Howdy. If you're just getting started with iNat, check out Getting Started guide to tour some of the site's features. If you have a question about the site, please peruse the FAQ below. If you're still looking for answers, please post your question to our Google Group.

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is iNaturalist?

    iNaturalist provides a place to record and organize nature findings, meet other nature enthusiasts, and learn about the natural world. It encourages the participation of a wide variety of nature enthusiasts, including, but not exclusive to, hikers, hunters, birders, beach combers, mushroom foragers, park rangers, ecologists, and fishermen. Through connecting these different perceptions and expertise of the natural world, iNaturalist hopes to create extensive community awareness of local biodiversity and promote further exploration of local environments.

  2. Who is behind iNaturalist?

    iNaturalist was originally the Master's Final Project of Nathan Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda at UC Berkeley's School of Information. Check out the About page for more info on the current admins.

  3. What technologies and data sources does the project use?

    iNaturalist is built using Ruby on Rails, MySQL, jQuery and Google Maps, and Flickr. It also utilizes the Catalogue of Life and uBio data sources for taxonomic data.

  4. What can I do to help iNaturalist?

    You can help iNaturalist by giving us your feedback; join our Google group to sign up for usability studies, report bugs, and request new features. You can also help iNaturalist by adding your observations and helping other community members identify their unidentified observations. If you know how to code and want to help work on some features, fork us on GitHub!

  5. How do I contact iNaturalist?

    You can contact us at

  6. What are admins and curators?

    iNat admins are the people who run the site. They have direct access to the underlying code and the database, and they can change anything on the site.

    Curators are iNat users who volunteer to help keep our taxonomic data up to date. If you're interested in becoming a curator, please contact us. Curators can also promote other users to curator status. Please only promote people you trust and that you know to have some taxonomic knowledge.

  7. What is considered inappropriate content?

    You know it when you see it, right? Stuff that violates Section 2 of our Terms of Service is definitely inappropriate and worth flagging or otherwise notifying the admins about. Milder forms of rudeness are unfortunate, but probably not something we'll delete. Observations of pets, captive animals, humans, and other organisms most naturalists may not find interesting are ok (they're alive, after all). Observations of things that aren't organisms are a gray area. Things that clearly have nothing to do with nature, like what someone had for lunch, are worth flagging and may be deleted, but evidence of pollution or disturbance could be interesting, and probably won't be removed. Copyright violations should be flagged, i.e. re-published text or images that were created by other people without any evidence of permission or license by the creator of the work.

  8. Spam! What do I do about it?

    Like other things beginning with the letter "s," spam happens. If you see something spammy, please flag it as spam. We also have an automated spam filter that flags content as spam. All content flagged as spam will be hidden from public view, and when a user makes three records on the site that get flagged as spam, they will be automatically suspended. When a user makes three observations that become research-grade, they will be whitelisted and nothing they create will be checked for spam. Curators can also manually mark people as spammers and non-spammers from the user profile pages.

    This means that you have a lot of power in your spam flagging abilities, so don't misuse it. Our definition of spam is anything that is clearly intended to make money, which could be links to spurious sites, or by trying to manipulate search engine indexing through lots of links to weird places. For some reason we get a lot of stuff attempting to hawk watches (go figure). Here are some things that are not spam:

    • photos that violate copyright (there's a separate flag for that)
    • offensive or inappropriate content created by someone who's clearly a legitimate iNat user
    • anything that you arbitrarily dislike

    If you have any hesitation, please contact a site curator or site admin, or

    If your content gets incorrectly flagged as spam or you are suspended for being a spammer, please contact us.


  1. What is an observation?

    An observation is the what, where, and when of a finding in nature. iNaturalist provides a place to add this information along with associated text, photos, and tags. iNaturalist encourages the recording of all nature findings, whether they feature identified species or simple narrative descriptions. (In iNaturalist the same lizard can be described as a Desert Horned Lizard as well as "Mystery Lizard of Death Valley".)

