What's the advantage of having people joining a project? (and other related questions)

Hello everyone!

I’ve recently started a project here in iNaturalist in order to collect all observations for a given area (this area will be my “study area”, so to speak). All observations that fall inside that area are automatically collected. That way people don’t necessarily need to “join” the project and their observations are still added to my database.

This said, I know that people can actively join my project. What advantages does that bring?

And how do I get publicize my project in order to get more people actively involved?

I feel that iNaturalist has no useful tools and features to share and publicize projects. The option to create and manage a project is great, but apart from that iNaturalist has no other tools to share information about the thousands of great and interesting projects.

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I think some of the answers here really depend on what your project is and what your goals for it are. Collection projects are really just saved searches, so maybe there isn’t a need or advantage for other people to join your project. On the other hand, maybe there’s a group of people that want to focus on IDing certain taxa in certain places. A project can be a convenient way to do that type of IDing. Projects also display data conveniently (if people want to see that) and can allow access to obscured data in some cases. So the advantages of people signing up really depend on the project itself and it’s goals; there’s not really a one-answer-fits-all approach.


If all you need is a set of observations from a particular area, you can just delineate an iNat Place and subscribe to that Place. You don’t need to go on to use that Place in an automatic-collection iNat Project.

If, on the other hand, you want to communicate to people who make observations in your Place, you can create a Project, encourage people to join that Project (either off-iNaturalist or by writing individual private messages within iNat), and then go on to communicate to them via journal posts within the Project. This is worth doing if, for example, there are already people who have an interest in your Place and you can encourage them through external newsletters, social media, etc., to join your Project and contribute observations.

Aside from journal posts, which only reach people who have joined a Project, iNaturalist has no “automatic” way that I know of to encourage people to join a Project. People’s observations will be added to a Project if it’s an automatic-collection Project, but if people don’t go back and look carefully at their observations after they are uploaded, those people will never know their observations are part of a Project. Alternatively, if someone is looking at the map in the Explore tab (and are zoomed in enough), they can see a list of Places within the current map view, but there’s no way for that person to know if those Places are associated with a Project.

Essentially, drumming up interest in a Project needs to happen off-iNaturalist, mostly. So think carefully about what you want out of iNat: do you want just an easy way to access all the observations on a particular site? Then create and subscribe to a Place. Do you want to have regular communication with active observers on the site? Then it might be worth creating a Project, but only if you can devote the time and effort to keep up with the communication.


We (me and my fellow coworkers) are working on a ecological restauration programme in a specific area. The project had a bit of both objectives you described:

1 - It is an easy way to collect and display the observations inside our study/work area. This way we can know what and how many species have already been observed there. (this could be done with the “subscribe to an area” approach as well). (This is perhaps the major objective, along with number 3)

2 - It will provide a more tool/way to share local biodiversity with visitors and inhabitants. It is also a more “formal” way of presenting the biodiversity survey results to the entity that will supervise our work

3 - Be a way to communicate with iNaters that happen to register observations inside the area, and hopefully encourage them to visit the area more often (and therefore help developing a greater knowledge of local biodiversity)


Of course there’s an advantage for Collectional projects too, people are more likely to see journal posts, people are more likely to participate in evens or just make more suitable obs.

Sorry for my ignorance. How can I do this?

Which part? The creation of a place or the subscription to that same place?

If the place you’re interested in does not exist, you can create it by following these steps:

  1. Go to the places section
  2. Click “Add new place”
  3. Then you’ll have to select a name, the parent location (if you’re creating a place for a park, the parent location can be the city, the county or the country it is located in), and the place type.
  4. You’ll also need to upload a kml file of the place’s polygon. You can create one by drawing it using GoogleEarth.
  5. Then just click “Save place” and voilá, it is created.

Then, to subscribe to that place (or to any other place that already exists):

  1. Go to your iNaturalist homepage
  2. On the left side of your screen there should be a section named “Subscriptions”, with the option to subscribe to a taxon or a place.
  3. Select the place you want to subscribe.
  4. Now updates on observations from that place will be displayed on your homescreen.

Hope this helps!
(PS: this is valid for the website/browser version of iNaturalist, not sure how to do it on the app as I rarely use it)


Oops, I saw this too late, but joaolemoslima answered you.

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Joining a project adds it to your “Community” menu and “Projects” tab on the home page, which makes it easy for users to return to the project pages. Otherwise, you have to copy the url or use the search function each time to navigate to the project page.

I encourage my students to join our class projects for that ease of navigation.


Thank you! I was totally lost with the creation of a place. The missing link was point 4, the kml file.

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