Where do I start?

Hello! I just recently stumbled upon inaturalist after looking for ways I could explore this interest. Let me start by saying, I’m a bit overwhelmed. I have no experience with any of this and I don’t exactly know where to start. All I know is that I live in the most perfect place for exploration with conservatories, public wildlife parks, etc. all around. I didn’t grow up in this environment and it all feels really foreign honestly. I want to be able to identify plants, animals, etc but there is just so much to take in.

Could someone recommend any beginner resources? Books to follow? Items to take out with me? I’m lost.

Thank you!


Firstly, just have some fun with exploring nature. The more I know about the totality of iNat, the more arcane it seems to me.

But, the main goal for iNaturalist is to ~connect people with nature~. If you find it helps you enjoy nature, you got it right!

This FAQ goes into many very helpful aspects of the iNaturalist program, and I think you will like it.


Do NOT worry if things go over your head!!! ( Stuff goes over my head all the time); but iNat does help me appreciate the nature around me, so it’s all good.


Definitely check out some of the other links on the left of this page, too. Especially the community guidelines and the video tutorials. The links at the top can be really fun, too. Explore (check out the filters) can help you see things that other people have seen in your area, and maybe help you set goals for yourself. And explore widely on this forum. There’s lots of good story-telling under Nature Talk, especially.


Hi there, and welcome!

I would suggest you start out learning your local organisms :)
using the app, and safe social distancing, explore whatever you can find right around where you live or work. as people add IDs for you you’ll start to learn to recognize them.

once you know a little more, try out identification a little. depending on where you live, you may be able to find a good local online guide to some species, such as birds.

once you’ve tried a little of each (observing and identifying), see which you like more! there are lots of iNatters who prefer one or the other, and lots who do both.

and, you are always welcome to ask questions in the forum. you can also learn a lot by reading old topics :)


Welcome to iNat! There is absolutely no rush into getting into grips with how the website works. There are lots of tutorial info (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started) that will help you learn how to use this website to upload observations and make reasonable identifications. Futhermore, there are lots of forum threads here that provide guidance to eg. tips on what to bring during outings, etc.

The overall gist of iNat is, you upload a photo of an organism, with details of time and location. iNat has a computer algorithm which essentially compares photos to make a potential ID suggestion. Other users can input ID suggestions on your observations and you can provide ID suggestions to other user’s observations. You can filter observations by taxa and/or location and/or date, and that can give you some idea of what is around your local area.

The most important thing is that you just enjoy being outside in the nature. Personally, iNaturalist has greatly increased my interest of the natural world around me, and from that website I slowly learnt more and more about the local wildlife. And it will likely be the same for you, as you take more photos during your nature walks and spend more time getting familiar with iNat, you will slowly but surely have more knowledge and passion for the wildlife around you.


One thing I would suggest is that not every observation has to be a spectacularly captured, perfect picture of a majestic and rare animal. You can start with anything, including with common plants in your neighborhood. (Plants are good to start with because they stay still). While it isn’t the point of the site, “casual” observations of cultivated houseplants can be good practice at how to fill out an observation.

There are a few common pitfalls to avoid at the beginning: not forgetting the date or place, not splitting multiple photos of one organism up into separate observations, and also not doing the opposite. Other than avoiding those things, you can use the site how you want…you can use it every day for common plants and animals, or you can only use it for significant trips. It is all up to you!


I don’t know what is going on here. Yes, we all need more detailed tutorials on how iNat works but what is most curious about this post is that the mole can’t find find this user (Mink_River) “nothing to see here”. A Dorothy Dixer? I think not and I don’t believe iNat staff would do that but I am very puzzled by this post.


You could ask @Mink_River for a link to their profile… Forum names need not have any correlation to iNat names, so it could easily be a mix-up. Maybe they discovered the site and haven’t made an account yet. Who knows?


I just get the mole! (I don’t know how to drag or drop an image here of what I’ve seen.) There doesn’t seem to be anyone called @Mink_River to ask. I tried both on the forum and on iNat itself???

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I also got the mole on iNat. The Forum user is apparently brand new here. People often find the Forum before making an iNat account (usually they ask for ID here).


This is a simple and humorous orientation for beginners, thanks to a guy on PBS:


Thank you for all of the replies! I’ll look over the website more carefully, including the FAQ and tutorials, along with the other suggested content.

I made a forum account, which I’m assuming is different from my iNat account. So I’ll go make one of those now.


Well, you’ve taken what I believe is an important step - ask for help! iNat is, for the most part, populated with people who are willing to offer help. I won’t offer much advice on how to get started. It’s such an individual thing. I don’t like plants (no one throw anything at me!) so don’t look at them too much. I like to identify, so spend most of my time doing that with moths. Since you are new to all this, you are facing a steep learning curve no matter which organism you prefer to focus on. Identification usually involves some arcane language, which you will pick up over time. My only real piece of advice is to wander around a bit, take some photos of anything that takes your fancy, and find out what you like. Try to keep things local and small at first, and you’ll soon find out what you are drawn to. It can be daunting, but there is really no pressure or obligation. Although there do remain many thousands of unidentified organisms… :grin:
EDIT - so I don’t look at them too much
The range of what folks do on iNat can be seen by what real people do. [
borisb](https://inaturalist.ca/people/18081 has zero observations, but 278,658 id’s made for others. @sambiology has 46,9401 observations, and 72,306 ID’s.
works only with larvae. I have 1032 observations, but 15,931 ID,s for others. So there is a huge range in what people prefer to do on iNat.


Welcome to iNaturalist. Yes, I see that you have now made 2 postings on iNaturalist and that the observations were made using Seek. Things do connect through now so that is great. In some ways, just posting a query on the forum, puts you miles ahead.It was quite a while before I realized it existed.

So far you have posted plants and now at some point someone will either agree or suggest something they feel is a better choice. Casual observations may take longer for community identification than non-introduced species. It can be a bit of a waiting game but even just having the computer vision make a suggestion can be rewarding in itself. You may find that certain organisms such as certain birds reach Community ID very rapidly, sometimes within minutes of being posted. Other organisms can take a while. It just depends on how many are trying to hone their visual skills at identification.

You asked what to take out with you. There is a good forum thread here: What’s in your field kit?

You asked about books. There is a good forum thread here: Current or general favorite field guides?

If you are using a smartphone, which I think you are, then you are off to a great start as there are so many resources right there at you finger tips. I think I used iNaturalist for 2 years before I had a smartphone and had no idea what could have been available.



That is a great video!! Thank you for posting that - it’s a great introduction.

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I will echo what I think @mamestraconfigurata said in another post, although I am having trouble finding the exact post at this moment… He said to try to focus first on a specific group of organisms rather than try to be an expert in everything.

Also, there are many topics on the forum that will probably answer some of your questions. I still am trying to figure out the “Advanced Search” options in order to help me filter out topics.


Just start anywhere, it doesn’t matter where. A lot of iNat is very easy and very intuitive to use.

I would probably recommend starting by making and uploading some of your own observations using the free app which you can download onto your cell phone. Just create a user name and a password and you will be all set.

And what could you make observations of? Just anything wild that happens to be in your neighborhood – weeds, pigeons, a spider in your house, whatever you can find.

You don’t have to have any idea what it is – other people will help you with that.


Each day, casually tinker with one menu item or task or feature. You’ll get the feel of it quite soon! In a month, you’ll be very good at this thing; in 6 months, you’ll be a pro


Thank, as a newbie I am quite intimidated by the app. But I do like exploring all of the features.


I also discovered through this video, it’s great !