iNaturalist Licensed Observation Images in the Amazon Open Data Sponsorship Program

Making biodiversity data freely accessible for science and conservation is an important part of iNaturalist’s mission. We’re excited to announce the inclusion of the iNaturalist Licensed Observation Images dataset in the Amazon Open Data Sponsorship Program (ODP). This collaboration covers costs associated with storing and sharing (i.e. bandwidth) licensed photos posted to iNaturalist to sustain and promote the use of iNaturalist photos for research applications.

Importantly, nothing has changed regarding what data and photos are being made available, or what company is hosting them (we already host all our media with Amazon). This program just makes it easier to access these photos and their associated data and passes the bill on to Amazon. Only photos with Creative Commons Licenses are covered by this collaboration. The benefits of the collaboration are:

  • Amazon ODP is now offsetting the rapidly growing costs of storing these photos
  • Amazon ODP covers the costs associated with downloading these photos.
  • We’re releasing new tools to facilitate and encourage the use of these data

Reducing storage costs
Thank you to everyone who has licensed their iNaturalist photos. We now estimate that 70% of photos on iNaturalist have Creative Commons licenses. We estimate the cost savings of hosting these photos via the Amazon ODP will be hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years.

Reducing download costs
We’ve been a bit hesitant to encourage use of iNaturalist photos for research because we’ve incurred the costs of moving millions of photos across the internet from iNatualist to “Research Project X”. These costs can be significant. Since the Amazon ODP is covering these download costs for Creative Commons licensed photos, we can encourage and promote researchers to use iNaturalist photos without worrying about sustaining the costs associated with these uses.

Facilitating and encouraging data use
As part of this collaboration, we’ve added new tools to make it much easier to find and download large volumes of photos from iNaturalist. In addition to finding and accessing these photos via the iNaturalist API and export tools (which aren’t designed for fetching information about millions of photos) and the GBIF archive (which only includes photos associated with ‘research grade’ records) as part of this collaboration we are launching a new Monthly Metadata Export describing the photos in the Amazon ODP. that can be used to query and navigate them. You can find more documentation about how to use this new metadata export here.

Thanks everyone for continuing to share your biodiversity data observations and photos on iNaturalist. We hope that by making these data more accessible and useful via this collaboration we can have a bigger positive impact in science and conservation. Since the iNaturalist Forum has better tools for moderating and facilitating complex discussion, we've disabled comments on this post but have created a companion thread in the forum. We invite your thoughts or questions there.

Posted on April 15, 2021 11:18 PM by loarie loarie