Let's condense 15,000,000 observations down to 150 dots

iNaturalist reached 15,000,000 verifiable observations this week! It's getting harder and harder to come up with visualizations for this much data, so how about this tried and true trick (with apologies to the LonelyPlanet stats pages):

iNaturalist observations now represent over 190,000 distinct species! Plants, Insects, and Birds remain the big 3 species groups. I guess people love birds is old news, but cheers to 300,000 mollusk observations!

While we still have a significant bias towards North America, 2018 saw a lot of growth in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Only 400,000 observations from South America, but exciting developments are in the works there for 2019....

iNaturalist continues to just about double each year in terms of the number of observations. We launched the site in 2008, but didn't pass the 100,000 observation a year threshold until 2012.

You've heard of the 80/20 rule where 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes? As far as iNaturalist observers generating observations goes, it's more of a 90/20 rule with the top 20% of observers responsible for about 90% of observations so far.

In terms of data quality, about 77% of observations have been identified to the species level and about 60% are Research Quality.

Thanks as always for being part of the iNaturalist community and helping us reach this 15 Million milestone. We're having to continually upgrade the iNaturalist infrastructure to keep on top of this rapidly growing dataset. If you'd like to help support the staff and server time it takes to manage all these observations, please consider sending us a donation through our new donate page.

Posted by loarie loarie, December 14, 2018 10:55



Posted by alexis_orion over 3 years ago (Flag)

Amazing! Great way tu sum up all this information!
It really makes me happy to be part of.this global comunity, I will keep spreding the Naturalistab word around here!

Posted by aztekium over 3 years ago (Flag)


Posted by ck2az over 3 years ago (Flag)

I have been seeing proportionately more observations coming in from outside of North America this year, and I think that's wonderful! Great to see people from all over contributing all sorts of crazy things!

Posted by psyllidhipster over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for this great snapshot, Scott!

Posted by gcwarbler over 3 years ago (Flag)

I like seeing that over half of the observations have come this year -- that's some kind of crazy growth!

Posted by sullivanribbit over 3 years ago (Flag)

This is a truly wonderful resource~!! DONATE, I did!

Posted by katharinab over 3 years ago (Flag)

Very cool graphics!

Posted by jasonrgrant over 3 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic growth rate. What is 2019 achieve, another 15 million? Great to have id's and comments from around the globe.

Posted by colin25 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Amazing stuff, Scott. Thanks for sharing. And, like Katharinab said, DONATE! (I did, too.)

Posted by jmaughn over 3 years ago (Flag)

I live far away, but I always support inaturalist. DONATE! (I did, too. And sorry I am not rich...^^)

Posted by pintail over 3 years ago (Flag)

Well done, everyone!

Posted by andywilson over 3 years ago (Flag)

This is awesome! I've seen a growth this year in the quantity of people starting and continuing using iNat here in Argentina. I'm wondering what are those "exciting developments are in the works there for 2019...." for South America :O

Posted by michelledelaloye over 3 years ago (Flag)

They forgot antrartica...
No problem next winter me and someone else are planning a monthlong

Posted by ck2az over 3 years ago (Flag)

It's almost unbelievable how fast the growth rate is - over half of all-time observations have been submitted in the last year!

Posted by reuvenm over 3 years ago (Flag)

sorry to be a pedant, but shouldn't the title be 150, not 15?

Posted by andywilson over 3 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations to you Scott and to the rest of the iNaturalist team! You created something special that people need and use.

Posted by edwardrooks over 3 years ago (Flag)

That is amazing! Looking forward to a boost in 2019.

Posted by yixianshuiesuan over 3 years ago (Flag)

Very interesting graphics, and I'm glad to see the uptick in observations. I'm trying to go through the older unidentified NA Noctuid Observations - really! I'm going to guess that the vertebrate observations will not get much higher - the invertebrates (and other groups like fungi etc.) is really where the identification is needed. Plants seem well covered. Is there any way to encourage the identification of this vast group? Incidentally, the 'place ' icon for NA initially looked like an Orca or a Dolphin - confused me for a bit!!

Posted by mamestraconfigurata over 3 years ago (Flag)

Yes, like what @mamestraconfigurata. It would be nice to be able to add a Needs Id filter to get those ones without ID,
I think we should make it our goal to decrease the number of Needs Id in proportion to Research Grade.

Posted by predomalpha over 3 years ago (Flag)

Who knows how many more will come from this year yet too what with many going on vacation around this time of year! This really is incredible to look at.

