Type of site
Citizen science
Available in Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Breton, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, English, Estonian, Danish, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Luxembourgish, Macedonian, Occitan, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Owner California Academy of Sciences [1]
Commercial No
Registration required
Launched 2008 (2008)[1]
Current status Online

iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.[2] iNaturalist may be accessed via its website or from its mobile applications.[3][4] Observations recorded with iNaturalist provide valuable open data to scientific research projects, conservation agencies, other organizations, and the public.[5][6][7] The project has been called "a standard-bearer for natural history mobile applications."[8]

History began in 2008 as a UC Berkeley School of Information Master's final project of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda.[1] Nate Agrin and Ken-ichi Ueda continued work on the site with Sean McGregor, a web developer. In 2011, Ueda began collaboration with Scott Loarie, a research fellow at Stanford University and lecturer at UC Berkeley. Ueda and Loarie are the current co-directors of The organization merged with the California Academy of Sciences on April 24, 2014.[9] In 2014, iNaturalist celebrated its one millionth observation.[10] In 2017, iNaturalist became a joint initiative between the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.[11]


The iNaturalist platform is based on crowdsourcing of data. An iNaturalist observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and place.[12] In addition to recording actual audio and photos of the organism, an iNaturalist observation may also record evidence of an organism, such as animal tracks, nests, and scat, but the scope of iNaturalist excludes natural but inert subjects such as geologic or hydrologic features. Users typically upload photos as evidence of their findings, though audio recordings are also accepted and such evidence is not a strict requirement. Users may share observation locations publicly, "obscure" them to display a less precise location, or make the locations private.

On iNaturalist, other users add identifications to each other’s observations in order to confirm or improve the "community identification." Observations are classified as "casual," "needs ID" (needs identification), or "research grade" based on the quality of the data provided and the community identification process. "Research grade" observations are incorporated into other online databases such as The Global Biodiversity Information Facility.[6] Users have the option to license their observations, photos, and audio recordings in several ways, including for the public domain, Creative Commons, or with all rights reserved.

Automated species identification

In addition to observations being identified by others in the community, iNaturalist includes an automated species identification tool called "Computer Vision."[13] Images can be identified via an artificial intelligence model which has been trained on the large database of the "research grade" observations on iNaturalist. A broader taxon such as a genus or family is typically provided if the model cannot decide what the species is. If the image has poor lighting, is blurry, or contains multiple subjects, it can be difficult for the model to determine the species and it may decide incorrectly. Multiple species suggestions are typically provided, with the one the software believes the image is most likely of at the top of the list.


As of 27 July 2018, iNaturalist users contributed over 13,600,000 observations of plants, animals, and other organisms worldwide.[14] Users have created and contributed to over 21,000 different projects spanning hundreds of themes. Project examples include taxa- and location-specific bioblitzes, roadkill observations, fishing catches, animal tracks, documenting the spread of invasive species, and discovering new species.[15]

iNaturalist is the preferred application for crowd-sourced biodiversity data in Mexico.[16] In 2011, iNaturalist was used as a platform to power concurrent Global Amphibian and Global Reptile BioBlitzes, in which observations were used to help monitor the occurrence and distribution of the world's reptiles and amphibian species.[17] The US National Park Service partnered with iNaturalist to record observations from the 2016 National Parks BioBlitz. That project exceeded 100,000 observations in August 2016.[18] In 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme teamed up with iNaturalist to celebrate World Environment Day.[19]

The City Nature Challenge

In 2016, Lila Higgins from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Alison Young from the California Academy of Sciences co-founded the City Nature Challenge. In the first City Nature Challenge, naturalists in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area documented over 20,000 observations with the iNaturalist platform.[20] In 2017, the challenge expanded to 16 cities[21] across the United States and collected over 125,000 observations of wildlife in 5 days. In 2018, the challenge expanded to a global audience, with 68 cities participating from 19 countries, with some cities using community science platforms other than iNaturalist to participate.[22] In 4 days, over 17,000 people cataloged over 440,000 nature observations in urban regions around the world.[23]

Seek for kids/families

In spring of 2018, iNaturalist introduced Seek by iNaturalist for iOS mobile devices[24] to help children and families learn about nearby nature, try to match a target species, and earn badges for observations.[25] Billed as "kid-safe" and "family-friendly," no registration is required and it collects no user data, meaning observations are not submitted to the iNaturalist database. An Android version is being considered.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "About". 5 August 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  2. "San Francisco's Parks Scoured in Wildlife Inventory". 7 May 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  3. "iNaturalist application (iTunes Store)". 25 June 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  4. "iNaturalist application (Google Play)". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  5. "Encyclopedia of Life and iNaturalist work together to support citizen science". 18 June 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  6. 1 2 Bowser, A., Wiggins, A., Shanley, L., Preece, J., & Henderson, S. (2014). "Sharing data while protecting privacy in citizen science" (PDF). Interactions. 21 (1): 70–73. doi:10.1145/2540032.
  7. Pimm, S.; et al. (30 May 2014). "The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection". Science. 344: 1246752. doi:10.1126/science.1246752. PMID 24876501. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  8. Goldsmith, G. R. (6 August 2015). "The field guide, rebooted". Science. 349 (6248): 594–594. doi:10.1126/science.aac7810.
  9. "California Academy of Sciences Acquires iNaturalist". 14 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  10. Hance, Jeremy (November 10, 2014). "Citizen scientist site hits one million observations of life on Earth". Mongabay.
  11. "About". 2018-05-07. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  12. "Getting Started". Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  13. "iNaturalist Computer Vision Explorations". 2017-07-27. Retrieved 2017-08-12.
  14. " Stats". 27 July 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  15. "Projects". 28 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  16. Pimm, S. L.; Jenkins, C. N.; Abell, R.; Brooks, T. M.; Gittleman, J. L.; Joppa, L. N.; Raven, P. H.; Roberts, C. M.; Sexton, J. O. (2014). "The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection" (PDF). Science. 344 (6187): 1246752–1246752. doi:10.1126/science.1246752. PMID 24876501.
  17. Holtz, Debra Levi (October 10, 2011). "Reptile, amphibian BioBlitzes tap social media". San Francisco Chronicle.
  18. Seltzer, Carrie (2016-08-25). "Citizen scientists give NPS 100,000+ biodiversity records for 100th birthday". National Geographic Society (blogs). Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  19. "App brings marvels of tech and nature together to keep the world connected".
  20. "City Nature Challenge 2016 iNaturalist Project". 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  21. "City Nature Challenge 2017 iNaturalist Project". 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  22. "". 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  23. Higgins, Lila (4 May 2018). "City Nature Challenge 2018: A Win For Urban Nature Around the World". Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County.
  24. "Seek by iNaturalist on the App Store". App Store. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  25. "Seek App -". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
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