Reviewed by Ana Ka’Ahanui
As naturalists, we have many tools out there to help us record, learn and share information about the nature we love. One of my favorite tools is a free app called iNaturalist, aka iNat, available for iPhone and Android. Easy to navigate and with a simple interface, the app makes recording my nature observations on hikes and other outings fast and painless. After snapping a few photos and entering some basic information, I can share my findings on iNaturalist and its community of over 575,000 users worldwide.
You don’t have to be an expert to use it because one of iNat’s nifty features is crowdsourcing identifications. Not sure of that bird you just posted about? No problem! iNat bird lovers and ornithologists can see your post and help you out by suggesting an ID. The more people that validate your finding, “Yes, that’s an Eastern Bluebird!,” the faster your observation becomes “research grade.” So why not become a citizen scientist and share info about the kinds of critters you love? Your findings can be added to almost 7.7 million observations and over 140,000 observed species. Not only will you be contributing to science, you’ll be helping to map out our region’s biodiversity.
While I enjoy using iNat to keep track of my personal observations, I also love using it for local bioblitzes and events such as the City Nature Challenge, a friendly annual contest among cities to record the most nature over a 4-day period. I encourage you to download the app and practice making observations before the next City Nature Challenge, which runs from Friday, 27 April through Monday, 30 April. The national capital area is competing against over 60 other cities around the country and the world to make the most observations, identify the most species, and recruit the most volunteers. With your help, we can put the DC metro area, including 15 counties in Northern Virginia, at the top of the leader board!