Posted by blazeclaw over 3 years ago (Flag)


Posted by carancho over 3 years ago (Flag)

Love it. Love the dots by Date Added figure, particularly.

I'm curious if that 90/20 rule holds up at lower scales too. I found something similar in Washington DC in 2017.

Posted by muir over 3 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations iNaturalist! Very much enjoying the community, can't wait to see what 2019 has in store :) We need some of the fish guys to band together and get that fish count up!!

Posted by bradleyfishes over 3 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations and big thanks to admins and all who participate in this great comunity and especially to all IDers who help me to identify my observations. Jan 05 2019 will be my second year, currently 5605 observations, 1611 species and 35 new species for inat. Just made a small donation and found that my employer is in the donation scheme, which will probably help me to donate more. Keep up great work and looking forward to any future enhancements.

Posted by fero over 3 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations iNaturalist!
Thank you to everyone who works on this site, and our noble curators.

Posted by kemper over 3 years ago (Flag)

Awesome. In the process of trying to start a young naturalist club at the high school level using iNat.

Posted by aggie_wildlifer over 3 years ago (Flag)

This is a great milestone but as any biologist will tell you-you have a natural growth curve that is now entering the rapid growth phase. I think inaturalist is rapidly becoming the de facto global species picture base. Perhaps now is the time to approach the Biodiversity Convention and other international bodies as well as people like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. to secure the necessary funding to make it so and to prepare for this accelerated phase. Perhaps you are doing this already? Glad to be part of this journey. I used to belong to ispot Nature but transferred to Inaturalist and have not looked back. The Southern African observations are increasing rapidly and with some outstanding photographs as well. we need more input for the rest of Africa. I would also like professional systematist sand taxonomists to become more active. We have a lot of largish genera in South Africa which are largely unnamed as the "experts" do not participate. There is one way around this. I get up to date names for one of the largest Genera in SA (Fabaceae Indigofera) by sending a list of URLs to the expert who lovingly names them and I then pass on as many names as possible. This is important as there are over 100 unnamed species of INdigofera in South Africa making it very diffiult for people to name the obs. I perosnally have described 6 new species that arose from pictures I first saw on inat and have made many friends through interaction with people I would never have met but who live locally and know their local environment. I recognised their endeavours by naming species after them (Psoralea diturnerae, P. vanberkelae, Aspalathus nickhelmei, A. eustonbrownii, Otholobium curtisiae, Polhillia curtisiae, etc). A further 7 species are also being investigated. Citizen science is wonderful. I applaud their dedication, time and enthusiasm and unstinted feedback on the new taxa. I have adopted many Observers as friends and would like to see non-taxonomists adopt a "pet taxonomist" and get them to engage!

Posted by charles_stirton over 3 years ago (Flag)

Ah, this makes me happy. Well done everyone!

Posted by susanhewitt over 3 years ago (Flag)

This is beautiful! Look at 2018!!! The only thing that saddens me is how little the other regions have been covered, though it completely makes sense for a variety of reasons. I really hope in the coming years we can start chipping away there as well.

One a side note get out there and go fishing people! Dip netting, etc. we need those fish numbers to get out of such a low count.

Love ya'll and happy holidays, here's looking to an even better 2019.

Posted by codyhough over 3 years ago (Flag)

Great to see the success of iNat, particularly over 2018. We're doing our best to increase the "Oceania" contributions, but as a % of population I'd guess that we are near the top?* Those of you wanting an increase in the number of fish observations, have a look at the "Australasian Fishes" project which has been a great success - with great contribution from both the professional taxonomists and the amateurs.

I've compared number of obs with population (obs per 100m population in 2017): N. Amer 3.06; Oceania 2.1; Europe 0.16; S. Amer 0.06; Africa 0.048; Asia 0.017.
Shows that Europe (as a well developed continent) is seriously lagging!

Posted by nyoni-pete over 3 years ago (Flag)

Awesome! So happy to be a part of this great community. Way to go, guys!

Posted by connlindajo over 3 years ago (Flag)

Excellent. We are continuing to rally for iNat in British Columbia! #Game changer

Posted by chlorophilia over 3 years ago (Flag)

I'm curious what the ranges are for each 20 percent of observers are.

Posted by ryan84 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Well done iNat, and thank you for all you do.

Posted by anudibranchmom over 3 years ago (Flag)

So, basically, every year (since 2012 at least) has approximately doubled the number of observations from the previous year. I knew I was seeing an increased rate at least in the area of wasps! It's been exciting to see this growth, especially in seeing growth from Central and South American observers. But beyond the observations (which is phenomenal, by the way) are the interactions with users, which has been a major part of iNaturalist.

