50 million observations on iNaturalist!

Thank you for your role in reaching this milestone! Help support iNaturalist as we grow.


DONATE TO CELEBRATE 50M

As of September 20, 2020, iNaturalist has more than 50 million records of wild biodiversity with photos or sounds to allow verification by the community. This year, despite a pandemic and numerous natural disasters, the resilient iNaturalist community continues to forge new connections and discoveries. It has been just 13 months since we passed 25 million observations—continuing iNaturalist’s trend of roughly doubling the number of observations and participants each year since 2012.

Where and what are those 50 million observations? Let’s look at them as dots where each represents 250,000 observations.

Imagine 50 million observations are represented by 200 dots

123 of the 200 dots are of plants and insects. Fish are represented by just 2 dots.

How many dots from each species category?

133 of the 200 dots are from in North America. Africa and South America have the fewest dots.

How many dots are from each continent?

Here's a few more ways to visualize iNaturalist's growth that may be familiar. The graph below shows the number of observations posted each month since iNaturalist was launched in 2008. The site has been roughly doubling each year and there is a pronounced uptick in the northern hemisphere spring and summer. For comparison, it took until November 2014 (or six and a half years) for iNaturalist to reach the first million observations. We broke 3 million observations per month for the first time this year.

Observations Over Time



This map shows the number of observations by country. Just over half of all iNaturalist observations are from the United States.

Observations by Country

iNaturalist is growing differently in different places. In 21 of the top 50 countries with the most observations, the number of observations posted in 2020 is at least double the number posted by this date in 2019. These countries are shown below in descending order. Finland was the fastest growing country this year by this metric. Finland was one of five countries to join the iNaturalist Network of localized iNaturalist portals launched in the last year, along with Ecuador, Australia, Argentina, and Israel. More are in progress.

Where the rate of observations has at least doubled in the last year



In 25 of the top 50 countries, iNaturalist has grown in 2020 compared to 2019, but not quite doubled.

Where the rate of observations has grown but not quite doubled since last year



In 4 of the top 50 countries, fewer observations have been posted in 2020 compared to 2019. All four of these countries had very large City Nature Challenge events in 2019 (notice the peaks around April 2019). The fact that the pandemic made it more difficult to organize in-person events in 2020 probably accounts for the relatively fewer observations this year, even though the baseline of activity throughout the year has increased.

Where the rate of observations has not grown compared to last year



This week on social media we’ll be highlighting observations and stories from each inhabited continent on a different day. You can follow iNaturalist on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Naturalist’s Impact

Each of these 50 million observations is an invitation to a conversation about what was seen and its identification. The power of iNaturalist comes from the connections and discussions it enables across borders and levels of professional experience—and the open biodiversity data it creates.

For example, Canadian photographer @pbertner posted photos of of a myco-heterotrophic plant in Peru, which was identified by @kai_schablewski, a botanist in Germany, as Tiputinia foetida - hundreds of kilometers from its only previously known location in eastern Ecuador. And iNat users in both California and Australia collaborated to identify a mysterious sunfish on the shores of Santa Barbara as Mola tecta - the first documented sighting of this species in the northern hemisphere since the late 1800s! Since then, @lauren99 posted a Mola tecta photo from 2015, taken off of the California coast.

@sultana, whose primary interest is malacology, posted some old photos of a weasel caught in his parents’ bathroom, and the iNat community identified them as the first known photos of a living Colombian weasel - perhaps the rarest South American carnivore. And recently @lcollingsparker posted a cicada observation (from her blueberry bushes), which researchers identified as Okanagana arctostaphylae. It was the first known sighting of this species since it was described in 1915!

And in some cases, iNaturalist observations have even led to the description of entirely new species, like the recently described Phidippus pacosauritus jumping spider, first documented in Paco’s Reserva de Flora y Fauna in Mexico.

Conversations about species identifications are happening all over social media, but iNaturalist captures that dialogue in a structured way that enables searching and reuse that is unique. iNaturalist is rapidly becoming invaluable for biodiversity research through the sheer volume, taxonomic diversity, and geographic range of data enabled by the collective efforts of the global community.

