Using iNaturalist to record wildlife during City Nature Challenge 2023

6th March 2023

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is an online community for nature lovers where you can record your own wildlife observations and get help from a global community to identify them. The recorded findings are available and usable by researchers, authorities and anyone interested in nature, helping conservation efforts across the UK and the world!

Using the free iNaturalist app, you can upload your photos or sounds of nature to help monitor and identify wildlife existing in a specific area. You don't have to be an expert to submit a record on the app! Its algorithm and network of identifiers can help you identify your sighting if you're not sure.

For a step-by-step guide on how to use iNaturalist to record wildlife sightings click here.

Or find out how to make an observation using iNaturalist in the video below:

Join a free iNaturalist training event

Learn some handy tips on how to record wildlife using the free iNaturalist app. You can then use your new skills to record nature sightings during the City Nature Challenge weekend! Make sure to download iNaturalist onto your smartphone or tablet device before joining the online session.

Online training event: Monday 17th April 6:30 - 7:15pm GMT

Online training event: Tuesday 18th April 12:00 - 1:00pm GMT

Bristol in-person training event: Tuesday 18th April 6:00 - 7:00pm GMT

Bath in-person training event: Wednesday 19th April 6:00 - 7:00pm GMT

Tips and advice for using iNaturalist

1. If the focus of your observation is far away, crop your photo in closer before uploading it. As long as it maintains the quality of the image, this can be helpful for the app or another user to identify the species.

2. When you're uploading your observation, make sure to hit the "what did you see" button and choose the closest match, even if you think its wrong - by directing it towards the right family of animals/plants, it will often mean you get a quicker ID from online experts.

3. Don't be shy to ask for identification help from the iNaturalist community - if you can see someone is a keen identifier, you could send them a message and ask for their thoughts on your observation.

4. Make sure that Location in Settings is set to allow location data/allow meta data on this app, (and for photos if you're selecting photos from gallery on your phone). This will save you time as you won't need to put time, date and location every time you upload an observation.

5. Take up to four or five photos of each species sighting. You can upload more than one image to each record and this helps a lot with identification, especially if you've captured different angles and parts of a species e.g. on a tree photographing the bark, leaf and flower.

6. Include as much contextual information as you can on your upload details to help others accurately identify what you found e.g., terrain, habitat, magnification level, environment, habitat.

7. If you find you keep getting blurry photos when taking pictures using the iNaturalist camera, take the photo in normal camera mode on your phone and then "upload image" on the app rather than "take image".

8. Don't be shy recording and uploading observations even if you don't think of it as a 'special', 'unique' or 'useful' sighting - it probably is to someone! All records of different species are important if they can reach Research Grade.

9. To make sure that scientists and conservationists are permitted to use your wildlife data records, you will need to check your iNaturalist default licence settings are set up correctly. Go to "Settings", scroll down and click "Default Licenses". To change your observation licence, click on the licence and select the licence you want for your record. We recommend "CC0" or "CC-BY".

City Nature Challenge is an annual global event to collect as much wildlife data as possible on iNaturalist over four days in spring. This year, the challenge takes place between 28th April and 1st May. City Nature Challenge International is organised by the California Academy of Sciences and Natural History Museum Los Angeles County. The Bristol-based charity The Natural History Consortium are supporting City Nature Challenge UK activity and leading on West of England region efforts.