FIU@Home: Explore iNaturalist

Written by Analisa Duran
April 2, 2020


As any good explorer knows, new discoveries can be found around any corner. With tools like iNaturalist, anyone anywhere can record their observations and contribute to biodiversity science – all from your own backyard.

iNaturalist is an application that can be used on the web or through a mobile app. Whether uploading a single observation or hundreds, each contribution becomes part of a larger initiative led by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.


Identifying wildlife through iNaturalist can be done in 3 easy steps:

  1. Download iNaturalist
  2. Go outside and find a plant or animal
  3. Make an observation by snapping a photo

Not sure of what to look for? No problem! Use this guide to better understand what kind of plants, insects and birds may be around.


Findings gathered through iNaturalist become part of scientific data repositories so that other scientists can use it to help them answer questions, solve problems and create solutions.

Each year, using iNaturalist, hundreds of cities around the world come together for the City Nature Challenge to document the special features of their native habitats. The City Nature Challenge was started in 2016 by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences.

For two of the last four years, the FIU College of Arts, Sciences & Education along with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Science Museum and Mountain to Sea Education has hosted the event in South Florida.

In 2019, more than 35,000 people participated, over 963,000 observations were made, 31,000 species were found and 1,100 rare/endangered/threatened species were documented in more than 100 cities around the world during City Nature Challenge weekend.

Due to COVID-19, the competition was turned into a celebration of nature in 2020. While no physical events were held, citizen scientists connected digitally through social media – and iNaturalist – to share findings from neighborhoods to back yards to balconies.

Getting outside of the house and connecting with nature can be a healing and learning experience. Parents and teachers who are looking for something to do with children can use the City Nature Challenge Educators Toolkit. It provides lesson plans, activities and “How-to’s” for iNaturalist and the City Nature Challenge.

Using iNaturalist? Encourage others to join you by posting about it on social media – don’t forget to tag @FIUCASE!

There’s so much waiting to be found right outside the back door. Whether in the yard or around the neighborhood, go on an expedition to complete missions grounded in the science that exists all around. Follow FIU@Home on CASE News for more backyard science.