Posted by jonathan142 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Gives me positive vibrations as so many of us feel so close to nature ! Makes our Globe livable to Humans & the Nature live happy together.

Posted by itzhak46 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Wonderful summary. I just wonder if it would be possible to keep it as a running feature accessible from the home page?

I love the suggestions from people like @charlie_stirton and others about directions to go. I am working on pulling in more taxonomists to help with identifying fungi, for instance.

A common frustration for taxonomists is that observations don't contain the crucial information for an ID. There are wonderful resources that would help observers do a better job, like @dan_johnson's https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/dan_johnson/16497-how-to-photograph-crayfish-for-inaturalist. How can we make these resources more up-front and easier to find? (including links to offsite guides).

Posted by janetwright over 3 years ago (Flag)

So you're saying I need to take more photos of fish.....

Posted by mattireland over 3 years ago (Flag)

I was just wondering if it would be possible to break down the data and look at where on a continent observations are coming from. As an example, the majority of Noctuid observations in Canada are from Eastern Canada. Fewer are from the west, and even less from the north. I know that is largely population related, but it may give us a better sense of which bio-geographical regions may need a bit more attention.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata over 3 years ago (Flag)

Neat. I like your use of graphics...

And yes, I will take more pics of fish too.

Posted by sarka over 3 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic effort everyone!

Posted by jon_sullivan over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks, Scott!!! What a wonderful community....and, it keeps growing! The part that surprised me the most is the percentage of observations in need of ID....something to work on.

Posted by birdgal5 over 3 years ago (Flag)

I love these visualizations of the data! Great job.

I’ve genuinely enjoyed adding in ID’s for observations too — although, the vast majority of my ID’s are just regional (Texas) rather than taxonomic. I wish I had more knowledge to help with ID’s in other places... Nonetheless, I LOVE seeing observations coming in from all around the world — I look forward to visiting some of these places...some day! :)

The social aspects of iNaturalist are really fulfilling to me. I’ve met some great friends with this resource and network. I can’t wait to meet more naturalists in the upcoming years through iNat! :)

Well worthy of a donation — thanks for making that available to us.

Looking forward to next year and beyond! :)

Posted by sambiology over 3 years ago (Flag)

@janetwright - there has been a lot of discussion about the best way to capture these kinds of 'field guide' style comments. There is no really good place to do it, nor an agreed way. One of the challenges is the site considers Guides to be a failed experiment, they don't plan any further work on them, and many people (myself included) are nervous about allocating effort into one with the risk it may be turned off or deleted.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks, @cmcheatle. I haven't investigated the Guides much on iNaturalist -- they are/were geographical "field guides," right? I am thinking more of methodological 'guides' (maybe a better name - 'how to' instructions) - how to photograph fungi to get the best chance of an ID -- even something as simple as how to photograph a tree in 4 views, to include everything important. Anyway, something to think about.

Posted by janetwright over 3 years ago (Flag)

Well, the most common use of them seemed to be geographic, but the way they were structured meant you could do whatever you wanted. If you wanted to do a taxa specific one, say all the hummingbirds of the world, that was possible too.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

THIS IS GREAT! Congratulations and a very big thank you to all you experts out there who helped to identify so many of my (sometimes rare) observations from Occidental Mindoro, Philippines. Going to the "donate page" now ....!

Posted by michaela over 3 years ago (Flag)

That's an interesting ratio, @nyoni-pete. I guess that part of the European "anomaly" is explained by the heavy use of other platforms such as
www.observado.org (currently > 12 million obs) and www.naturgucker.de (nearly 10 million obs) in Europe.

@carrieseltzer made this overview of other platforms a while ago:

Posted by jakob over 3 years ago (Flag)

Even within North America, it seems the US remains over represented. For example, by population, Canada should generate about 11% of the volume of records that the US does. However it is at 9%. It's not a function of Canadians not being willing to participate in such things, or naturalizing being less popular, on Ebird we are 40% over-represented vs the US as an example.

Part of it I think is a lack of outreach outside the English language. Quebec which is our 2nd province in terms of population is woefully under represented on the site, only being about 5% of Canadian records.

In terms of Europe, in particular, in addition to the sites Jakob mentioned, many nations have national biodiversity portals. If aggrements could be reached so that for example users in Sweden knew data they submitted to iNaturalist would be forwarded to Artdatabanken *the Swedish national biodiversity portal( or the equivalents in other nations, I think the additional community, educational, and itnerface options offered by iNaturalist could draw in much of the entry.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

There is some nice exponential growth going on in the observations by year graph!

