iNaturalist.org and the iNaturalist app are resources for anyone who has interest in finding out more about what’s out there in the natural world. Their database is a collection of observations of any species encountered on Earth, and is both searchable by the curious nature enthusiast and a scientist conducting legitimate research.
Anyone can contribute observations, which get tagged with when and where they came from. Once they are submitted, other iNaturalist users look over the data and help narrow down possibilities, until (hopefully) the species in the photo or sound recording is identified and agreed on. Any user can submit observations or help identify the taxonomy of others’. iNaturalist has an extensive glossary of species from fungi to plants to animals and more to aid in identification or just to bulk up on your ecological knowledge. Right here in Burlington, it is possible to search the database of observations to find what species have been spotted in the city, or even in a given natural area like Derway Island at the end of North Avenue.
For a given area, a species list of every observation can be found and filtered for whatever your interests are: birds, invasive species, research-grade observations, or sightings made in the past month. See an excerpt from the Derway Island species list below:
iNaturalist can not only help you find out what you have seen, but can help you know what to look for. As a “community scientist” tool, iNaturalist has become incredibly valuable for research by countless institutions. For example, organizations like Burlington Wildways can find out where wildlife corridors are from observation maps so that we can advocate to preserve and enhance important connections between fragmented natural areas.
Enhancing biodiversity is one of the most significant goals we can strive for to help ecosystems adapt in our changing climate. By using iNaturalist, you can be a part of a worldwide network of people tracking the health of natural communities while enjoying the excitement of discovery of the plethora of life on Earth!
More example maps follow: