Getting Started

Hi and welcome to iNat! This guide will walk you through some of the main features of the site.


Observations lie at the core of iNaturalist. An observation is basically a species you observed, a time, and a place.

drop-down menu

Adding Observations

You can always add new observations by clicking the little arrow on the upper right of the page and using the drop down menu.

The observation form looks like this:

observation form

It's important that you click Lookup and choose a matching taxon from the list. If you don't end up with something like matched taxon, your observation won't get associated with other observations of this species, and your life list won't get updated.

If iNat can't find taxon matching the name you provided in its database, you'll see something like


If you really don't know what you saw, that's fine! If you do know, you should click Search external name providers. This will ask iNat to search some external taxonomic databases for the name and try to import anything it finds.

Those are the basics of adding observations! There are plenty of other things you can do, like searching and filtering your observations or editing them as a batch, but they should be pretty self-explanatory.

Start adding observations

The iNaturalist photo selector

Photo Integration

iNat hosts directly uploaded photos and also allows you to associate your observations with photos hosted on Facebook, Flickr, or Picasa. If you use either of those services, you can link your accounts and always see a list of your most recent photos when adding new observations.

Link your Flickr account

Link your Picasa account

Flickr Tagger

iNat can also help you add taxonomic tags to your Flickr photos using the Taxonomic Tags for Flickr tool. This tool will add tags to your photos for all the common and scientific names of the taxon you observed, and the names of its ancestor taxa. So if your observation is of a Spring Peeper, you would get the following tags:

Animalia Chordata Amphibia Hylidae Pseudacris taxonomy:kingdom=Animalia taxonomy:phylum=Chordata "Pseudacris crucifer" "rainette crucifère" "Spring Peeper" taxonomy:class=Amphibia taxonomy:order=Anura Anura taxonomy:family=Hylidae taxonomy:genus=Pseudacris taxonomy:species=crucifer "taxonomy:binomial=Pseudacris crucifer" "taxonomy:common=rainette crucifère" "taxonomy:common=Spring Peeper"

Tags like taxonomy:binomial=Pseudacris crucifer are machine tags. They help engineers programmatically make sense of your tags, and are required by some Flickr groups like the Encyclopedia of Life Images group.

You can also add Flickr tags when editing an observation, or when batch editing your observations.



Lists are lists of species (or other taxa), like a life list of all the birds you've seen or a list of your favorite salamanders. They are not lists of observations.

Lists come in three varieties:

Ordinary lists are just arbitrary lists of taxa you can create. Maybe you'd like to keep a list of species you'd like to see, or birds you've seen at your bird feeder.
Life Lists
Life lists are automatically filled in based on your observations and a set of rules, and they can also be added to manually. At the moment, the only rule we support is whether or not a species in some higher level taxon. So you could make a life list of all the mammals you've seen by associating with the taxon Mammalia. Everyone on iNat has one life list by default which records all the taxa they've seen.
Check Lists
Check lists represent all the taxa that occur within a particular place. Unlike ordinary lists and life lists, check lists can be edited by anyone on iNat. Since places can contain other places (e.g. Connecticut is a state in the USA), check lists automatically get updated by changes to contained places. So if I add "Northern Cardinal" to the checklist for Connecticut, it will get added to the USA checklist as well. Places can also have multiple checklists for different taxa (e.g. "Plants of Australia") that use taxonomic rules like life lists.

Start a new list  or  View your lists

Species and Other Taxa on iNat

iNaturalist maintains a big database of species and other taxa, and we have individual pages for each one, showing Flickr photos, observations, our classification, and a description from Wikipedia. Here's the page for Homo sapiens.


We import our taxonomic data from some external taxonomic databases, include the Catalogue of Life and uBio. A few of our taxa have also been entered manually, and any user can add new names for taxa. If you can't find a taxon or a name, try searching for it. If your search comes up empty, you should see some search boxes to repeat the search through our external name providers:


If they know about the name, iNat will import and save the data.

Help Out!

You can help make our species pages more useful by adding data! Here are a couple ways you can help:

  • search for new taxa
  • add common names for existing taxa
  • add colors
  • choose good default photos from the pool of Creative Commons photos on Flickr
  • add taxa to places
Revised on October 21, 2015 06:12 PM by loarie loarie
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