iNaturalist provides a place to record and organize nature findings, meet other nature enthusiasts, and learn about the natural world.
Language: English / French / Hebrew / Italian / Japanese / Portuguese / Español / Swedish / Galician / Basque / Catalan
Runs offline: partially
Last update: Android 12/06/2017 (v. 1.6.0) – iOS 30/06/2017 (v. 2.7)
- In order to clarify erroneous or bad concepts explained, in addition to the corrections made on this article on 19/10/2015 (the original text is shown crossed out), a new article in relation to the application iNaturalist has been drafted.
- Article updated on 10/07/2017
iNaturalist is an open source field notebook to install on the smartphone and record sightings of insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, plants, birds, mushrooms, shellfish, etc. (on the website you can find the different groups).
To use this field diary is necessary to open an account. You can register through social networks profiles like Facebook or Google +, or through an email account and a password.
One of the features of this application is that sightings must be assigned to a specific data collection project (the choice of a project is optional). Regarding to internet, to choose the project, synchronize and consult the guides, a connection is required. The forms can be customized according to the requirements of the project, although this task must be performed from the web version (it has not been possible to check if these forms are synchronized in the mobile version).
The application consists of 6 sections:
- “Explore”, to access to the registered observations and consult the appropriate datasheets.
- “Projects”, to select the data repository in which you want to upload your sightings. You can search projects based on your location or by the name of the initiative.
- “Guides”, with information to identify the different species. Their datasheets can be used to fill out some fields of the forms. The web app also allows you to create your own identification keys that after can be shared with the community.
- “Activity”, in which you have the option to receive updates and consult, for example, the observations of the week.
- The option “Missions” shows recommendations of what to look around you.
- “Settings”, to choose, among other options, the language and the iNaturalist network to collaborate.
The “My Observations” section is loaded by default when you start the application (you can also access this section by clicking on the arrow that appears in the user profile). In this way, you can access a form to fill out data such as species name, coordinates (public or private depending on the user and/or threat of taxon), description, date and time. You can also select the option to request help from the community to identify a specimen. Is no necessary to register the animal itself, because the signs of its presence are also valid (footprints, droppings, etc.).
It should also be mentioned that in the version for iOS devices and starting with version 2.7 a computer vision system that automatically offers identification suggestions is being implemented
Images: Screenshots 14/04/2017. ©iNaturalist
INaturalist is maybe one of the oldest applications related with citizen science. Launched in 2008, it exceeded one million of worldwide registers in autumn 2014, as National Geographic collected on its website.
One of its main strengths is the community of enthusiasts and experts in nature that has been woven around the application. This is a social network in which the so-called “curators” play a fundamental role in providing advice and knowledge for the correct identification of the different species. Regarding the negative aspects, perhaps a sense of disorder is perceived in the data collected. One of the causes can be the difference between the forms of the mobile application and the web version. Equally, they are lacking aspects such as a protocol in the denomination of projects, more filters to find relevant initiatives (depending on the animal group, for example), cleaning of abandoned projects or tutorials in Spanish.
Although the quality of the data is insufficient for scientific use (in the comments, some persons indicate that the information compiled can have a scientific use, affirmation that Greenapps&Web recognizes like true, although it is considered that the validity of this information will be determined to a great extent by the existence of a specific methodology to collect data), the collected information can provide relevant evidences about species distribution, for example. It is a tool to discover the nature whose use should be strengthened in areas such as education.