Of interest to very few

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:

Here are links to a sampling of published papers about scientific use of iNat:

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.

Citizen science project

Another worthy citizen science project…. Here in New England, the Native Plant Trust trains people to be Plant Conservation Volunteers (PCVs) for the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP):

“PCVs support professional botanists and State Heritage Programs by gathering vital data in the field. Across the six states of New England, PCVs conduct field monitoring, seed collection, and habitat management. PCVs now number in the hundreds, but as native plant habitats face mounting stresses, we need even more passionate volunteers to help save New England’s native plants.”

“Newt Patrol”

Here’s an interesting citizen science project….

“The Newt Patrol is a group of citizen scientists in the South Bay. We have been surveying newt roadkills near Lexington Reservoir since 2017. We have documented over 10,000 dead newts so far, representing one of the highest rates of amphibian roadkill mortality known worldwide. This project aims to raise awareness of this problem and provide a rigorous database that could be used by the authorities to implement mitigation measures.”

You can see their Web site here.


Tonight was the first class in the California Naturalist course I’m taking, a course offered by a local nonprofit, Grassroots Ecology, and University of California Agriculture and Renewable Resources.

Tonight I learned that we’ll be participating in “Nature’s Notebook,” a citizen science project of the USA National Phenology Network, in cooperation with the US Geological survey. The Web site says, “Nature’s Notebook gathers information on plant and animal phenology across the U.S. to be used for decision-making on local, national and global scales to ensure the continued vitality of our environment.”

Put into plain English — With global climate change, spring arrives earlier and winter starts later. Ordinary people like you and me can help gather data on these changes by observing key species of animals and plants. They make it easy; you submit your observations using either a smartphone app or a Web site.

And I learned a new word, phenology, which the OED defines as “the study of times of recurring natural phenomena.”