What is iNat's wish list for observations?

I would not have though to look for mollusks, so that’s interesting. I know I’ve seen a lot of small ones in the garden, but will look for them on my nature walks. Macro shots are very doable. Thanks for the suggestion.


Thats great! I saw the first crocus of the spring yesterday here in Montana and made an obs for it specifically for this reason even though I don’t usually intentionally do captive ones. Am keeping my eyes peeled for first wild flower.

Also, I saw blooming strawberries in two different locations in the mountains of Montana on October 10 and October 30th last year, which seems crazy but I doubt theres any good comparison dataset for the last blooming flower of a given species in a year. But over time things like inat observations of common things could perhaps start to build such a dataset up statistically.


You can always create your own project. Every now and then I go out and set up a simple trap for insects. It’s just two disposable cups buried in the dirt with something like a rock or piece of wood above it about an inch. Then I go back every day and document what falls in. Sometimes it’s fun to run your own “research” for your area.

There are lots of holes in scientific data due to sampling bias. There have been discussions on here before, but I think you could use this as a quick rule of thumb for whether something isn’t represented well on iNat:

1 - Does it require effort to find?
2 - Does it require expertise to identify?
3 - Is it something people generally overlook?

If one or more of those things are true, then there probably aren’t as many observations on here as there “should” be.

Very few of us on here are true experts, but that’s not the point. You’re clearly well-intentioned and inspired by nature, go experiment until you find something you enjoy making observations of, and do your best!


Someone once told me that municipalities use observations to see what parks and other areas are being used and used for study of nature. They may also use personal property observations within their municipality to see who is interested and what they are finding. So, to keep that in mind, you might think about frequenting your favorite local parks, especially the ones not normally used for nature. Then, if anyone is planning improvements they will know what natural things are there and whether the money is worth it. Plus, it would show them that people are interested in the nature and not just the sports fields and picnic tables. If you are concerned about the time or space your observations take up, and you use iNat a lot, with a lot of your own pictures, you could also consider donating ten or fifteen dollars at the end of the year as that will help cover expenses with photos. Do not feel obligated to do this, but if you personally get a lot out of the platform, it is something to think about. I was here for several years before I wanted to donate but I now have nearly 5000 observations. I also try to avoid the most common things when I observe in the same place over and over, except when there is a bioblitz, my most fun time of all.


Do what you like, especially in taxa, but one thing that can be useful is explore areas with no observations, it can be a street in a town or faraway spot in a forest, but it does worth it going there even if not many species can be found.


I agree with all the previous replies. A few old threads that might spark an area of interest for you:

Spring Challenge: find oak bud and flower galls

Go find hickory galls!

Ask a Bumblebee - public survey project of plants and bees

I don’t fish either but I’ve found that I can get some decent photos of aquatic organisms in shallow water that have been identified here. And I’ve asked people fishing if I could photograph their fish. I don’t ask everyone I see fishing… just those I strike up a conversation with.


I think for most us, the wish list just comes down to please take some care with your photos (ie, clear and cropped) to make it easier on the identifiers.

As to observation holes not being filled, if I may throw in another way to look at that, Bumble Bees are pretty commonly uploaded on iNat, but in my county I am the only regular observer with close to 90% of the observations being mine. A shame because the conservation district here is very interested in Bumble Bees. So even if you want to upload something commonly reported, it may not be commonly locally reported.

Another option would be to call your local city park, county conservation district ect, and ask them what they are looking for, might be a chance to learn a new local taxon, and contribute data to the people caring for the habitat.


Please - come across to the other side. Find an URL that works for you (mine are Cape Peninsula, Western Cape and Africa) and help ID Unknowns. We have obs but we would like more identifiers. It can be as simple as Lepidoptera or Fungi (or wherever your knowledge and interest lie). Anything to help funnel obs towards a waiting identifier.


