I’ve thought for a while about doing something like this… Maybe just because it’s a little positivity that reminds us why we are all here on this site—a little positivity that we might need sometimes.
It’s a simple question, one that I’m not sure has been asked before:
What is it that you love about iNat?
Interestingly, what I love about iNat has actually changed and expanded quite a lot over time.
When I started iNat, What I particularly loved about it was how easy it is to identify organisms in the field without having to run through bulky field books or otherwise.
I remember, before my iNat years, seeing a spiderwort, and browsing through Google or the Wildflower Center website to find out what it is. As such, I saw iNaturalist as a catalyst, a catalyst for learning. The combination of the Computer Vision and the community makes for a very efficient way to learn; the Computer Vision will get you most of the easier species, or at least something very close, and other users can back up those that the AI still struggles with. It made nature more accessible to me.
Now, I love iNaturalist because it helps me connect the knowledge I learn into the plants I see in the field, and connect me to all sorts of lore behind those plants. It is so easier to understand something by experiencing it yourself through your own five senses. And also way more fun—why just read the difference between two species when you can see it for yourself!
(Note: yes, I now go through both field books, floras and keys.)
Of course, there’s a lot more that I love about iNat, but I’ll let others continue my thoughts for me. Excited to read your responses!
As a preserve steward for a local nonprofit land trust, it’s great to be able to have the public contribute observations to projects. The areas we manage are large and employees and volunteers are few. Allowing others to help us, even if accidentally, identify non-native plant species and noxious weeds and/or show how the rehabilitation of native species plantings we do is going can be extremely helpful to plan activities and do outreach.
Well, I ended up here searching for a place where my love for exploring nature and taking photos would find some more value then filling hard drives. I love that some of my observations have been of value to certain people in different ways now.
I quickly started enjoying growing my collection of species and places in an easily accessible way. (kind of Pokemon-esk ;-))
I am (sometimes unfortunately) a person for which even the silliest gamifications often work. My animal brain is just wired that way and I cannot do anything about it, even if I sometimes realize that certain things are just stupid. I enjoy looking at those maybe meaningless numbers especially of species count. I love looking at the map in small or global scales and see how I manage to add another red dot somewhere. Yah well, that gives me some joy and motivation, if I am beeing honest here.
What I also started valueing a lot are the possibilities for identification of observations. There are several mechanisms on iNat that are very useful for that. Having access to a variety of experts (formally educated or motivated self eductaion does not matter much to me to call them that) is just amazing. Another useful possibility is to just browse what has been seen around to get inspiration. Training your self by IDing stuff is just as helpful.
I also love the exchange with nature enthusiasts just like me… that took a little while to get connected, but I feel this aspect is growing more and more.
I also love that iNat allows me to “explore the world” or “just go home” for a while. I sometimes miss my nature excursions back in my home country, and then I just go through the observations there and ID stuff. Or sometimes I feel adventurous and visit a place I have never been before and have a look around there…
I love that it’s a place for professional scientists and amateur naturalists (like myself) to interact, and the opportunity for me to take and post a picture or audio recording that represents something novel or unique.
I love that it opened up the natural world for me! The same exact way birding did for me some years earlier
I moved a little outside very very large American city and, though they are also in the big city, I saw, for the first time in my entire life (!), a northern cardinal. I’ve seen and heard more than I count now, but it made me realize the animals I spent my entire life learning about in books and documentaries and online are actually out here, in real life, waiting to be seen. That’s how I got into birding, and never going very far from large American city, I’ve still seen over 100 species now.
iNat did the same thing for me… except for everything. I just had to realize, as dumb as it may seem, that there is actually wildlife near me I can just go outside and look at with my own eyes. I do a lot of observing in my backyard; my first upload and many many others are from there, and I had no idea about the wondrous fauna that visit my pretty unimpressive, tiny little yard in a concrete jungle.
I did sometimes photograph and try to identify wildlife as a kid, but I waited for them to come to me rather than actively searching for them. An organized community and hobby around it helped me make the realization that every corner of the planet is a little safari.
It also helped me get more into plants, which I had never explored very deeply. And I probably know many times more than when I started about insects now (still not a lot, lol), and just about everything else I upload to iNat too. One can always start with books and websites, but having individual experiences and learning from them as you go is an amazing inroads to becoming familiar with the diversity of life on Earth
Ploughing thru the Unknowns Mountain, and the conversations as the IDs unfold, adding new species to iNat, first few obs of that. It fascinates me and my sense of wonder at nature gets a boost with each day’s new, wow, look at that!!
I don’t know why, but this is very relatable.
“You’re the person who looks at grass!”
I don’t mind though I like being that person
We are very socially isolated from people not living in our house, and hampered by mental illness. inat provides us something to do! We focus on life going on around us, which helps us be in the present. And the photos/sound recordings, editing, uploading, identifying, notifications, and forum all help us meet our needs for learning and adventure.
Yes, I’ve always struggled with isolation as well, and suffer from depression. The little boost from being able to find something interesting outdoors and knowing “ooh, so-and-so on iNat is going to be very excited when I tag them on this one!” is very helpful in making me feel a bit more connected.
(And many thanks to all of you who have gotten excited about things I’ve found - you probably have no idea how much it helps!)
It’s the spiders.
Oh and some of the humans are ok too.
I love lots of things about it. Mostly, I love how much my son loves it. I don’t think he knew other people liked the things he likes because most kids his age aren’t as interested in what he’s interested in as he is. And he is neurodivergent so naturally, he struggles to conceal it or pretend to be interested in other things, which other kids can be jerks about. I think it’s beneficial for people, especially young people, to see that there’s other people like them. I’ve found that here and so has my son.
