Resources

How to use iNaturalist

Getting Location Data

  • Here’s a video from the iNaturalist team on geotagging your photos in the field

Identifying Observations

  • Article or video on identifying other people’s observations

Resources for Educators

  • Education toolkit from the CNC education working group. This has great info for teachers including detailed plans for integrating iNaturalist and the CNC into your curriculum.
  • Teacher’s Guide to using iNaturalist

FAQs

 

  • What kind of observations should I add?

You can add photos or sound recordings on any wild thing – animal, plant or fungi. If you add any captive or cultivated organisms, make sure you tag it as Captive/Cultivated though. You can also add any evidence of the organism. This includes tracks, scat, shells, even a tree that has been gnawed by a beaver! When you make an observation, it needs to have a location and a date as well otherwise it won’t count.

  • Do I need to join the project for my observations to be counted? 

No, all observations made during the CNC within our area will automatically be aggregated into the project. You can still join the project to get updates and you will also see that your observation is part of the project if you join. But joining the project is not necessary and you won’t be able to add your observation to the project manually since it is a ‘Collection’ type project. 

  • I don’t see my observations on the project page. Now what?

Because of the large volume of data being entered during the CNC, it might take a while for your observation to be added to the project. You can also make sure that the dates and locations on you observation are correct. This is especially important if you are close to the border of our area. If the location is wrong, you can go back in and edit your location to the correct spot. 

  • Do plants in my garden count towards the CNC?

The goal of iNaturalist is to record wild organisms, so the focus for the City Nature Challenge is on wild organisms as well. But plants in your garden or street trees count towards the total number of observations for the CNC, but be sure mark them as captive/cultivated when you upload your observations. It’s more fun to find wild organisms and that’s what contributes to scientific research, so that’s what we want to emphasize.

  • How do I mark something as captive or cultivated?

When you upload your observations, there is an option to mark it as captive or cultivated in both the mobile apps and the website. You can also do so after uploading by clicking the “thumbs down” next to “Organism is wild?” in the Data Quality Assessment section at the bottom of the observation page on the website. Or on the mobile app, click on the pencil to edit the observation and check the box for captive/cultivated. 

  • I don’t know if something is captive or cultivated. What do I do?

If an animal is in a zoo or someone’s pet, it is captive. It’s a little harder for plants. If you know that the plant has been planted, it is cultivated. If it’s a weed or growing wild, it isn’t. Sometimes, it’s not always easy to tell, so use your best judgment. For example, if a plant pops up in places where it was not originally planted but came from a planted specimen, is it wild? Things like distance from parent plant, if it survives on it’s own without any human intervention, etc, can be used to make that call. 

  • What do Needs ID, Research Grade, and Casual mean?

An observation with a photo or audio recording will be in the ‘Needs ID’ state if it has a date, a location and is not captive or cultivated. The status will move to ‘Research Grade’ if more than 2/3 of identifiers agree on a taxon that is species level or lower. All other observations are Casual. Our goal is to get as many Research grade observations as possible, but ‘Needs ID’ observations will still count towards our totals.

  • Can I add multiple species to an observation?

If you have more than one species in a photo, just add a new observation with the same photo.

  • What if I don’t know what I saw?

That’s not a problem, just upload it to iNaturalist anyway. You can just pick the lowest level taxon you know. If you know it’s a plant, just pick that from the list. If you aren’t sure if the insect you saw is a fly or a bee, that’s okay, you can just choose insect. Other iNaturalist users can then help you identify what you saw.

  • What can I do it I cannot attend one of the scheduled events?

You can go out on our own armed with your phone or camera and upload your observations to iNaturalist. As long as it is within our challenge area and during the dates of the CNC, they will count towards Philly’s total. And if you cannot go out to a park, you can go out to your backyard and post observations of what you see there.

  • Do I need to upload all my observations by Monday, April 29th 11.59 pm?

No! As long as the observations are made by April 29th, 11:59pm, you can upload them all until May 6th 9am. It’s better to add them as soon as you can though, because that will help focus efforts on species we still need. And the earlier you upload them, the better the chances that they will get ID’d by the May 6th deadline. 

  • Do observations have to be research grade for it to count?

No, the observations can be Research Grade, Needs ID or Casual for it to count. The results will be sliced and diced multiple ways though, so there is a category for most Verifiable observations (either Research Grade or Needs ID) and another for most Research Grade observations. 

  • Can I upload ebird checklists?

Yes! They will not be verifiable or become research grade because there is no picture or audio recording, but it will still count towards our overall total. It’s not straightforward to upload an ebird checklist to iNat though and there are some steps to follow (you can also email your csv file to phillycncebird@gmail.com):

    • Go to your checklist on ebird, and in the Checklist Tools dropdown, select Download. 
    • This will download a CSV file to your computer. Open it using Excel or some similar tool and edit it to match the format specified here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/import#csv_import. This needs to be followed exactly or the upload will fail. 

  • Can I add sounds to iNaturalist?

Yes! Check this tutorial for the steps involved. 

  • How do I help ID observations?

You don’t need to ID everything down to species. Try to bucket observations into smaller and smaller buckets. If something is marked unknown, try to bucket it to plants, insects, mammals, fungi, etc. If you know that an insect is a beetle, mark it as beetles. If you know it is a tiger beetle then pick that and so on. You can also filter by your area of expertise, beetles for example, by typing ‘Beetles’ in the species box. To maximize the number of species we have, there are some strategies to follow:

    1. First ID all the Unknown observations
    2. Then ID all observations to that have an ID level of family or higher.
    3. Once that is done, you can ID everything that have an ID already to get them to research grade. 

  • What do I do if I find an injured animal during the bioblitz?

The Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center is a non-profit, wildlife rehabilitation organization and a Philly CNC partner. If you have an injured or orphaned animal that needs help, you can bring it to the center located at 400 E Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia 19406 between 10 am and 4pm, seven days a week. If you are not sure that it is injured or orphaned (just because a fledgling is on the ground, doesn’t mean it is injured or orphaned), you can use this nifty little tool to find out: https://www.phillywildlife.org/found-an-injured-animal

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