As we study the wildlife of the Old Forest, we use the free iNaturalist web platform. It’s available on your desktop or mobile device, and it’s like a social network for science. In other words, you can upload photographs of anything you see in nature–a bird, a flower, a mushroom–and a community of users from around the world will help you identify it.
With iNaturalist, not only are you learning about the world around you, you’re helping the world learn about what’s in your backyard. The data can be used by scientists and researchers to track all sorts of things (like bird migration patterns).
iNaturalist can seem a little intimidating at first, but only because the software does so much! We’ll focus on how to get the app and start recording your observations.
There are several ways to use the software, and you can link your accounts across multiple devices.
- Download iNaturalist for an Apple device
- Download iNaturalist for an Android device
- Sign up for an account online (you can link it to other social networking accounts)
Taking Good Photos
Since we’re asking people to identify organisms based only on photos, we need to provide as much information as possible. Try to get multiple angles of an organism: a side view, a top view, a view from the front and back, etc. (For mushrooms, it’s most important to get a photo from underneath!) If you can only get a single photo, make it a photo that shows the largest amount of the organism possible.
Start Making Observations
iNaturalist has a great tutorial on how to use each of these devices to make your observations. We’d recommend reading that page to learn about your specific device. But here are the basic steps:
- Take a photo (or several) of the organism
- While logged into iNaturalist, click/tap “Observe” or “Add” (depending on your device)
- Add your photos to the observation
- If you’re on a mobile device, the date and time should load automatically; if you’re on a browser, add the date of your observation
- If you know what you’ve observed “e.g., “American robin,” you can type that name into the observation box. If all you know is that it was a bird, type “Birds” into the box. If you don’t know anything about it at all, check the “Help Me ID this Species” or “ID Please” box to ask the community for help.
- If you’re on a mobile device, your location should load automatically; on a browser, type “Overton Park, TN, US.” You can move the pin around on the map to be even more precise.
- Tap/click “Save.”
- Check back later to see what the community has said about your observation, and learn the identity of your organism!
How do I see all the observations from Overton Park?
Glad you asked! Any “research grade” observation (that means two or more people have agreed on an identity for that organism) will automatically be added to the Overton Park checklist.
We may never know all there is to know about the Old Forest, but with iNaturalist, we’re getting much closer. AND we’re making that information available to anyone who wants to learn!