iNaturalist is now an independent organization! You may not know about iNaturalist, so let me tell you about this app that has encouraged my participation as a “citizen scientist” these past 4 years. The app is free, easy to use and you may wish to use it too.
I use the iNaturalist app to help me identify a plant or animal I do not know. I use my smartphone, take a photo of the unknown, and download the photo at the app. Once location and date are entered, the app provides suggestions of what it is I observed. I decide if the suggestion or the next suggestion in the list is best and then click on “share”. Others may agree with what I chose as identification or may disagree and offer another suggestion. Eventually my observation’s data quality is at “research grade”, meaning the community agrees on the identification. I now count it as one of my hundreds of observations.
How it is that iNaturalist can have 1 million observations per year? This may explain that fact. I met a guy in California while he was taking photos of a number of plants. During our conversation he told me his observations were all going to the iNaturalist app. As an environmental educator he believed he was doing his part in adding his observations. The info allows researchers to use the collective info for their fields in ecology, conservation or where needed.
So whether you view yourself as a “citizen scientist” or part of “community science”, this app may be of interest to you. This app began in 2008 as a UC Berkeley master’s program and joined with CA Academy Sciences and National Geographic Society in 2014. It is now an independent 501(c)(3) USA-based non-profit organization! The app team plans to keep the app free because “we believe nature is for everyone”. Fortunately iNaturalist receives generous donations and grants.
So … download the iNaturalist app … you’ll have it on your phone for the next plant or animal you wish to photograph, identify and share with others. Researchers will appreciate your effort and if it is a living thing new to you, now you’ll know what it is! Get outdoors and have fun!