Using INaturalist to better explore nature and contribute to science even with limited knowledge

I think one of the best ways to get people engaged with science comes from a passion for nature. Most people have things they are really interested in concerning nature but are not entirely sure how to go about drawing it out. It’s almost like a find Waldo situation where you’re just hoping on blind chance to find what you’re looking for. With INaturalist though you can better set up hikes and so on.

One way that this works well is because you can look up specific clades from orders to species to even subspecies. Their mapping system lets you look locally.

For example if I just wanted to find snakes in general I can look them up.

I can look at each circle and see what species it is.

Or if I wanted to be more specific I could look up
Eastern Coachwhips.

The cool thing is that I can even track it down to specific subspecies such as the Red Coachwhip. ( which is not found within the circle)

Even though these animals move around you can compare this map to their known habitats. With some species, like owls, they are often seen on the same tree for weeks. It’s their home. You may be able to visit that tree and find them.

INaturalist can also be used to help get IDs.

But these don’t all have to serve just you. You can use them to really help scientists. Such as if you see a owl on a tree you can ID the tree. If a certain species of owl is mostly found on this or that others can also look more closely at those trees. It can be used to find the most northern and southern ranges of that species. Lots of data can be pulled from these. For example someone can look at the dates and determine this or that species is most common after a rain or on these dates. Exotic species is also tracked using this to determine invasiveness.

So there is plenty to do and it helps us be better stewards of the land.


Really neat, thanks. I had no idea it could do all that. I have been posting to iNaturalist with the Seek app, but I’ll have to look into that.


There is a bunch that can be done using INaturalist.

Their forums often gives great info. Though most of it goes beyond the typical hobbyist goals. I clicked on a oak once that had around 200 insect species IDed on it. They even broke it down by time of day, shadows and elevation of the species.

I once seen one of a snake and the same snake was ODed about 50-60 times by a team throughout a few months using radio telemetry. It shows the ranges of the snake and had embedments leading to the National park mapping systems.

I have also been told that there are some working on digital tours using INaturalist at state parks. Which means in the future you’ll be able to walk with your headphones in and be guided and told when to stop and to look left, right, down and ect… and be told what species it is and part of its natural history without barcode scanning.

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