Naturalist.org is one of the world's most popular nature apps for recording and sharing species observations. It's a joint initiative between the California Academy of Life Sciences and National Geographic and has grown steadily since 2008. It now has more than one million users globally.
The VAL began the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist in 2012. Currently, the collaborative project has over 1,400 members, with over 772,000 observations of 10,000+ species. Since the VAL on iNaturalist began, the VAL team has used iNaturalist for annual bioblitzes, engagement with community naturalists, and as the primary data collection platform for a number of wildlife atlas projects.
The key to iNaturalist's success is the unique combination of a passionate community and state-of-the-art machine learning technology to help people with species identification. Novice naturalists needing help with species identification benefit from both iNaturalist’s image recognition software and the expertise of the iNaturalist community – within hours of uploading an image, a novice can receive confirmation on species identification. People with expertise in a particular taxa can help identify observations, share their expertise and contribute to a global conversation. This drives two really great outcomes: connecting people with nature, and producing scientifically valid data.
iNaturalist has compatible vision and core values to VAL. An open data policy based on Creative Commons licensing encourages data sharing which reaps benefits for all kinds of scientific research - think taxonomy, ecology and artificial intelligence. Open source software development encourages innovation and infrastructure sustainability.
Finally, the internationalisation of their platform offers collaboration, networking and and risk mitigation opportunities similar to our own experience.
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