An Introduction to iNaturalist

using an app for ID

An introduction to recording your your plant and wildlife sightings and the Wild About Bath project on iNaturalist

When we see an animal or plant most of us tend to take a quick snapshot of it, especially if we don’t know what it is! Some like to keep a record of sightings, perhaps even uploading to the local regional environmental records centre, BRERC. Some recording schemes, such as the UK glow worm survey, use the iRecord platform to upload records online. These records are usually shared with the local regional environmental records centre as well. Why iNaturalist then? What is iNaturalist anyway?

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is a free website and app you can download onto your phone. It allows you to upload pictures and sound clips along with information for where and when you spotted your finding. It can help you identify what you have found as well, though it doesn’t always get it right! Luckily, your findings can be reviewed by other people, and there are many who can help you identify what you have found.

After uploading you might notice your record has been given a grade: casual, needs ID or research grade.  Casual means you are missing some information, like the date or location. Needs ID means it needs identification. Research grade means that your record has been correctly identified by multiple people. Your record can now enter the national database and be used for scientific purposes.  You can go back to your record and enter some more information, for example “evidence of presence” (e.g. if your sighting was from scat or footprints) or life stage.

Why should I bother with iNaturalist?

iNaturalist can be very helpful with identifying what you have found. Your uploads contribute towards a global dataset of biodiversity information, used for science and conservation. It allows you to see what other things have been seen in your local area as well. Some records have started to migrate over to other databases, such as iRecord and local regional environmental records centres, but don’t worry about duplicating records by adding them to multiple platforms: it’s better to have duplicate records than none at all.

Wild About Bath and iNaturalist

We have created our own project on iNaturalist. All sightings from the Monkton Combe, South Stoke and Combe Down regions are automatically added to the project. The Wild About Bath project will help us see exactly what is being recorded in our area and when, so sign up to iNaturalist and start snapping away!

Getting Started on iNaturalist

Either go to the iNaturalist website or download the app on your mobile phone by searching iNaturalist in your app store. Create an account and then you can start!  Both app and website are quite easy to use once you have got used to it, so have a play with it.  If you get stuck, you can find detailed instructions here, or feel free to contact us or ask on Facebook and we will try to help.

What else can we learn from iNaturalist?

Looking at the project, 1366 observations have been made so far. Of these 41.44% have been plants and 40.44 insects! The top 10 species spotted in the Wild About Bath region so far are:

(Imagine a drum roll…)

  1. Meadow Brown Butterfly (30 observations)
  2. Grey Squirrel (19 observations)
  3. Common Blue Butterfly (19 observations)
  4. Herb Robert (16 observations)
  5. Pyramidal Orchid (16 observations)
  6. Speckled Wood Butterfly (15 observations)
  7. European Robin (11 observations)
  8. Red Campion (9 observations)
  9. Ground Ivy (9 observations)
  10. Painted Lady Butterfly (8 observations)

You might think this means there are more meadow brown butterflies than the common wasp (1 observation), more pyramidal orchids than dandelions (0 observations), or more robins than blue tits (1 observation). It’s not very good at telling us how common things are in our little patch of the UK. It does suggest that perhaps people tend to notice and record things that aren’t common sightings for them. It does, however, tell us what is in our area:  Orchids (at least three species), wasp spiders, fallow deer, bears breeches (what a fantastic name for a beautiful flowering plant) and much more!

We hope you will join up too, it will be interesting to see how the statistics and top 10 change over the year.

Nicrophorus vespillo - Vespillo burying beetle
European hedgehog
Common brown frog or European grass frog (Rana temporaria) in a stream with young offspring.

By Cat Baker

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