what drives specialisation in observers (what combination and interaction of interest, local availability, ability to travel, gear, etc.) but I feel like that’d be an absolute monster of a research design.


As expected. But surprised to see so many moths and butterflies!

Ahem - which includes - only 3 obs for that taxon on iNat - rounding out very finely balanced. Discworld poised on a turtle’s back :grinning:

Two Ts makes it sound like nature (one would be nate, neonate for the newbies?)

Obs are also skewed by - I don’t post … because they never get an ID.


I suppose a generalist iNat user would, in theory, reflect accurately the biodiversity in the region where they do their iNatting. Leaving aside microscopic organisms for the most past, just for practical reasons, that means we would need to know how many individuals of which species there are in the region in question. Then, we would have the data upon which to judge if an iNaturalist is accurately reflecting the biodiversity of their region.

Ha! Like that’s ever possible. Maybe for vertebrates and vascular plants in well-studied regions, but then again, maybe not, particularly in this era of climate change, when certainly the ranges of nesting birds, at least, are changing every decade (nesting Black Vultures and Sandhill Cranes in Massachusetts, USA, anyone?).

To me, a well-balanced generalist iNatter is one who is a good observer (they post observations with the necessary details for IDing the species depicted) and a good identifier (they make at least as many IDs of Needs ID observations as the number of observations they upload) and a good community member (they add initial IDs to their own observations and respond reasonably promptly and politely to comments).

What taxa they observe strikes me as more an accident of where they live, how mobile they are, how much time they have to devote to iNat, what equipment they can afford, what field guides are available for their region, how easy it is to find and photograph certain taxa, and how their observations are received on iNat, than a reflection of the taxa available for observations.


I would say a well-balanced generalist naturalist is one who is willing to upload all kingdoms/classes of life. For example, going on a hike and taking a photo(or photos) of a deer, oak tree, pine tree, a few flowers, a spider, mushroom, hawk, etc. Basically just observing what you see and not being fixated on finding a specific plant/bird/fungus.
My guess would be most observers with >1000 observations would have 50% plants, 30% birds, 10% arthropods, 5% fungi, and 5% other species.


There’re too many people with >1000 obs, though many of them are generalists, there’re many only-fungi/plant/bird/insect fans, even at the tops of the top. It’s not hard to get 15k of only one group, sadly we can’t search further from top 500 to see who are there.


Can there be a way to look past the top 500? There are so many great naturalists with less than 20K observations that might not be as well known.


Separate observations of each elephant submitted in the same upload, A’Tuin named as the location, and taking in stride that, inevitable, someone will suggest the ID Chelys galactica. :slightly_smiling_face:


Raynox! It gives you almost instant access to macro or even down to super-macro in seconds. And it’s small enough to fit in a pocket. And you won’t even need to change out your telezoom. (Did I mention you can use it on almost any camera system or lens?)

Though it does take some time to learn how to switch your brain from telezoom observing to macro observing. But there’s a lot of overlap too.

If you haven’t moved on from a phone cam yet, I recommend getting a good telezoom bridge cam (some great used deals out there) and grabbing a Raynox-250 and you’ll be good to go for a very wide range, for a very light, small size (and budget).