Connecting Students to Citizen Science and Curated Collections

Students Contributing to Our Understanding of Global Biodiversity

VIII. Making Observations on iNaturalist

You will be digitally recording your collecting information on iNaturalist, an online social network of biodiversity enthusiasts sharing observations of and learning about nature. iNaturalist also functions as a crowdsourced species identification system, and an organism occurrence recording tool. You will enter the data from each of your plant collections as an iNaturalist “observation,” along with photographs of the plant that you take prior to collecting it. You and your classmates will contribute these observations to a course-specific project of themed iNaturalist observations, but they will also be publicly available for anyone to see. In addition, high quality iNaturalist observations are published automatically to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), which distributes your data to scientists, policymakers, and any other people who might be interested.

Entering your collection data on iNaturalist not only ensures that your data are contributed to an international biodiversity data hub, but also provides you with the opportunity to get plant identification opinions and confirmations from a wide network of other iNaturalist users. Many iNaturalist users are avid citizen scientists (people with an interest in science but no formal training or professional position), and more and more experts are also engaging in the iNaturalist community. Posting your collection data as an iNaturalist observation can help connect you to experts for help with determination, as mentioned above in Specimen Identification: Expert Determination. Likewise, though you may not be an expert yet, you may find that you recognize and can help identify certain species for other iNaturalist users. You will practice doing this for your classmates as part of the assignment.

Please see the Student’s Guide to Using iNaturalist for detailed instructions on using this tool. As you begin your collections, keep in mind that for each specimen you will do the following in iNaturalist:

  • Photograph the plant in situ before collecting it. Make sure to take multiple photographs to capture the identifying features of the plant, e.g. leaves, flowers, roots, close-up, from a distance, etc. You will get better at this as you gain more experience collecting.
  • Create an iNaturalist observation for your specimen as soon as you have identified it to species. Upload your photos and record your collection information as described in the Student’s Guide (below).
  • Make sure that your observations are confirmed by at least one other iNaturalist user so that they can become “research grade” and published to GBIF.

View Recent Observations in the CSCSCC iNaturalist Project:

Watch and learn how to make new observations on iNaturalist:

Student's Guide to Using iNaturalist (PDF)

Field Notebook to iNaturalist Guide (PDF)