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It’s a Bird, It’s a Bug… It’s CITIZEN SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!

iNaturalist is the brainchild of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda. They originally came up with the idea for the website during their senior master’s project at UC Berkeley in 2008. A few years later, the California Academy of Sciences became involved, and from there the site and corresponding phone app have blossomed into one of the biggest citizen science research platforms in the country. From hikers and mountain climbers to beach bums and birdwatchers, anyone can be a naturalist. All you have to do is take a photo and upload it for the waiting scientists and researchers in the iNaturalist community! Just like that, you can go from being a normal person to a Citizen Scientist – documenting data one photo at a time.

“If enough people recorded their observations, it would be like a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers could use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone could use to learn more about nature.” Scientists are gathering data every day about what species are living where, tracking population counts and migrations. iNaturalist is a social media platform designed to help researchers gather data in locations they might not normally be able to get to — private property, remote areas, etc. iNaturalist helps to record the biodiversity in areas, the various plant, insect, wildlife forms that exist within particular boundaries. The primary goal of the site, though, is to connect more people with nature and get them outdoors and excited about what could be living in more than just their backyard.

We make observations about the world around us every day, but do we really look at what we’re seeing? We might see a wildflower, and think “that’s pretty”. But did you ever think you could be the one to identify the species of that flower, and give the local science community a data point to add to their research? Snap a photo, upload it to an app, and get an ID on the bug or plant or animal that’s in the photo. Pretty easy, right? If you don’t know what species an insect, plant, or animal photo is when you upload it, don’t worry! Just give the most detail you can and label it as “insect”, “butterfly”, etc., and that will help direct scientists or hobbyist naturalists who are identifying other photos on the site. They’ll help ID it for you, and then that information will get sent to the California Academy of Science.

Anyone with a smartphone or a computer with access to the internet can use iNaturalist! The app for your phone is free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, just look for the little green bird icon. Download it, and get started on your first photoshoot as a citizen science – there’s a whole world of nature out there to explore!

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