In addition to the suggestions already made, I’d also like to add: Whatever you document, try to take several pictures. As photographers would say, work the subject, get different angles, e.g. in addition to a flower get the underside as well, plus the stem, leaves, underside of leaves etc. It may take more time per observation but makes them easier to confirm IDs. Some species can only be ID’d conclusively if certain key features are shown, and it can take a little while to learn what might be needed for each group/species.


Welcome to the Forum!
As @robotpie says, there is no ‘need’ involved in observations. Do whatever you want! Or as @dianastuder says, join the dark side - Identification. iNat has all sorts, from the late Finatic who made thousands of observations, to folks who have no observations but thousands of identifications. Mess around a bit, and find what it is you enjoy, from taxa to identifications. Each of us has our own interests, and you need to find yours, whether it be birds, mollusks, or a specific species of whatever.
All I can add is that in terms of ‘need’, underpopulated areas are a blank for the most part. But unless you are a determined ‘explorer’ willing to traverse the wilderness of Northern Canada to explore the northernmost range of a moth or something, those regions will likely stay sparse in terms of observations.
Just learn, and have fun doing it!


Lots of good answers in a similar vein above and I would echo most of them in saying; whatever interests you! iNat is primarily about encouraging people to engage with nature so whatever you are uploading is great. Uploading good quality observations (cropping, in focus, showing different aspects of the organism) will be particularly helpful to identifiers.

If you want to be more active on iNat then I would second @dianastuder in saying join the identifiers! There’s many more observers that identifiers and even just identifying unknowns in an area will help. I’ve been trying to identify more recently and not only am I learning a lot but it also helps me with what to look for next time I go out observing.

My main interest is sea slugs but since joining iNat the observations that have caused the most excitement are of things that I almost overlooked or didn’t photograph. So I just try to photograph everything!


Lots of great ideas here. I’ll figure out how to seek out geolocations that are underreported in this county, and for families that might be underreported for my county in particular (like the bumblebees, above). I’ll ask a few master naturalists to hook me up with local agencies who might have a specific need. I will also do more IDs. I know birds best but they’re very difficult for people to shoot with a phone camera. I went through 10 pages of local bird IDs last night but at last half of the photos just weren’t good enough to make a call. But I’ll do what I can.


Off topic, but how would I know that people are excited about a particular observation? This forum, or somewhere else?

@dontfencemein I encourage your interest in bumblebees. There is a lot of interest out there in developing a community of bee observers that are as passionate and informed as birders.

Depending on your camera an inexpensive clip on magnification lens can help you get closer shots.

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Excitement is - IDs, comments, and fave the obs (also follow this obs, but the observer can’t see that)


And sometimes private messages, too. I’ve been contacted several times now by either researchers or park officials with requests for more info on obscured rare plants. It’s fun to be able to lead a ranger on a hike to show them the location of something exciting. Usually it’s the other way around.


One place I found interesting is the real time discussion button. And in the thumbnails in explore, when I see a number on the bottom left I’ll check for discussion. Or check to see if it’s been favorited. I’m still new to most of iNat.


I think it has been mentioned here before, but I’d just like to reiterate that observations of common species are useful to the people using this type of data to help answer their research questions.

I think it’s fun to see how many places you can observe certain common species as well!

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I’ve had people get in touch with me requesting a picture from a specific angle for an observation and seeds from a flower I had posted.

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Since you mention macro, perhaps you might like to consider fungi and lichens as well as some of the more easily overlooked plant species like bryophytes? The AI system here still really struggles with many fungi (while many are inherently difficult to distinguish, I think they are also relatively under-reported compared to other groups). Getting an image of the underside can help a lot with many fungi species.
Depending how good your macro capabilities are, there is also a huge diversity of smaller insects and other invertebrates that most people never pay any attention to. Compared to the large telephoto lenses required for birding and other animals, macro can be a relatively more affordable and light/compact pursuit since you can achieve quite a lot with simple and affordable add-on macro conversion lenses or extension tubes.