What started in 2008 as a final project for a couple of graduate students at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, has since evolved into a mainstream social network for nature with hundreds of thousands of users around the world. iNaturalist, now a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, works to intensify the connection between people and the environment, while simultaneously generating valuable scientific data on biodiversity. Via their webpage or smartphone app, iNaturalist is easily accessible and user-friendly.
How does it work? First, download the free app or log on to your computer and create an account. Then, start observing organisms around you! As you upload photos to record your observations and track your encounters, you can connect with expert naturalists who can identify species you are not familiar with.
iNaturalist provides a fun and interactive way to expand your knowledge of the natural world as you connect and share with other users. Through this network, you are also contributing to citizen science. Your personal observations are creating biodiversity data useful to scientists and resource managers worldwide. iNaturalist shares your findings with scientific data networks like the international Global Biodiversity Information Facility – providing data access to anyone, anywhere. Citizen science is increasingly beneficial, as it capitalizes on modern technology to help further scientific research and increase innovation.
Who is using it? All types of people. Researchers are accessing convenient and valuable data. Educators are capturing students’ attention by engaging them in science through mobile technology. Your everyday explorers of the wild are turning over every leaf and log for another observation, eager to engage in citizen science. From amateurs to experts, iNaturalist is connecting the world to nature.
In fact, iNaturalist is doing a little more than simply “connecting the world to nature”. The breadth of this initiative is more than just putting names to faces for the user. Here, the connection is more significant. By engaging people with nature, inciting human curiosity, and cultivating knowledge of life on Earth, the goal of iNaturalist is to accentuate the significance of the natural world. In doing so, people are inspired to recognize the worth of the natural world.
Are you recording your encounters with nature?
Have you ever participated in a citizen science project?