Exploring Nature When You're Stuck at Home

With so many people facing restricted activity for days or weeks or months due to the covid-19/coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, here are some suggestions for how you can still engage with nature and connect with others through iNaturalist while in or around your home.

Add Identifications

Help add IDs to other people’s observations! The Identify page is the best tool to use when doing this (you'll need to be signed in).

Here are written instructions and below is a short tutorial video for the Identify page. You can filter by taxon, place, and other criteria, then use keyboard shortcuts to quickly go through observations and add IDs, comments, or mark observations as captive/cultivated. Please only add IDs to the level which you can independently verify.

Add Annotations

If you don’t feel comfortable adding IDs, you can use the Identify page to add annotations to observations. There’s a tutorial for this on the iNaturalist Community Forum, as well as some helpful links to get you started. If you’re unsure about a specific observation, don’t feel obligated to add an annotation, feel free to move to the next one. :-)

Make Observations At Home

Make observations in your home and add them to the Never Home Alone project, or get to know your neighborhood nature by observing sidewalk weeds, birds, and local insects and spiders. (Don’t forget to obscure the observation’s location if you don’t want your home location publicly visible on your observations.)

Try Seek With Your Kids!

Have kids? They can use our kid-friendly and privacy-focused Seek by iNaturalist app to explore and earn badges for finding common species!

Upload Old Photos

If you have an archive of your old nature photos, add them to iNat! Instructions for our web uploader can be found here, and a tutorial video here. Below is a video interview with iNat super user @greglasley, who’s done just that.

Learn How to Use iNat in the Classroom

If you’re an educator and need to teach remotely, consider using iNaturalist, but please make sure you’re familiar with the platform and have carefully read the Teacher’s Guide before using it with your students. They don’t even have to make observations, they can use our Explore page to explore and download data to work with. We’ve also started a thread on the iNaturalist Community Forum for educators using iNat remotely.

Help Translate

Ok, it's not really exploring nature, but if you speak English and another language, translating our website and apps into that other language helps speakers of that language enormously. Our software has been partially translated into 68 languages by over 100 volunteers, but text is always changing, so there's always translation work to do.

Share Your Ideas!

Our most active community members have compiled an even longer list of great ways you can get involved with iNat from home. If you have other ideas, share them in the comments below. Please stay safe and healthy, and do your part to protect others in your community by limiting in-person interactions, washing your hands frequently, and other recommended precautions.

Posted on March 13, 2020 08:27 PM by tiwane tiwane


For people who can get outside, if you search very slowly and really carefully and thoroughly, you will be amazed how many wild species you can find even just on one part of one city block, or in one not-very-impressive-looking small garden.

Yes, weeds, and insects, spiders and earthworms, and other invertebrates, but also plant diseases and pests, lichens, fungi. Being forced to concentrate on a much smaller area than usual will make a better, deeper naturalist out of you.

You will also be able to discover places where you can iNat that are within very easy walking distance of your home, places you have probably previously ignored or just glanced over because they did not look promising.

Unless you are quite sick or unable to walk, please make sure you get out in the morning light each day, because if you don't get any real outdoor daylight at all, your sleep quality will suffer, and you will feel more anxious too. But if you can't get outside, at least stick your head out of a window for a few minutes, so you get real daylight on your head for your pineal gland to respond -- it doesn't have to be actual sunshine, just daylight that is not filtered through window glass.

As for what interesting critters live in your home, (for the excellent "Never Home Alone" project), check out the basement, if you have one, or have access to one. Take a flashlight and look carefully in the corners.

There are also probably some small dead insects in the corners of your windowsills, at least in rooms where you don't dust all the time.

Best wishes to everyone.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

Thank you for thinking of us!

Posted by carlacorazza about 4 years ago

Thank you for a new project for me! Does anyone know a project about finding something on house walls?

Posted by marina_gorbunova about 4 years ago

You mean, on the outside of a house?

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

Yes, I can't find anything, and it sounds like something that will take lot of time of just uploading everything we have already.

Posted by marina_gorbunova about 4 years ago

I don't think there is a project especially for things living on walls/house walls, although I like the idea of that. Maybe you could start one?

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

There is a project here for animals found inside homes:


Posted by raymie about 4 years ago

@raymie yes, it was mentioned in the post, but there're much more things outside but on the buildings so there's a chance a project exists.

