Managing Projects

Any iNaturalist user can create a project. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering creating an ongoing project or if you have one already.

Should I start a project?

If your reason for wanting to start a project is simply to keep track of all observations recorded in a particular geographic area, you may find that using the filters on the Observations page is sufficient for your needs. For example, if you just want to keep track of all of the plants in Florida, you can just use the Observations page filtered by taxon: Plantae and place: Florida.

If you want to track observations within boundaries that do not currently exist on iNaturalist, try adding the place and and then using the observation search filters or the Place page. For example, here is the Places page for the Anacostia River Watershed. You can also zoom in on the Observation map and choose "Redo search in map" to narrow down to a general location, for example: Amphibians in the Chicago Region.

Reasons to create a project include:

  • To run a bioblitz: A bioblitz is an effort to record as many species as possible within a designated space and period of time. Read the Bioblitz Guide to learn more about running a bioblitz through iNaturalist.

  • To communicate with project participants: If you want to actively recruit participants and communicate updates to them under the brand/logo of one or more organizations, a project is appropriate. Nearly all projects that are successful on iNaturalist are due to the dedicated effort of the project leader to cultivate a sense of community within iNaturalist and often also in person! This happens by adding identifications, comments, and journal posts within your project and by generally being engaged in the community to encourage more activity in your area of interest. If you create a project but aren’t active on iNaturalist yourself, your project probably won’t get much attention. Consider recruiting additional managers or curators to your project to help with identifications and community-building. Good examples of community-building and effective iNaturalist projects include Vermont Atlas of Life, Herps of Texas, Elmer Oliver Nature Park (Texas)

  • To view private coordinates: Filtering on the Observations page does not currently display observations with private or obscured coordinate. Projects settings, depending on a user’s selection when joining the project, can allow for project admins, managers, and curators to be able to see the true coordinates of obscured and private locations. This requires more attention to ask users to join the project and possibly change their privacy settings, as well as to check the accuracy of locations.

  • To collect additional data: You may want to collect data that is not typically documented in iNaturalist observations through the use of additional "Observation Fields." For example, the approximate area in square meters of an invasive plant infestation or the temperature and relative humidity during a calling frog survey. Required Observation Fields may be an annoyance to some users. Be sure to avoid Observation Fields that are redundant with data that iNaturalist already collects such as time or location.

  • To curate observations not searchable through the Observation page filters: Try to think outside the box of just place/taxa-type projects. For instance, the Amazing Aberrants project does a lot of good by bringing together a bunch of observations that wouldn’t otherwise be found via filters.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t create a project then abandon it and expect anything to happen. You need to make some observations yourself, add some identifications, and get to know the community. The "if you build it, they will come" mentality doesn’t work. Making the project on iNaturalist is the easy part. Getting people to contribute is much more work and you’ll need to plan accordingly!

  • Don’t try to develop a new portal or app that submits data to iNaturalist unless you have an enormous budget. It’s not something that can be done cheaply. @carrieseltzer is happy to talk about her experience doing this with the Great Nature Project to try and steer you away from that path.

Tips and Tricks

  • Recruit additional managers or curators to your project to help with identifications and community-building. After people join your project, you can select "view all members" to make someone a manager or curator.

  • Run contests or organize meet ups, depending on the scale of your project. Themes like the "observation of the month" (e.g. Vermont Atlas of Life) or year-long challenges (e.g. Herps of Texas) encourage interaction and friendly competition among project members.

  • Use other forms of social media to extend the reach and actively recruit new participants. LA Natural History Museum accepts observations from several forms of social media and posts them using a shared account (ideally, though, people will post observations using their own iNaturalist accounts). AfriBats has a Facebook page to share interesting observations and news with a larger community of followers and @jakob has been successfully recruiting African bat observations from Flickr photos for several years using a Flickr inviter tool.

  • Clearly communicate the rationale of the project within the community (e.g. confirming historic records, adding new species to the list).

  • Track the project stats and communicate them through social and traditional media, to motivate participation. e.g. "To date the Galiano Community has documented 58% of the algae, bryophytes, and vascular plant species reported for Galiano Island, and added >200 new species to the list"; e.g. "13-yo community member Marlin Stewart added Claytonia exigua new to the list of species known for Galiano Island, BC.”

