Avary, Conservation Assistant

Avary Uses iNaturalist

Hi! My name is Avary and I’m a summer student at Nature NB. I am writing to share what I’ve learned while using the iNaturalist app. Prior to this summer, I’d actually never heard of it! If you own a smartphone, you can easily download the iNaturalist app for free from the app store. Read on to discover how the app is used, what it is used for, and to hear about my own experience using it!

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is a social networking tool that compiles citizen science data from uploaded images and observations. It does this by using a community driven method of taxonomic identification and record validation. In order for an upload to be validated and considered accurate, it must be verified by at least two users other than yourself. While I was visiting Saskatchewan in summer 2021, I took a picture of a plant I saw, uploaded it, and selected the suggested identification of barley. A few days after uploading, two other users had reviewed my observation and corrected the identification to squirreltail. I thought this was pretty neat, and was excited to see other users checking out my observations. These observations can help a variety of conservation and scientific groups in their environmental work and data collection.

Who can use it?

Everyone! You don’t even have to be a species identification specialist to use the app! If you’re anything like me – a nature enthusiast who is still learning about local biodiversity – then you may not know all of the different species of plants and animals in your area. At first I was really intimidated by my lack of knowledge, so much so that prior to downloading iNaturalist I found an app to help me identify species. Little did I know, iNaturalist actually scans the image you upload and suggests a list of species that are found in your photo. Another cool feature is the use of a global map that displays where else in the world the species you observed has been documented on the app.

My personal experience

Another great feature of iNaturalist is that it gives you the opportunity to educate and familiarize yourself with the plants and animals that are found in your area. While I was at my local grocery store, I found a bee on the pavement of the parking lot. Thinking I would help the world in a small way by saving this bee, I moved it to a plant and took a picture of it. After uploading it to iNaturalist I found out it was not in fact a bee, but a species of hover fly. Thank you iNaturalist for teaching my something new!

Since I’ve downloaded the app, I’ve found that I’m more aware of my surroundings and that I have an increased curiosity for my local biodiversity. The app is so easy to use that it takes me less than a minute to snap a picture and upload it to iNaturalist to see the suggested identification. While I’m out and about during my day, I can take pictures of the things I see, and later when I’m home I can go on the app to check out what species I saw that day. I also think this would be an awesome way to engage kids in exploring their outside world while also providing an educational opportunity.

If you’re interested in downloading the app but not sure what you would use it for, you can check out a few New Brunswick projects on the app. There is the Monarchs and Milkweed in New Brunswick project which, as the name states, is used to observe and document sightings of Monarchs and milkweed in New Brunswick. There is also the WildPaths Maritimes project which monitors roadkill in Atlantic Canada in order to better inform future infrastructure and development.

Whether you’re an expert at species identification or only know the names of a few local bugs – using iNaturalist is pretty easy! I highly recommend it to anyone with a smartphone as it can be beneficial for data collection and also your own education. It only took me a few minutes to learn how to use the app, and now I find myself excited to identify the variety of species I come across day to day.

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