In addition to being explored on and exported from the iNaturalist website, the Research-Grade records are regularly shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF brings together records from museum specimens as well as many different citizen science and monitoring efforts. Although far from the largest dataset on GBIF, records from the iNaturalist dataset have been cited more than any other—804 times to date!

Beyond the traditional application of occurrence data that captures what, where, and when, a new trend of biodiversity research is beginning based on characters in the photographic evidence.

iNaturalist photos capture the timing of seasonal events (phenology), and studies on organisms as diverse as mountain goats, Yucca flowers, and Alligator lizard mating are using iNaturalist observations to fill major gaps.

Sometimes photos capture more species than originally expected, like pathogens. Two recent studies on flowers and fish both examined observation photos of the host species for evidence of the pathogens, which can considerably expand the availability of distribution information beyond museum specimens and targeted inventories (which cannot be replaced by iNaturalist, but complemented).

iNaturalist has the fuel for countless studies of phenotypic variation at a scale unimaginable before digital cameras and GPS. For example, thousands of observations of the widespread blue dasher dragonfly were used as part of a study of wing color variation and climate across North America by @moore-evo-eco.

...Because we are now accumulating this remarkable collection of time-stamped photographs of every manner of plant, animal, and fungi through iNaturalist and similar platforms, we're potentially going to have a digitized record of how each of these organisms evolve over the next few decades. We'll be able to watch evolution occurring on a grand scale. From a purely academic perspective, it's every evolutionary biologist's dream. —Dr. Michael Moore (@moore-evo-eco)

We weren’t sure what to expect when the global pandemic struck. Many grassroots events that typically attract and orient new participants were canceled. Amazingly, iNaturalist activity didn’t slow down, but continued apace despite the pandemic. Instead of exploring on trips, people are finding new and exciting discoveries in their homes, neighborhoods, and local parks. Many people have shared on the iNaturalist Forum how important iNaturalist has been to them during the pandemic by providing a way for them to explore outdoors, learn about nature, and connect with others in a safe way. Biodiversity is everywhere! We have so much yet to learn. What else will you discover thanks to iNaturalist?

iNaturalist needs your support

People and the rest of biodiversity face many challenges ahead. At every moment of the day, iNaturalist is building connections among nature enthusiasts, sharing knowledge across borders, and supporting millions of records that offer crucial insights and opportunities to change course. As iNaturalist grows, so do the costs to maintain it. We know that these are difficult times, but if you are inspired and able, can you donate to support this cause?


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iNaturalist is a not-for-profit joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, and all donations are received by the California Academy of Sciences (Tax ID: 94-1156258).

Thank you to the millions of people who have shared their observations and expertise. iNaturalist would be nothing without curious people who care about biodiversity—it has an impact because of what you do to support it!

By Carrie Seltzer, Tony Iwane, Abhas Misraraj, and Scott Loarie

Posted by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer, September 20, 2020 13:23

Comments

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An amazing achievement for the platform and all its users; I'm looking forward to 100 million observations by this time next year!

Posted by thebeachcomber 2 months ago (Flag)
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happy to hear that I have contributed 0.01% of these observations.

Posted by diegoalmendras 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wow !!!!

Posted by ck2az 2 months ago (Flag)
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A database, a platform, a tool, a network, a community, and a revolution! It really is wonderful to be a part of all of this!

Posted by sambiology 2 months ago (Flag)
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iNaturalist is AWESOME! Congrats on 50 million observations!!

Posted by calebcam 2 months ago (Flag)
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What a privilege to be a part of this all. Sam said it all perfectly. Thank you iNat

Posted by mira_l_b 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations on another milestone! It has been great fun.
What next?

Posted by tonyrebelo 2 months ago (Flag)
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This is awesome, thanks everyone for being part of such an exciting adventure!!!