  • Maintain a separate 'Place' on iNaturalist where list data can be uploaded for the locality, to bolster the effectiveness of the 'Compare' feature (old 'Identotron') and assist citizen scientists in identifying species.

  • Promote project visibility in the community: signs, newspaper articles, presentation displays at community events, etc.

  • Organize events: community inventories of local parks, bioblitzes, pressing workshops, etc., etc.; don't just appeal to the scientist inside everyone; appeal to the artist, too.

  • Network with relevant conservation groups, regional authorities and experts in the local and global community to confirm species IDs.

  • Collect specimens where necessary (and legal) to improve rigour of the project; add collection numbers to observations and keep track using traditional methods, accessioning specimens in a formally annotated collection ledger; contributing specimens submitted by community members to local herbaria (with their name on them) can also be a way of gaining public support, by formally acknowledging and validating their contributions.

  • Acknowledge community members for their findings, however significant or insignificant.

  • Work with parents and educators to get youth involved. This kind of news can really galvanize support for a community citizen science project.

  • Be willing to put in countless hours of voluntary work; a little passion goes a long way

  • If possible, consolidate historic records and keep track of the progress of the project in confirming those records. It is a powerful tool for grounding objective statements about the accomplishments being made by participants in your project.

Limitations of iNaturalist (what you can’t do)

Presently, iNaturalist doesn’t capture data related to sampling effort in the way that some other platforms like eBird do. The disadvantage of presence-only data like iNaturalist is that it is much more complicated to infer absence. If this is essential to your project, iNaturalist may not be the best platform. However, it is possible that such features may be developed with future grant support.

You can add sounds (as wav, mp3, or m4a formats) directly to iNaturalist, or through an integration with SoundCloud. However, the Android and iOS apps do not currently support sound uploads. The original SoundCloud functionality was created with support from Texas Parks and Wildlife in 2013. If you are interested in supporting the development of a sound features in the app, you should contact the iNaturalist team about including that in a grant.

Project Settings** Explained**

  • Project Type

    • Normal: Select this for an ongoing project.
    • Assessment: *Assessments are for collaborating on a set of species assessments, usually to gauge conservation importance. *
    • Bioblitz: Automatically aggregates all observations within a spatial boundary (of reasonable size) within a specific window of time.
  • Preferred Membership Model: Most projects are open to anyone.

  • Preferred Submission Model: Most projects allow anyone to add observations to the project.

  • (Bioblitz only) Start Time and End Time: Select the date and times within which you want iNaturalist to automatically add observations to your project. For example, you may want to add observations from 00:00:00 to 23:59:59 on the day of your Bioblitz to capture everything observed on that date. For Bioblitzes, the upload time does not matter—just the observation time.)

  • Location: Type in the " place" box to search for a place with a specified boundary (rather that just a single point on the map).

  • Observation Aggregation (if you have selected a BioBlitz project and do not see this option, create the project, then go back and edit it, and this option should appear)

    • Many project managers would like their project to automatically aggregate observations from a place, like bioblitz projects do for a defined period of time. Unfortunately, this process is very computationally intensive so iNaturalist cannot do this for every project. Instead, you can regularly check for suitable observations and add them to your project, or encourage observers to add them proactively.
  • Observation Rules: You can add criteria that observations must have in order to be added to your project. Common rule examples are taxa (e.g. must be in "Lepidoptera"), places (e.g. must be in [add several counties]), or evidence (e.g. must have sounds or photos).

  • Project List: You can create a custom project list of taxa and link it to your project. This can be useful to restrict observations added to your project to those matching taxa on your list via the "must be taxon on the project list" rule.

  • Observation Fields: You can request additional fields be completed for your project, but they should not duplicate core iNat data fields in any circumstance. Users have created hundreds of different fields, so you should search existing observation fields before creating new ones.

  • Change Admin: For a project that has already been created, this is how you designate a new project admin. This is useful when the person who created the project is moving on to a different job, for example.

  • Tracking Codes: Comma-separated list of tracking codes. Add these if you want to append a tracking code when sending people to the new observation form, e.g. You can use this to track participation from different sources. You can access these codes when downloading your project's observations as CSV.

Revised on September 02, 2017 00:11 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer