Citizen Science: iNaturalist and Seek


Going outside to explore the natural world helps me. Lately I have been thrilled to discover that I can also help in a small way by sharing what I see on the iNaturalist app. This app from National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences brings all the tiny observations made by an enormous number of curious people into one place where it becomes scientific data.

I started using iNaturalist on a friend's recommendation to learn the names of the plants and animals that I see. The app is free, easy to use and entertaining, but does have a social media type aspect that requires that you log in. It is available for apple and android devices or desktop computers. Then you share pictures from your phone camera or uploaded from your camera with location and time that you made the observation. You can also add notes about what you saw.

When you take a picture in the app or upload one from your camera the app will offer some possible identifications. You can select one that seems to match or post your observation as unidentified. After posting your observations other interested people either agree with the observation or offer something different. I only look at my account every week or so, but it is inevitably interesting! I may never be an insect expert, but now I am becoming a little more clear on some of the various pollinators in the neighborhood!

The social media aspect of iNaturalist makes this app inappropriate for young children or people who avoid social media! Children under age 13 should use the Seek app from iNaturalist. Just like iNaturalist Seek will suggest identifications for species observed with your camera, but it will not provide your observations to other citizen scientists.