Posted by afid over 3 years ago (Flag)

8,000 observations yesterday!!!
now there are around 15,070,000 observations!

Posted by alexis_orion over 3 years ago (Flag)

@cmcheatle @nyoni-pete The reverse is happening in Oceania. New Zealand is a long-time heavy user of iNat and one of the first countries to join the iNaturalist Network. NZ made 2.1 times the US per capita observations in 2018 (and 1.18 times the per capita observations of California).

Our cousins in Australia are late to the party, partly because they have Bowerbird and other systems built with their Atlas of Living Australia. And perhaps because Kiwis are more fun at parties. ;-) Australia made half the per capita obs of the US in 2018.

The Australian population is 5.2 times NZ's population, so Oceania as a whole is a bit behind North America on per capita obs.

Australia's interest in iNat is fast on the rise though. Australian iNat usage in 2018 was double 2017, while NZ increased by a quarter, so Oceania's stats should rise in 2019.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 3 years ago (Flag)

@jon_sullivan - interesting, I did not think of looking at it in tems of per capita. For 2018, we are almost on par with the US, but it's hard to overcome the earlier start the platform had in the US. The fact that we can even be close per capita is pretty impressive given that although we are larger (geographically), the US has roughly 3 times the species diversity of Canada. Pretty much everything in Canada can be found somewhere in the US (either on either side of the main border or in Alaska), but so much southern US stuff is not viable in Canada.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

@jon_sullivan (nice name!), I have noticed that my iNaturalist observations have made their way to the Atlas of Living Australia. It's nice to see the different systems working with each other.

Posted by sullivanribbit over 3 years ago (Flag)

I think that Australia's rise in observations is due to Questagame mostly.

Posted by kemper over 3 years ago (Flag)

@kemper Are people playing the game also synchronizing their data to iNaturalist?

Posted by yixianshuiesuan over 3 years ago (Flag)

Yes, images taken with questagame have their photos synced to iNaturalist. The problem is that you can't communicate with questagame players because they don't have iNaturalist accounts.

Posted by kemper over 3 years ago (Flag)

Spectacular! Glad to be a small part of this phenomenon!

Posted by gyrrlfalcon over 3 years ago (Flag)

Fully agree, @cmcheatle - having data warehouses such as Atlas of Living Australia and parallel initiatiaves will be important to unify currently separate platforms as to make data easily accessible and present them in a pretty framework.

Recently I stumbled over UK's impressive atlas. I found it a bit strange that neither the latter nor the Australian one seem to harvest data from iNaturalist.

Posted by jakob over 3 years ago (Flag)

Surprised to see Asia so low, considering about 58% of humanity lives there.

Posted by andrewgillespie over 3 years ago (Flag)

@Jakob actually Atlas of Living Australia does seem to get iNat records. They seem to have the same problem we do with items being listed multiple times in lists

More European nations than show on your parallel initiatives link have platforms. For example here is Ireland https://maps.biodiversityireland.ie

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks, Chris, good to know that AoLA does harvest iNat data! Maybe they harvest data via GBIF so that iNat doesn't show up as a separate data provider.

Posted by jakob over 3 years ago (Flag)

Fascinating discussion on the international aspects and similar platforms outside the US. I hope some of my donation goes to supporting efforts to coordinate among "competing" databases for all users' benefit.

Posted by janetwright over 3 years ago (Flag)

To briefly share updates for growth outside of North America, we are in various stages of conversation with organizations in several countries that are interested to join the international iNaturalist Network. @carlos2 organized an excellent meeting in Mexico with representation throughout Central & South America, so we are in conversation with organizations from Panama, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, & Costa Rica. @tiwane just returned from a meeting in Hong Kong that convened citizen science groups across Asia and we're already in touch with a group in Taiwan. And we're far along in the process with southern Africa (SANBI) and Australia (Atlas of Living Australia).

Every place where iNaturalist activity blossoms is thanks to the people who spread the word, observe, identify, and often translate extensively, so thank you to everyone who helps the community flourish! It takes all kinds of skills to do these things and I'm so impressed with the results. It's often one person who commits to getting it going and then the network effect takes off and you further build on each others connections and strengths.

Posted by carrieseltzer over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thank you, @carrieseltzer , those networking efforts sound super!