Posted by tkoffel 2 months ago (Flag)
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The graphs tell me that once people discover iNat, most seem to stay with it. From my own experience, once I started paying attention to the wildlife around me, once I started seeing it and be able to name it and know a little something about it, I’m seeing more and more. I cannot imagine ever loosing interest or closing my eyes and mind to it. How could I? The next little spider in my home, the bird outside the window, the flowering “weed” in the yard, would bring me right back. A very special thank you to the many professionals on iNat who help amateurs like myself become a better observer and identifier. There’s so much teaching, sharing and encouragement happening on this platform, it’s one of the best places on earth.

Posted by andreacala 2 months ago (Flag)
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Proud to be a contributor, identifier, promoter, and monthly supporter.

Posted by xris 2 months ago (Flag)
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Proud to be an iNat observer ....I have to say that iNaturalist is like my life....I started iNat and it helps me a lot for my studies about zoology ......I love to be nature and iNat is the best way to observe...I started this and I told my friends about iNat....Now,all of my friends are observers and identifiers in Inat.....This is the best know platform for naturalist and citizen scientists .....

I live you iNaturalist and let's make 50 as "100" soon....I'm sure we can do it easily with our all observers and identifiers ...Thank you all the members who helped to iNaturalist .....

🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚🐺🐄🐽🐹🐭🐀🐥🐾️🐣🐣🐾️🐾️🦎🐍🦎💮🌻🌱🌲🍀🌺🦂🌿🌵🌲🕸️🕷️🌹🌸🏵️🌸

Posted by pasindu_dilshan 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations to the entire team. This is such a deserving achievement! :)

Posted by shaunak 2 months ago (Flag)
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Happy to have contributed even a minuscule fraction of those observations

Posted by kemper 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulation to all of us :)

Posted by lifemeetsthelens 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wow, that's an amazing milestone! So proud to be part of this.

Posted by alexis_orion 2 months ago (Flag)
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Go iNaturalist!!, very proud to have helped, congrats to everyone on iNaturalist, I just got started a few months and now I am hooked. Let’s hit 100 million shall we! 🌳🌲🎊🎉

Posted by kingcobra0902 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wow!

Posted by jasonrgrant 2 months ago (Flag)
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This is amazing - glad to contribute! Can't wait for 100 million!!!

Posted by awesomerobot1227 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations!

Posted by prokhozhyj 2 months ago (Flag)
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Such a wonderful accomplishment! I am proud to be a member and supporter of the iNaturalist community. It has literally changed my life; I've always been interested in the living world around me, but it's like I'm seeing things through new eyes, at a level of detail that I never have before. I'm amazed at some of the rare and wonderful creatures I've found in my own backyard, and I don't know if I would even have been looking for them (properly) if it weren't for my iNaturalist "addiction." Thanks so much for all you do!

Posted by weecorbie 2 months ago (Flag)
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For several years in the past I contributed a great deal of work to Wikipedia, and now I have contributed several years' worth of energy to iNaturalist. I view both iNaturalist and Wikipedia as giving enormously to humanity, globally, to the education and enlightenment of people everywhere.

I have been a naturalist since I was a toddler, and I must say that iNat has been just about the best thing that has ever happened to me as a naturalist, in my entire life.

So a sincere thank you to everyone who keeps iNat alive and kicking, whether by working as iNat staff, by supporting iNat financially, or by helping it grow and flourish by the work we all put into the backbone of it.

Aloha to all!

Posted by susanhewitt 2 months ago (Flag)
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Inat is one hip cat!

Posted by felix1112 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations!
It's an amazing network for nature enthusiasts.

Posted by shantabmgr 2 months ago (Flag)
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Cheers to the developers, contributors, identifiers and every iNater out there. Well done everyone, and I'm thrilled to be a tiny part of it! In the name of SCIENCE!

Posted by zabbey 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations on this milestone to all, founders, staff, curators and observers! This is an amazing platform and has contributed more than I can tell you to my education.

Posted by stevejones 2 months ago (Flag)
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let's keep working with the same enthusiasm.

