World Map Representation: is Mercator the most adequate for iNat?

Hi everyone,
the world map representation used by iNat (when you look at Obs. displayed per Map, instead of Grid or List), is the Mercator Projection. You might have noticed that Greenland is bigger than South America. And Alaska bigger than Brazil. And Antartica is … huge.
This distorts very much the reality. Anyway, all representations distort it (projection of a sphere on a flat area).
My point is: is not another representation more adequate for the needs of iNat?
I’ve looked at some, but without a conclusion:

Any suggestion?


web Mercator (EPSG: 3857) is the de facto standard for mapping on the web. most basemap tiles are created using web Mercator. so unless you’re going to create and host your own, it’s easier to use what’s most readily available.

if you want to use alternate projections, you can get them indirectly via GBIF, which in addition to 3857, also serves up basemap and occurrence (aka observation) tiles in 4326, in addition to Arctic and Antarctic projections. see


Arno Peters is an equal area projection, which gives a more honest ((less colonial)) size to Africa

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Hi @jdwidness Thanks for the cartoon, great add!

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xkcd has another map projection we could consider :wink:


i came across something this morning that made me think of this thread. apparently some folks have done the coding to be able to reproject any set of Mercator tiles onto just about any projection you or @jwidness can think of:

so for example, here are:

the cool thing is that the reprojected maps are zoomable (though there’s not infinite panning due to the nature of the projections). the examples above show only one basemap layer, but i don’t see why you couldn’t put an iNaturalist observation raster layer on top, too, thereby displaying observations in any projection, though they might look distorted a bit, and it might take some extra novel coding to get the UTFgrids (for clickability) to work in the new projections.

if you wanted to try making something to do this, i think it would be really fun project and a demonstration of coding awesomeness if you could pull it off. (i doubt the iNat staff would add something like this to the platform for the masses, but maybe one of them might be interested in making something just for fun?)

probably less directly applicable, but here are some other impressive examples of projecting an untiled map onto other projections:


Can anybody identify the cartoonist?

xkcd (it’s in the filename)

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But zooming in and panning on a computer screen is not like using a flat map. Computers can render simulations of 3-D objects. So shouldn’t the standard be a simulation of a globe? And then you can zoom in on any part and see it projected from the center of that view. Zoom in on Cleveland, see a map projected as if Cleveland was the center of a flat earth; pan down to Louisville, and see it as if Louisville was the center of a flat earth. Because that is how it looks to us on-the-ground.

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but once zoomed in the equal area issue resolves?