Posted by marina_gorbunova about 4 years ago

"get to know your neighborhood nature by observing sidewalk weeds, birds, and local insects and spiders."
that describes almost all of my observations ;)

Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

I bought a good camera and immediately became house bound with a medical condition for the past two years. I set up bird feeding stations in my backyard and started photographing the wildlife attracted to the feed. The calls of the common birds brought in a Hermit Warbler, that turned out to be the 8th record for Ontario. My elderly mother checks out the window frequently during the day to keep me posted of the activity, it gives her something to look forward to, and it is a topic that we can share at the dinner table.

Posted by lakingbj about 4 years ago

There's a Project Porchlight- https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/project-porchlight- that focuses on whatever is drawn to a a nightime light. I love their tagline "bathrobes are the new lab coats" and I think it ties in nicely with the situation that many of us find ourselves in right now.

Posted by pliffgrieff about 4 years ago

Thanks Phil, I did not know about that project. We don't have porch lights in Manhattan, NYC, and there is basically too much light everywhere in the big city. But other places I go have outdoor lights at night.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

The best things about insects is that you may come back to the same spot every day and find different species. I choosed a tree in front of my house to look for critters everyday until all come back to normal.

Posted by claramatos about 4 years ago

I will find great solace in being able to contribute to iNat and being able to remain part of my own virtual community. Nature photography has become a strong part of my daily activities and how I will continue, even on a substantially restricted "territory". Today a red shouldered hawk stopped by and I was here to see it. I was also able to see all the other birds react and disappear. Cannot photograph that event, but I know it happened. Yes, this might make me a deeper observer.

Posted by lissamartinez about 4 years ago

@sariai on the Identify page (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify) you can sort observations by "Random", click on Filters to access it and many other filters. :-)

Posted by tiwane about 4 years ago

Take an inventory of your pantry and see what viable seeds you might have beans, unprocessed rice, mustard seeds, quinoa, etc. Don’t overlook the seeds inside fruits like apples, or citrus. Also look for sprouts, carrot tops, beet tops, pineapple tops, potato sprouts. See what you can sprout in water or soil and see how long you can grow it.

Posted by botanicaltreasures about 4 years ago

And then eat it! :)

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

The mountains are waiting for you
Get out and see nature

Posted by ck2az about 4 years ago

Even if "stuck at home" there are so many things to observe. Probably 75% of my 1,700+ observations are in my backyard or out behind my office! And if you're truly confined indoors (which I hope it never comes to that), there are features on iNat to learn. Until this week, I had only subscribed and searched projects. Now, I decided to start one! I look forward to seeing it grow. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/okefenokee-photography-project
Keep calm and stay clean, all!

Posted by williamwisephoto about 4 years ago
Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

Is there a way to search your observations for ones with an obscured location? I've made a few observations in my house over the last year or so, but I'm finding it hard to find them in order to put them in the project.

Posted by kitbeard about 4 years ago

You might be surprised what you can see by looking out your window, even in a big city.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

I've lived in my house for almost 30 years and I am still making new discoveries in my yard. You can set your calendar by which moth species show up at your back porch light.

Posted by brownsbay about 4 years ago

And then there's me who told coronavirus to suck a lime (hehe) and still go out anyhow. If I hadn't done that, I would not have driven two hours to stumbled upon the first Payette, Idaho county record of a blue jay. Four birds to be exact.


Posted by birdwhisperer about 4 years ago

@susanhewitt "You might be surprised what you can see by looking out your window, even in a big city."
I was thinking that that's how I'd keep my iNat streak alive if I'm stuck at home :)

Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

To repeat: if you are allowed to under your local regulations, I recommend that people who are not sick should go outside their house or building a minimum of once a day in the morning, to get some natural daylight, which is different from light that has been filtered through a window.

Without brief exposure to actual daylight, after a while your body ceases to understand what time of day it is, and your sleep/wake cycle will become very disrupted.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

Of course, I only meant if I have to be quarantined.

Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

Ah but here in NYC a lot of people seems to be hiding out permanently in their homes, even though they are currently totally healthy.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

Oh, it would be hard for many people, they are buying all the food they can so telling to go outside is almost impossible thing to do for them.