Now that I think of it, it’s also helped my son tune his social skills a bit, by seeing how other people he relates to and admires interact with others. Many people know about the bird numbering on my account (sorry everybody, I know, I know) and other very particular observational habits, and that’s stuff my son compulsively did/sometimes still does. He doesn’t like to listen to me (who wants to listen to their dad?), but he listened to people who politely commented and explained that it’s a habit that is kind of annoying to people! And so, he actually has been able to control his impulses to do that and does not do it nearly as much anymore. I should honestly thank the site because it was the behavior and kindness of others that helped him control himself, despite my trying. That’s just one example of something unexpected that I truly believe the site and users of the site have been able to do for him. And I don’t think people understand how much that means to me and my family! It’s genuinely improved the quality of my son’s life, which has improved the quality of my whole family’s life. It’s just a really nice thing. And I love that.
Taxonomy has had a rough time the past few decades. It has, some have argued, nearly died. The reasons for this are probably best left for another discussion thread.
But I can say this: I feel like iNaturalist is breathing new life into taxonomy. It’s democratizing the science, and perhaps putting a spotlight on what was killing it. At the same time iNaturalist is invigorating an interest among many thousands of non-academics/scientists and doing what taxonomy was once best at, simply making biology accessible, understandable, and giving things names.
I love everything about iNat, especially the staff and the community.
I use the app on my iPhone to make all my observations and upload them, but everything else that I do on iNat, I do on the website using my desktop computer.
I love how organized everything is on iNat; it’s nice seeing my species count and observations for individual species all arranged neatly. Everyone has also been very open and supportive; whenever I had any questions, many users were more than willing to explain things to me (saving me from rifling through my field guides or scouring the web). It’s also nice to see what others are observing in my community as well, it motivates me to go out there and try to see them for myself!
I like the fact that I can actually see that there are other people as weird as I am. I used to get depressed because everyone said they liked nature but the reality is: they like it if it stays “out there somewhere, where they don’t have to interact with it.”
On iNat, there are actually people who not only get out there to see what is living on this amazing planet, but they are doing their best to identify it (and hopefully, thereby save even a small percentage).
Oh, and I like the fact that it is helping me immeasurably to identify all the things I see and photograph.
It’s nice to feel like I’m not alone. (I should admit, however, that I haven’t been “alone” for quite some time as my husband is a biologist and also likes to see all the weird, whacky, and beautiful creatures out there.)
I like that, for the first time, I have a resource for identifying taxa for which there are no field guides. It was really frustrating before, observing organisms and learning all sorts of things about them, but not what they were.
I like that I can go on virtual nature walks anywhere in the world. Yesterday I was in the “Explore” tab looking at Tierra del Fuego, seeing Magellanic woodpeckers and austral parakeets in the Nothofagus forest. On other occasions, I have “Explored” places like the Galapagos and Brazzaville.
I like that I can use the virtual nature walks to plan real ones: if there is a species I really would like to see, I can look at the observations map of it and get an idea of where to look. (Yes, I know how this can be abused, which is why some taxa are auto-obscured.)
I like the dynamic life list, where I can see the taxonomic trees for my observed taxa.
I like the “Favorites” gallery, which is like having my own art gallery where I can enjoy the most beautiful nature photographs I come across.
Lastly, I like this forum, where the conversations are more interesting than on mainstram social media.
Mostly the community since naturalism is such an uncommon passion, maybe 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10000 enjoy it at the level of wanting to know what a specific thing in nature is called. The platform, and especially the forum, help create and connect this community.
Disagreement: It’s always humbling and informative when there’s disagreement about an observation or topic. Always enjoy learning something new that way.
Identification: Grateful that other iNatters go out and do observations more regularly than me. I still get the joy of identifying something without downsides, like hot weather, for example.
I like how iNat is a force multiplier. There aren’t very many robber fly people out there, and we can’t be sampling at all places at all times. But thanks to thousands of random people posting “that cool bug” they saw on iNat, I can now get a pulse for what taxa are out everywhere at all times and where to find them, what prey or perches they might favor, etc. Random folks usually post common stuff, but a) that’s still useful and b) sometimes they get lucky, too. So much of being a naturalist is serendipity, and this buys us more tickets to the lottery.
Also, it has helped me by being a big virtual museum. I’ve been able to review “specimens” from far away that aren’t in my local collections and see how they line up with what the literature describes, and thus gain confidence to identify new taxa and pick up on new characters.
And if I’m honest the gamification structure helps ring my dopamine reward receptors, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that’s why my lizard brain loves iNat. ;-)
Many things to love! I am a very disorganised person and iNat is a fantastic place to organise all my observations with place, date, ID etc. On my own I this would never have happened, there would have been thousands of forgotten photos somewhere on my computer! Now I can search and find and look back with ease.
I love the people on iNat. Being on a site where people are helpful and positive while interacting is such a privilege. I like that there are other people here who also stare at tree trunks for ages, who also crawl in the mud, who get excited about stuff that are not ‘mainstream’.
I really enjoy the Explore function. One can use it anywhere to see what can be found, and one can travel the world on your screen, marveling at the diversity. And yes, I also like to add a red dot where there wasn’t one before.
I like the Obs of the day/week etc - it shows us beautiful and interesting observations, and interesting observers.
Mainly I am happy to be part of a huge network of enthusiasts and experts. One feels connected. My main interest is spiders, and most of the people around me really don’t want to hear about the cool spiders I find - but iNat is always there to ‘listen’!