I use the iNaturalist app regularly. Its developers call it “social media for naturalists.” But iNaturalist (called “iNat” for short) is also used by scientists to gather data. I’m interested in how iNat is both social media, and citizen science / participatory science. With that in mind:
- Published scientific papers that use iNat data, 2022 and 2023
- Published scientific papers that use iNat data, 2020 and 2021
- Published scientific papers that use iNat data, 2019 and earlier
- Published scientific papers that use GBIF data (including iNat data)
Here are links to a sampling of published papers about scientific use of iNat:
- “The benefits of contributing to the science platform iNaturalist as an identifier” — the use of iNat for biodiversity research
- “The rapid expansion of the jumping snail Ovachlamys fulgens in Brazil” — one of dozens of papers tracking invasive species with iNat
- “Students as citizen scientists: project-based learning through the iNaturalist platform could provide useful biodiversity data” — using iNat to engage students in meaningful data collection
- “Climate drives anuran breeding phenology in a continental perspective as revealed by citizen-collected data” — using iNat to study the impacts of climate change, through observations of phenology
Also of interest: “Assessing the accuracy of free automated plant identification applications.” It’s not clear whether this paper assessed the full iNaturalist app, or Seek by iNaturalist. The Seek app uses only machine identification, while the iNaturalist app also includes human review of machine identifications. Regarding this paper, one of iNaturalist’s developers writes (on the iNat Forum), “…their descriptions of it sound more like the iNaturalist app, not Seek by iNaturalist.” Either way, it looks like iNat provides excellent identification.
Finally, iNat users have the option of choosing several licenses when uploading photographs, ranging from full copyright protection through Creative Commons licenses, to public domain. But choosing full copyright protection means that scientists are not able to use the uploaded iNat data. Therefore, if you want to do participatory science using iNat, you need to choose a license that allows your observations to be translated to the GBIF standard. Public domain up to Creative Commons BY-NC licenses can be translated to GBIF.