Posted by marina_gorbunova about 4 years ago

Oh the house project is great, I have been looking for something like that. I will add all my home observations to it!

We are in a more rural area here and although people have definitely been shopping, I find more people than usual at our habitual state park. The weather has helped too, but there are quite a lot of families, teenagers out of school, more than usual I find. I don't think most of them notice the bald eagle above their head :), but they are enjoying the outdoors.

Posted by raycama about 4 years ago

I joined iNaturalist in early December, expecting that my walks (nature walks with organized groups and strolling on my own) would be curtailed by the icy walkways of Winter. Then we had some of the warmest January and February temperatures on record. Now I am fortunate not to be officially quarantined, but still practicing "social distancing." (Did anyone know that term before this month?) There are two parks I can walk to, and they might be the limits of my pedestrian universe for a while.

Yesterday I uploaded my first four photographs to iNaturalist; there will be many, many more. (Side benefit: I'm sorting and labeling other digital photos as I go!) Two IDs were promptly supported and the other two--both of the same hawk--are generating some interesting discussion as we try to pin down a species identification.

Posted by karen5lund about 4 years ago

Now would be a good time to download your camera's manual and read it thoroughly. Try out some features you haven't explored. If it has a function button, program in your favorite settings.

Posted by lakingbj about 4 years ago

Does anyone have boxes or bags of sea shells at home, ones that they collected during old visits to the seashore?

Can you remember or work out when each visit was, and where it was that you visited? Assuming that the shells have not subsequently been mixed up together, you can photograph the shells and upload the observations of them.

I would be happy to see what you found.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

Thank you for mentioning sea shells, @susanhewitt! I picked up a shell on a recent organized walk but I wasn't sure it "counts" without an organism in it. I'm also within walking distance of some beaches, so while I'm social distancing I can become an iNaturalist beachcomber.

Posted by karen5lund about 4 years ago

Hello @karen5lund just in case you are not aware, many remnants and traces "count" an can be posted on iNat as observations; you do not need the organism itself. Empty shells (Susan has a write up about best to photograph mollusks and gastropods on her profile page, and since reading it, I carry a little ruler), frass and poop, paw prints (I have raccoon paw prints that have made research grade), feathers and bones, nests or hives, holes in the ground, a chewed leaf.... take care!

Posted by raycama about 4 years ago

Thanks, @raycama ! As you might have guessed, I'm kind of new here and am going through photos etc. while practicing social distancing. Learning as I go. I have some photos that might fall into this category, including a wasp's nest and a deer skull. I think...

Posted by karen5lund about 4 years ago

There were several teachers at the park yesterday and I showed them the INAT app, gave them a mini brief on usage (6 ft away of course), teachers guide, and the applications that I discuss when I sub teach. They were thrilled to implement this exciting and important learning tool into their current remote teaching. Kids can go into their backyards or front yards and observe :).
Everyone please consider donating to INAT. Just a bit every month keeps this important application funded.
Thank you everyone here for the ideas. I like the Project Porchlight. I am going to try that this year.

Posted by carolr about 4 years ago

If you have access to a yard you can do lots. (I know not everyone does)
I've found 451 species on our property! (over the last several years)
Granted, it's an acre and a half not far from more intact habitat so has more diversity than some areas... but on the other hand this area is cold and recently glaciated so less diverse than some. If you get really board you can ID all the planted landscaping plants too, just make sure to mark them as not wild.

Posted by charlie about 4 years ago

Oh yes, shells that are empty are fine to make into observations. I will just say that once in a great while one comes across a shell that a human dropped, a shell that does not belong where it was observed, but that is quite a rare occurrence.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

@susanhewitt we found a small cowrie (one of the very commun one with the bluish top) on the far corner one my backyard, just sitting there by a shinny metallic dessert spoon. It’s not a place others humans can aves or thrash can be thrown so my guess is that it was a crow’s treasure 😀

Posted by raycama about 4 years ago

Access. It’s not a place other humans can access.

Posted by raycama about 4 years ago

Ha ha, you may be right about the crow! Did you make the shell in to an observation?

By the way, you can always edit your own comment -- hover your cursor over the space at the end of the line at the bottom that says "Posted by...".