  2. Why doesn't iNaturalist recognize the name I've entered?

    iNaturalist has name information for many different kinds of organisms, and continues to add new species names to our database. If we do not recognize a particular name, click the "Search external name providers" link that appears after you search for a name and get no results. You can also try alternative names that we might recognize (common names, old scientific names). If that doesn't work, add the original name to the tags or description, contact one of the site curators, and ask them to add the name. Make sure you include the name you want added as well as some links establishing the legitimacy of the name, like links to websites or books that use it.

  3. How can I get help identifying what I saw?

    Check the "ID Please" checkbox when adding / editing your observation and your observation will appear in ID Please.

  4. What does it mean to link iNaturalist to my Flickr account?

    iNaturalist can link directly to the Flickr photo service so that you can add your Flickr photos to your observations. When you agree to link your Flickr account, you are simply linking two accounts; we do not have access to your Flickr password and you are not forsaking your copyright nor giving us the ability to use any of your photos in ways that you do not want.

  5. Can I add photos without a Flickr account?

    We also support Picasa & Facebook:
    Configure your Picasa account »
    Configure your Facebook account »

    We also support uploading photos directly to iNat, but it can be a bit slow, so we only allow one upload at a time. Using Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook is probably faster if you already use those services.

    For photos of distant species, it is recommended that you try to tightly crop the photo before uploading. It will speed uploading, and also make it easier for other users to retrieve the photo for identification purposes. It is particularly slow to retrieve a large original photo when the main subject is small.

  6. What are tags?

    Tags are keywords you can add to an observation to make them easier to find. For example, if a barracuda followed you on a scuba diving trip in Turks and Caicos, you might tag the observation "scary, barracuda, scuba diving, vacation, turks and caicos".

  7. Can I include my iNat observations on my own website or blog?

    Sure, check out our Observations Widget.

  8. What kind of photos should I attach to observations? Can I attach photos I didn't take?

    Photos attached to observations should be of the individual observed at the time of the observation. If you record an observation of a tree, then go back a day later to take a picture, please add a new observation for the picture, because it represents the tree at a different point in time.

  9. Can I add multiple taxa per observation? What if my photo has a flower AND a cool bug?

    Not really. iNat observations are one taxon at one place at one time. If you want to record an additional species in the same photo, just add a new observation with the same photo.

  10. Why does my Flickr photo say "This image is currently unavailable"?

    This happens when Flickr changes the underlying URLs of the photos, which they do whenever you increase the privacy on your photos (e.g. go from public to friends-only), replace the photo (which is often how 3rd party software like iPhoto choose make updates to Flickr if you make changes), or simply delete the photo on Flickr. We periodically re-sync with Flickr to get the newest photo URLs, but we don't do it that frequently b/c we have a lot of photos and it's kind of slow. You can trigger this sync automatically by following these steps:

    1. click on the photo in iNat to bring up the photo popup
    2. in the popup, click the "Details" link in the lower right
    3. click "Repair broken URLs" in the "Sizes" section

    If your photo is still on Flickr and your accounts are still connected, the URLs will get updated. If it's been deleted on Flickr or you've revoked iNat's permission to access your Flickr account, the iNat record for that photo will be deleted (the observation will remain, though).

    FYI, site curators can repair photo URLs like this for any photos on the site. Non-curators can only do it for their own photos.

  11. What is geoprivacy?

    Geoprivacy is a setting you can make on your observations that controls how the spatial coordinates (latitude and longitude) are displayed. Here are the options:


    Everyone can see the coordinates unless the taxon is threatened.


    Public coordinates shown as a random point within a 0.2 by 0.2 degree area that contains the true coordinates, which works out to about a 22x22 km square area of uncertainty at the equator, decreasing as you approach the poles. True coordinates are only visible to you and the curators of projects to which you add the observation.