Posted by janetwright over 3 years ago (Flag)

@carrieseltzer - it is super to hear about those plans, hopefully they all come to fruition. I do think there is one absolutely essential step that needs to be addressed in trying to drive adoption outside of North America. To my mind, it is imperative that the national Red Lists, or their equivalents from nations outside North America need to get into the database as quicklty as possible.

It's not a good look that the site seems to prioritize protecting sensitive species records inside North America more than elsewhere in the world (yes, I know global IUCN ranks are there, but local designations are equally if not more important). It's not the kind of thing that can be retrofitted onto the site, if it is not there when someone considers joining, you risk losing them forever as an adopter.

There is not even any development work needed from a coding perspective, the infrastructure is there, it supports the state/province stuff from North America already. It's just a matter of getting the data into the database. Heck, even if curators or others are willing to allocate time to getting it in, they can't even add a new source to link the data to.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

@cmcheatle I wonder how much wealth and culture affects adoption of platforms such as iNat outside of the rich nations. If a person is finding it hard to make ends meet, they may not have time to realize that images of plants etc from where they live are important. That extends to culture, which sometimes only focuses on what people can live on. I have a little guide to the birds of Mexico City, and the name of all the hummingbirds in Nahuatl is 'huitzin'. When I first read it, I thought it was odd, but then realized that the birds were not that important to their lives or culture, so they only had one name for the group. In many places in Asia and Africa, the identity of an organism is secondary to making a living. I have no idea how to get past that - it's just my two cents worth.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata over 3 years ago (Flag)

This is excellent. I do think that the mobile app have a big room for improvement, not so much in the acquisition/upload functionality, but in the browsing/searching functionality that we enjoy of the website.

Posted by langlands over 3 years ago (Flag)

@langlands - hopefully I'm not stepping outside my bounds here, one of the iNat staff can come in and confirm if needed, but the iNat team has emphasized that the objective for the mobile app is to maximize the process of recording observations, not to attempt a feature-to-feature replication of the website functionality.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

@cmcheatle I suspect that is the reason. I do want to point out that for example in rural areas in Mexico, locals have less access to laptops/desktops than to 4G networks and smartphones. Needless to say that those are the areas with greater biodiversity.

We all will benefit substantially if the locals of rural areas get more involved, which I think can be promoted if they can enjoy in the app more of the functionality that makes the inat website such a wonderful learning tool. I think cost/benefit of that is worth exploring.

Posted by langlands over 3 years ago (Flag)

@mamestraconfigurata, yes, it does affect, at least in part, we have experienced this situation around here in Mexico, in rural areas were there is little or no acces to internet, and people does not have acces to cellphones or cameras, but we are happy to spread the word and keep worknig with people, but yes the wealth level affects participation. :(

Posted by aztekium over 3 years ago (Flag)

@langlands, @cmcheatle yes, we do have those issues, and for sure, the rest of latinamerica.

Posted by aztekium over 3 years ago (Flag)

Looking at the global map there seems to be one of two things associated with gap areas: terrain that makes it inaccessible or armed conflict. Poverty is surely an issue but perhaps not as bad.

Posted by andrewgillespie over 3 years ago (Flag)

@cmcheatle are referring to the inability to enter a new authority when you add a conservation status? You can still enter a conservation status without an authority, but this does appear to be a bug. Most of the updates to conservation statuses are done in bulk in coordination with staff, so if anyone is interested in adding statuses for different countries, please contact help@inaturalist.org.

Posted by carrieseltzer over 3 years ago (Flag)

Carrie, yes I know you can add one with no authority, but i think rightly so that others may question why some random user is named as the authority as to why something is protected. If there is a standard format for a text file to load lists that can be shared (feel free by private message, or even documented on the site), I would certainly try and add a few.

Posted by cmcheatle over 3 years ago (Flag)

Indeed amazing that after 6.5 years such a fast growth can happen..As mentioned earlier: half of the observations have come this year!!! A bit sad that in this part of the world (Armenia, Madeira, Canary Islands) the amount of observations is not flooding..but at least it is definetly growing. I especially like the larger format (2000 pixels) which are visible on iNat. Sometimes very convenient!!! But after a hot counting summer it seems the number is also decreasing rather quickly.

Posted by ahospers over 3 years ago (Flag)

Great post. I think it needs an update for 2019 or a new post with around 300 dots..

Posted by optilete over 2 years ago (Flag)

Yay to all the mollusk observation folks!

Posted by susanhewitt over 2 years ago (Flag)

I wonder if this in any way reflects the abundance of plants and insects over the other groups

Posted by patrickas 6 months ago (Flag)

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