Posted by brosisrodriguezb 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations for this amazing milestone. iNaturalist is one of the best examples of how collaboration is wonderful. I am honored to be part of this network, at first as user of an incredible solution for naturalists, then telling all my friends and now working to make everyone here join us in this side of the world. I have seen many times how it boosts the interest in nature of lots of people of the most diverse background. Really wonderful work. Congrats Carrie, Tony, Abhas, Scott and the rest of the team.

Posted by roget 2 months ago (Flag)
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There is not a more inspiring group of people than those of iNaturalist! And I couldn't be more proud to be a member, and to watch it grow, and to encourage new members that have fallen in love with nature.

So cheers to you, iNaturalist, for sparking that interest and opening up a whole new world to so many. And to many, many more observations and data collected about our wonderous planet and everything on it!

Posted by artemis224 2 months ago (Flag)
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Big achievement, congrats to everybody that contributed! :)

Posted by twan3253 2 months ago (Flag)
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I'm new on this platform and have only 63 observations yet. But I really love the experience, it changed my perspective to my surrounding environment. Sadly, there are few users in my location(Tire, İzmir, Turkey). I hope this community and observations grows even more. Congratulations!

Posted by tandogan 2 months ago (Flag)
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super !!!!!!!!!
: )

Posted by radekwalkowiak 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations!!! Nice to be part of this interesting community!

Posted by fotorubo 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations to you and us! Ehm...It seems that Italy has now the same number of observations of Luxembourg...or each graph has a different scale?

Posted by carlacorazza 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wow! Glad to be a part of this awesome community! I have learned so much.

Posted by connlindajo 2 months ago (Flag)
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Felicitaciones a toda la comunidad de #iNaturalist, continuemos promoviendo la conexión con la naturaleza y su conservación!!!

Posted by jespitia 2 months ago (Flag)
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To paraphrase the late great U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, "50 million observations here, 50 million observations there; pretty soon we're talking about some real data"! ;-)

p.s. I've got another moth manuscript in review right now which emphasizes the value of citizen science data like iNaturalist.

Posted by gcwarbler 2 months ago (Flag)
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Big thanks to everyone and especially the few directly behind all this !

Posted by jtch 2 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks Chuck! If anyone's curious, @gcwarbler talks about moth ID and iNat in this interview: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/17268-an-interview-with-gcwarbler

Posted by tiwane 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulation to the iNat team for making this possible, and congratulation to all observers for this great accomplishment.

Posted by folini 2 months ago (Flag)
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WOW.. congratulations! This is awesome, so I ordered another shirt!

Posted by alicemaryherden 2 months ago (Flag)
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Proud to be a part of this 50 M observations.Congratulations to all iNaturalists.

Posted by lakshmikant 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations to all iNaturalists!

Posted by naty2 2 months ago (Flag)
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Absolutely great! Thanks to the amazing staff of iNaturalist and congrats to the whole community of inatters.

Posted by jurga_li 2 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations.
Inaturalist is a happy space that always gives me pleasure. And I love the inaturalist who always gives good suggestions for creatures I don't know.

Posted by pintail 2 months ago (Flag)
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INaturalist is such an innovative platform that deserves this attention and ever since I ran across it, I simply couldn't stop. Thank you to the developer team, curators, admins, and thank you to all of the active community.

Posted by mythical_mold 2 months ago (Flag)
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Great Southern Bioblitz 2020 underway: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/great-southern-bioblitz-umbrella - What would we be doing without iNaturalist??

Posted by tonyrebelo 2 months ago (Flag)
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Great achievement! Would be cool to see the trend in the number of first observations for species over time (ie: the number of species each year that have their first iNat observation recorded).

Posted by friesen5000 2 months ago (Flag)
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Absolutely incredible. The millions of observations here will be like a virtual time capsule for future generations. But hopefully they won't be looking up extinct species in the generations to come if we also achieve our goal of conservation. William

Posted by williamwisephoto 2 months ago (Flag)
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South Africa now approaching our milestone of 1 million observations:

999,014 and counting. Probably within the hour ...

Posted by tonyrebelo 2 months ago (Flag)

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