    Coordinates completely hidden from public maps, true coordinates only visible to you and the curators of projects to which you add the observation.

    Note that curators of individual projects can always see the coordinates regardless of your geoprivacy setting, so if you are concerned about who has access to the coordinates you should be sure you trust the curators of the projects in which you participate.

  12. What is does it mean for an observation to be obscured?

    When coordinates are obscured it means that a random point within a 0.2 degree x 0.2 degree area containing the true coordinates is shown publicly (i.e. on the home page, the observations page, and project pages), while the true coordinates are only visible when you are viewing your own observations (i.e. on the individual project pages and the list of your own observations). Note that curators of the projects to which you've added an observation can also see the true coordinates. Obscured coordinates should always be symbolized by circular marker without stems on maps and in geospatial feeds.

    Coordinates are automatically obscured for all taxa that are "NEAR THREATENED" or worse according to the IUCN Red List. Some taxa may be declared threatened according to other conservation authorities, and some may be simply marked as threatened by iNat site curators if they believe it merits protection.

    You can also obscure the coordinates of your own observations regardless of what the taxon is. See geoprivacy above.

  13. What is the quality assessment and how do observations qualify to become "research" grade?

    The data quality assessment is a summary of an observation's accuracy. All observations start as "Needs ID", and achieve "Research" grade when

    • the iNat community agrees on an ID. Our algorithm for deciding the community ID is a little convoluted (you can see the details by clicking "About" in the community ID on an observation page), but in general, we try to choose the taxon that more than 2/3 of identifiers agree with, where agreeing means adding ID of a taxon matching or within another taxon. So if Scott says it's a mammal and Ken-ichi says it's a mammal, then the community ID is Mammalia. If Scott says it's a mammal and 5 other people say it's a Golden Eagle, then the community ID is Golden Eagle.
    • the observation has a date
    • the observation is georeferenced (i.e. has lat/lon coordinates)
    • the observation has a photo and/or sound

    Observations will revert to "Needs ID" if the community votes it back in, and it will change to "Casual" grade if the above conditions aren't met or

    • the community agrees the location doesn't looks accurate (e.g. monkeys in the middle of the ocean, hippos in office buildings, etc.)
    • the community agrees the organism isn't wild/naturalized (e.g. captive or cultivated by humans or intelligent space aliens)
    • the community agrees the date seems inaccurate
    • the community votes it out of "Needs ID" and the rank of the community ID is family or coarser
    • the observation or its photos have unresolved flags (e.g. it is inappropriate or pending curatorial attention)
  14. Why does iNat say my observation is "out of range" when I know it's not?

    iNaturalist's species ranges come from a variety of sources, including the IUCN and Birdlife International. None of them are perfect, so sometimes you'll see observations flagged as "out of range" when they shouldn't be. If you find a taxon with a range that is clearly wrong, please flag it and the site curators will investigate. In many cases, though, we will update our ranges en masse the next time we import data from one of our data partners.

    It's worth keeping in mind that even the best species ranges are theoretical, and that they are all based on the kind of occurrence data recorded on iNaturalist, so the best thing you can do to improve our understand of where species occur is by observing them!

  15. How do I add sounds?

    It's a bit awkward, but you can add sounds to your observations by importing from SoundCloud, another service for hosting audio files. You'll need to start a SoundCloud account, then edit your iNat settings and click "Connect to SoundCloud" on the right. Once you've connected your accounts, you'll see an "Add Sounds" tab on the observation form that you can use to select files from your SoundCloud account. You can also import sounds using the import tool.

  16. What do the map symbols mean?

    We represent observations on maps in two broad ways, to show large quantities of observations on the map at the same time we use 'tiles'. The tiles summarize observations as grids when you're further away and show individual points when you're zoomed in. To show a small set of filtered observations such as recent observations we use 'markers'. Markers usually look like teardrops but display as stemless circles if the observation location is obscured from the public. The stemless circles are not positioned at the true private locations, but rather at a random point within 10 km of the true private location that is not shown.

