What to observe

I’m sorry if this has been covered in a previous thread.

As a relatively new user of iNat I am not at all sure of what kinds of observations are most useful to upload. So far I have used the site as a resource for identifying things that I have seen but don’t recognise, or which I have been unable to identify in other ways, but it seems to me that its main strength as a scientific tool is to document the occurrence and range of different species. If that is the case, do you want to know that I have mice in my kitchen and sparrows in my garden (actually I don’t have sparrows any more)? And while I regularly see both brown hares and stinging nettles when I walk the dog, the nettles are easier to photograph than the hares. Or is it more useful to make observations of something a bit more unusual, for instance the first appearance of a particular species that year, or something that might be outside its usual range? Do you want to know that there are hornets eating my plums, or wagtails nesting in my garage roof, or freshwater crayfish in my local stream (I haven’t seen the crayfish for a while, either)?

In any case I only have the time to post observations occasionally, so what would be the best way to approach this?


This is a wonderful topic. I strongly feel that part of the beauty of iNaturalist is that is is not geared toward any one use. One person can use it to keep a personal life list of species, only adding something if it’s new. Someone else can use it to make a documentary of a field trip, recording the common and rare alike. Someone else can use it to make a nature game with a grandchild, and yet another person can collect serious research observations. These are all OK! It won’t work to burden yourself with heavy responsibilities; you’ll just burn out. Do what gives you pleasure and personal satisfaction. If someone sees that you’re a good observer of things in your neighborhood and they want you to watch out for something in particular, they can tell you – that’s the social aspect of iNaturalist. You’ll soon find plenty of things to discuss with others, and the observations will take on new meaning. Welcome to iNaturalist!


EVERYTHING! Except captive or cultivated things. I like to go to places that haven’t been upkept. Everyone uses iNaturalist different, that’s why it’s so fun!


First of all, welcome to iNat! There is no correct thing to observe, as we all use iNat for different purposes and with different frequencies. Its perfectly fine that you post occasionally, just so as long as your photos contain location, date, and time information. The usefulness of uploads depends on what you use iNat for. Some people actually want to collect data and use iNat as a tool in that sense, others may just be amateur enthusiasts. In any case, we encourage you to post your findings, and hopefully you will soon be a lot more connected with nature.

A few words of advice though: No uploads of non-wild organisms (eg potted plants, animals in a zoo etc).


Yeah, I do a lot of things but one of my favorites is to go to a new place and try to get as many wild species as we can.

It’s not against the rules to add a few planted plants and such as long as you mark them as not wild. But if you do a ton of them you will annoy people and it starts getting iffy. If you want to observe say, a flower in a flower bed to note it’s importance for pollinators, timing of flowering, or if it’s a potential source of invasive infestations, that is fine. Mark then as captive/cultivated/not wild please though.

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I must plead guilty about making zoo observations from a visit to the Detroit Zoo last fall. I did this for my own record. I marked all the zoo observations captive. I have plenty of wild observations. I see many obviously cultivated plant observations, especially springtime when gardens are starting to color up. If I can ID those observations, which in many cases I can, I’ll check the captive/cultivated box. I think some folks, especially folks new to iNaturalist, just want to know what something is, as in “I wonder what that pretty flower is.”


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