Looking for help online to identify unusual flora and fauna? Apps aplenty exist but consider iNaturalist.ca because there are underlying benefits!
iNaturalist.ca helps users identify terrestrial organisms by connecting to online “experts” able to identify and provide information to users but there’s an underlying secondary benefit: Researchers, institutions, and active research projects can set up Lists and access observations within iNaturalist.ca. This is citizen science in action!
“Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed”, to quote from iNaturalist.ca’s webpage.
Here’s how Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who are already using and accessing valuable data from this resource to aid in the early detection of invasive species.
What’s best – iNaturalist.ca OR iNaturalist.com? Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the team that focuses on the detection of invasive species generally recommends iNaturalist.ca because it allows Canadians better access to Canadian experts and Canadian data.
Is iNaturalist.ca worth using to identify unknown insects encountered in field crops? iNaturalist.ca is going to be the leader in early detections and is a fairly intuitive and usable tool for everyone. It’s not perfect for all organisms but works well for many. CFIA staff are actively monitoring it and, in the near future, CFIA hopes to set up an account that might allow users to flag observations for their team to see more rapidly.
How does CFIA mine iNaturalist and what is the value? CFIA uses a script through the Intauralist API to query for any mentions of our targeted list under the project here: Important Pest Species List for Canada – Lookout · iNaturalist. CFIA staff members receive a daily email of all the target list mentions (i.e., includes insects, plants, and mollusks). In order to increase early detections, CFIA’s also trying to retrieve data from comments such as when someone mentions a new record or new detection. At this point, only a few pathogens are listed in our pest lookout because many of CFIA’s regulated pests would need more than a picture (so we didn’t add them). CFIA staff believe iNaturalist.ca is a great tool for early detection because the number of observations is very large and growing like crazy AND they are geographically widespread.
The basic steps to get you going are:
◦ Create an account at iNaturalist.ca (https://inaturalist.ca/signup).
◦ Watch your Inbox for a basic how-to guide.
◦ Upload photos or videos (e.g., bird calls) to create an “Observation”.
◦ iNaturalist subscribers considered to be experts will help identify your observation.