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

No. I did not -it was before I joined iNat. We still have it somewhere although I am
probably a villain among crows now (we saw a documentary where researchers stole their treasures and man, they have a long memory for faces).
Thanks for the tip! I actually thought I edited my comments before but couldn’t find how anymore... I haven’t had my tea yet! !!!

Posted by raycama about 4 years ago

Crows are so intelligent. There used to be a few that would come and sit on a tree into the back yard of the building I live in. I would go out there and try to talk to them (I would just say back to them whatever it was that they said with their vocalizations). They seemed to enjoy that -- they paid attention to me.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago

@charlie I've lived at my current 2-acre home since November 2018 and iNat says I've seen 226 species. Probably because I have a rich insect diversity here.

Posted by birdwhisperer about 4 years ago

Strangely enough, I've just published a blog post on the same subject: If you can't get out and about, join me on a Back Yard Safari with Steve's Nature


Posted by stevedaniels about 4 years ago

Re: Project Porchlight, I noticed that though the "About" section mentions insects, it doesn't have any taxon filters (https://www.inaturalist.org/project/project-porchlight/terms).

I often see Mediterranean House Geckos hanging around my exterior lights (I think to ambush the bugs that are attracted to the light, but I suppose they could be looking for warmth or just like light).

Maybe I'll add some of those to the project!

Posted by star3 about 4 years ago

looks like other people are doing that too: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/40760326

Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

Thank you for the wonderful suggestions!

It is true that there is much to be found even in the strangest areas. And in my opinion, some of the most interesting and fantastic creatures are the ones you don’t normally pay attention to- ones so small you don’t even notice them. But of course, not everything you find is small. You never know what might show up in your backyard, house, or even apartment!

Keep up the good work guys!

Posted by spinosaurusrocks about 4 years ago

Anyone willing to launch a "Garden and balcony" project? The quarantines would be a great opportunity to get new iNaturalist users but also to pay more attention to urban and rural biodiversity. Documenting the variety of pollinators and introduced plants would also be very interesting. I shared the idea on Twitter & LinkedIn but wasn't backed up by Leonardo di Caprio or the Kardashian family I'm afraid.

I would be happy to contribute to such initiative and could help promoting it in other languages (French, Italian, German and Spanish)

Posted by gregoiredubois about 4 years ago

Sounds like a good idea. When I submit an observation of an insect pollinating a plant I use the 'Fields' box to record the plant that it is visiting. Field: 'Observed Species Association: Pollinating'.

Posted by stevedaniels about 4 years ago

One more project that seems quite fitting for this time specifically records observations found inside the home- https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/never-home-alone-the-wild-life-of-homes.

No need for a garden or back yard for this one.

Posted by pliffgrieff about 4 years ago

I'm just getting started, uploading some photos from nature walks over the past two years or so. I've been using the Description field for each observation, which not everyone seems to do. Although my photos are mostly good (detail and clarity; aesthetics are up to you) I do want it to be clear which organism is being observed--for example, the bird, not the tree it's sitting in. I wish more people would do that especially when it isn't so clear and the user's identification is vague. (Just wait until I start uploading lichen... it's gonna be vague.)

@stevedaniels mention of Fields and 'Observed Species Association' are helpful, as I haven't used Fields yet.

Posted by karen5lund about 4 years ago

My house projects, both are internal garden "intra muros". I just take pictures of the flowers or animals coming in the garden.
It was funny, and now trapped in the house, it is even more funny. Perhaps need to put a stronger light to get insects coming in...
Jean-Michel - Leon - Nicaragua

Posted by jmmaes about 4 years ago

@pliffgrieff , Never Home Alone was mentioned above, but it doesn't hurt to advertise it twice.

Posted by star3 about 4 years ago

Someone may have mentioned this already, but I have been going through my old digital photographs, finding observations I took up to 18 years ago and adding them. I think this is useful for the historical data, and for realizing how long I was iNatting before there was iNat. If your old digital photos are not geotagged, you can manually add the location when you upload. Most digital photos will be automatically date-tagged, but you can add that as well if it doesn't automatically appear.

Posted by ocean_beach_goth about 4 years ago

An upcoming socially-distant bioblitz on April 5th, may be of interest to many who are stuck at home! Check out the project page for more information: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-4-5-2020

All you need to do is message me (@slamonde) to sign up!

Posted by slamonde about 4 years ago


Posted by alexis_orion about 4 years ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments