What is it

iNaturalist is a lot of different things, but at its core,

iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature

It's also a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. You can use it to record your own observations, get help with identifications, collaborate with others to collect this kind of information for a common purpose, or access the observational data collected by iNaturalist users.

However, despite the fact that iNat can be a bit technical and seems scientific, our primary goal in operating iNaturalist is to connect people to nature, and by that we mean getting people to feel that the non-human world has personal significance, and is worth protecting. We have a pretty nerdy way of doing that, of course, but we really believe that recording information about nature in a social context is a tremendous way to understand the awesome depth and breadth of life on Earth.

Our secondary goal is to generate scientifically valuable biodiversity data from these personal encounters. We believe iNat can achieve both of these goals simultaneously - in fact that they reinforce one another - but when we get pulled in conflicting directions, we measure success by our primary goal. If we connect people to nature without contributing to any specific scientific outcomes or quantifiable conservation results, then we're still doing our job, but if we just contribute to science without helping people care about the natural world, we’ll be on the wrong track.

Since people occasionally misunderstand iNat's purpose, here are some things iNaturalist is not:

It's NOT a science project

The data generated by the iNat community could be used in science and conservation, and we actively try to distribute the data in venues where scientists and land managers can find it, but we do not have any scientific agenda of our own aside from helping to map where and when species occur. That being said, iNat is a platform for biodiversity research, where anyone can start up their own science project with a specific purpose and collaborate with other observers.

It's NOT a way to backup your photos

We resize and reprocess all the photos directly uploaded to iNat. And while we do archive photos from 3rd party services like Flickr and Facebook, do not rely on us to keep the original information in photos you add to iNat. Maintain good backups on your own hardware, or use one of the many cloud-based backup solutions out there.

It's NOT a tool for mapping anything

It's not even here to map all ecological phenomena, like rocks, trash, water features, etc. iNaturalist is for recording observations of individual living things, particularly things that can be tied to a species name. It's certainly not here to map your friends, celebrities, curious-looking garden gnomes, etc. We're personally rather fond of curious-looking garden gnomes, but that's a subject for a different website. If you're interested in those kinds of things, try a photo-sharing site (many of them include maps), Open Data Kit, or another mapping platform.

It's NOT a way to collect secret information

iNat is fundamentally about sharing information. If law, local policy, or the particularities of your project require that you keep information hidden from public view, iNaturalist is probably not the platform for you. We do perform some limited obfuscation of coordinates where threatened species are concerned, and if that's enough for you, great, but if you need more secrecy, seek out a different platform. We totally understand these needs, but we can't be a tool for everyone.

Revised on April 02, 2016 02:58 AM by loarie loarie
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