Amateur biologists, unite! iNaturalist makes citizen science as easy as sharing a photo

Just a sample of the biodiversity being recorded on the College’s iNaturalist project page

Have you ever been walking around New Paltz, spotted a unique plant or animal, and wondered what it was? If so, the SUNY New Paltz Biodiversity Initiative has the app for you!

iNaturalist is an online global citizen science project: An interactive platform for recording the creatures that live all around us, in our forests, farms, towns and backyards.

Using iNaturalist is easy – you can either download the free app to your device from your app store of choice, or go to using a browser and create an account from there.

Once you have an account, here’s how it works:

  • Observe wild species of all kinds – birds, plants, fungi, fish, bugs, lichen, known and unknown – take a photo, and post it using the iNaturalist app
  • Our community of human experts will identify the organism, with a little assistance from machine learning
  • As more and more posts are uploaded from our community, we gain a better understanding of the ecosystem that surrounds us
  • And, if you’re knowledgeable about the taxonomy of a species, you can contribute by helping to make and verify identifications yourself!

To date, more than 500 photos of more than 300 species have already been uploaded to our Biodiversity of SUNY New Paltz account. Many of those were submitted by a small community of beta testers and dedicated biologists, but with the system up and running, we’re ready to open this fun and valuable program up to all members of our community.

“At a time when we’re spending much of our time apart, missing social connections that bring us joy and inspiration, it’s nice to remember that we have a whole natural world to turn to for comfort,” said Laura Wyeth, lecturer in the Biology Department and coordinator of the Biodiversity Initiative. “These treasures are not limited to the rainforests and the coral reefs – though they may be small, silent or seemingly hidden, they are here with us all the time. All we need to do to find them is stop, take a few deep breaths, and notice as the wonders reveal themselves.”

Those who want to enjoy more of the “social” aspects of social citizen science can join a virtual meeting and tutorial for how to use the app on Friday, Oct. 16, at 3:30 p.m. Use this link to join the conversation.

Following the meeting, we’ll encourage everyone to get out for some socially distant exploration, solo or in small groups, looking around campus for organisms and snapping great photographs. We hope you can join us!

About the Biodiversity Initiative at SUNY New Paltz
The Biodiversity Initiative was founded in 2018 to encourage connection with the life that surrounds us here on our species-rich campus, and to help catalogue and celebrate our non-human neighbors.

The Initiative launched the Biodiversity of SUNY New Paltz project on iNaturalist in May 2020, and has already had hundreds of photos uploaded and identified by our community of scholars. That’s only a small fraction of the life that surrounds us, though – we need your help to discover the rest!