iNaturalist 101

A step-by-step guide for using iNaturalist

Find it . Record it . Share it

Plants

Petals, leaves, stem and base.

Trees
Shrubs

Close-ups of the bark and leaves, wide shot of the whole plant.

Mushrooms

Underside, top and sides.

Snails

Shell opening and both sides of the shell (if you can without disturbing them!).

Mollusks

Hinge where the two shell halves meet and inside the shell if it's empty.

Dragonflies

Side shots are best with a close-up of the tail. From above if it has a distinctive wing pattern.

Bugs
Beetles
Crabs
Spiders

From above and from the front to show mouthparts or claws.

Small Organisms

Include an object in the photo to help show size. This could be as simple as your hand, lens cap, or a pencil.

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is a powerful, trusted mobile phone app and website used around the world to crowdsource observations of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms. Users upload photos of observations and iNaturalist’s image recognition software suggests the identity of the organism. A community of keen amateur naturalists called “identifiers” then confirm the identity of documented species, helping correct any errors and verify observations to make them "Research Grade."

To start...

Download the iNaturalist app (Google Play, App Store) onto your mobile device and register for a free account or register on the iNaturalist.ca website.

The Seek by iNaturalist app is a great tool for identifying any organisms you observe, and photos can be shared directly to iNaturalist from Seek.

You'd also need a smartphone or camera to capture your observations and a smartphone or computer to upload photos or sound recordings to your iNaturalist account.

How to Make & Record an Observation

Step 1: Get your smartphone or camera ready

Turn on your location services or GPS function. If your camera is not have GPS-enabled, make note of where you’re collecting information.

Step 2: Make an observation

Take photos of wild organisms: plants, animals, fungi or other signs of life such as a nest or tracks. Take multiple photos of each find with different features, from different angles, and with close-up and wide-angle shots. Refer to our photography guide for more tips! You can also record birdcalls and upload those as your observation. Any observations you make within BC's provincial parks are automatically included in the BC Parks iNaturalist Project!

Step 3: Upload your observation

Use the iNaturalist app on your mobile device or iNaturalist.ca. The app is great for on-the-spot uploads and identification, whereas the website makes it easy to upload multiple photos and observations at once. Fill in details of the observation yourself or choose from iNaturalist’s suggestions. Don’t know what you’re looking at? iNaturalist will offer a suggested identification or you can use the Seek by iNaturalist app. Otherwise, choose a broader group such as “mosses” or “butterflies.” This helps the iNaturalist community find and identify your observation.

Step 4: Share your observation

Upload your photos or recordings through the app or website. If you don’t have internet access you can still save your observation to your app’s account and upload it later.

Step 5: Revisit previous observations to see their progress

Your uploaded and submitted observations are automatically shared with the iNaturalist community. Other community scientists can comment on your observations, confirm what you saw, and provide identification suggestions. You can be notified of this activity on your account or through email notifications.

For a chance to be featured in the BC Parks Foundation e-newsletter or on our social media channels, post your observations on Instagram or Facebook and tag @bcnaturechallenge and #iNaturalistBC - after you upload them to the iNaturalist app or website, of course!

Best practices

Try not to disturb the organism or go off-trail while taking photos. Give wildlife their space.

Let wildlife feed themselves. Never use food as an attractant for photos.

Do not go into ecologically sensitive areas or unsafe terrain to try and capture an observation.

Try not to touch the organism. It can stress them and lotions and sunscreen can be toxic.

Fill your camera view with the organism or crop the image before uploading so identifiers can see details clearly.

More Fun with iNaturalist

Challenge Other Nature Enthusiasts

Get your friends, family, peers and/or colleagues to sign up for an iNaturalist account. See who makes the most nature observations in a day, week, or month!

Download one of our iNaturalist bingo cards and see who gets "Bingo!" or fills out their card the fastest.

Organize a Bioblitz for your favorite park or nature area or based on a theme (e.g., pollinators in spring) and see who makes the most observations or finds the greatest number of species.