Have you ever spotted a wandering bug or sprouting plant and wondered on earth it was? Now you can turn your phone into the ultimate species spotter with the iNaturalist app – all while contributing to research.
Using the iNaturalist App
Take a full framed photo of any organism and iNaturalist will offer a top ten species suggestion list. This recommendation list is based on visual similarities and if it was spotted nearby by another user. Each suggested species is paired with a photo for comparison and a map to help guide you with identification. Once you’ve decided on the species, you can post the photo along with any observations you think may be necessary.
The posts are public, allowing the iNaturalist community to verify your observations. If your post is verified by enough users your photo can be labeled “research-grade.” This allows it to be used by researchers across the world! Referred to as citizen science, your picture can contribute to research and conservation efforts.
Groups of users can also come together to form projects and build a public list of specific organisms. The Biodiversity of Minnesota Project has logged over 2000 observations with more than 3500 species!
iNaturalist has also created guides for various state parks, regions, and organisms. For example, let’s say you came across a bee in Minnesota but weren’t able to snap a picture. iNaturalist has a “Minnesota Bees” guide to help you identify it. Hundreds of these guides exist for multiple species, covering almost every region.
Explore with iNaturalist
The explore section of iNaturalist allows you to travel the world virtually and discover unfamiliar species through public user posts. From sea urchins in New Zealand to moths in Morocco, you can learn about the world’s wildlife without leaving your couch.
Each post is organized into mammals (red), plants (green), and insects (blue.) To discover posts worldwide, you can zoom in on a specific area and wait for posts to appear. However, don’t be discouraged if pins don’t appear in the blink of an eye. It may take some time for them to load.
The iNaturalist app allows users to learn about plants and animals from every corner of the planet, helping provide equitable access to nature. Even users who don’t have a smart phone can join the community through any computer with internet access. Available for desktop, Apple, and Android – join the community and download the app here to get started.