    On the tiles, the darker the grid cell, the more observations it contains. All observations not flagged as captive or as having location issues are mapped. Observations with geoprivacy set to obscured are only included in coarse zoom levels.

    At very fine zoom levels, the grid cells are replaced by individual, clickable points. The colors of the points indicate the branch of the tree of life that the observation represents. White borders indicate research grade observations. Markers use the same colors as tile points to represent type of organism the border color of the markers has no significance.

    Tiles are generated daily so they might not reflect very recent changes.

  17. What does captive / cultivated mean?

    Checking captive / cultivated means that the observation is of an organism that exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there. Likewise, wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because they intended to do so. The main reason we try to flag things like this is because iNat is primarily about observing wild organisms, not animals in zoos, garden plants, specimens in drawers, etc., and our scientific data partners are often not interested in (or downright alarmed by) observations of captive or cultivated organisms.

    Since this tends to be kind of a gray area, here are some concrete examples:

    Captive / cultivated

    • zebra in a zoo
    • poppy in a garden
    • butterfly mounted in a display case
    • your cat

    Wild / naturalized

    • zebra in the Serengeti (assuming it's not in a zoo in the Serengeti)
    • fly on a zebra in a zoo
    • weed in a garden
    • moth that flew into your house
    • snake that you just picked up (yes, it's in your hand where you intended it to be, but the place and time is where the snake intended to be)
    • feral cat
    • humans (though one could argue that children in school and adults at work are often not where they would intend to be themselves)
    • garden plant that is reproducing on its own and spreading outside of the garden (presumably this is not what the gardener intended)


  1. What are lists?

    Lists are simply lists of taxa (not observations). For example, you could make a list called "My Favorite Turtles" and add all your favorite turtles. There are a number of different kinds of lists, and they behave in different ways.


    Just a simple list of taxa with no special behavior.

    Life List

    Automatically updates based on your observations. Everyone on iNat has a default life list that contains every species that person has observed. If you delete an observation or change your ID, the species will get removed. You can also manually add taxa to your life list just like you can with an ordinary list. The species you add manually won't get removed if you observe them and then delete the observation.

    You can also make additional life lists for specific groups of organisms, like a life list of birds, or a life list of milkweeds.

    Project List

    A project list belongs to a project and lists all the taxa observed by members of that project. Project lists can also be populated manually by the admin of that project, and can be used to restrict project contributions to taxa that are on the list.

    Check List

    A check list is a list of taxa that occur in a place. Every place has a default check list, and whenever an observation is made within the place's boundaries and it has achieved research-grade status, the species observed will get automatically added to the place's check list.

    iNat users can also add additional check lists to places, but these check lists are not automatically updated. They mainly provide a way for people to bring in outside sources of data or just list things based on their own experience.

  2. I observed a species, why isn't it showing up in my life list?

    While the life list is automatically populated from added observations, the species will not be added to this list if iNaturalist does not recognize the name you used. We recommend trying alternative names that we might recognize.


  1. What are projects?

    Projects are collections of observations by numerous people gathered for a common purpose. If you're interested in collecting observations to help answer a particular research question, or if you want a way to use data collection as a form of outreach, projects are the way to go.

  2. How to do I restrict project contributions to a geographic area?

    When you're editing your project you'll see a section called "Observation Rules." Add a rule that observations must be "observed in place" and choose the place you want. Only places with boundaries in our database are available.

  3. How to do I restrict project contributions to a geographic area that isn't already in the database?

    You can make your own place! Click "Places" in the site header, and click "Add a new place" in the lower right. Choose the "Manually create a new place" tab and draw a boundary around the place you'd like to create by clicking on the map. Give your place a name, e.g. "My Project X Region", save it, and you should be able to choose it when editing your project.

Revised on August 06, 2016 12:27 PM by kueda kueda
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