September 15, 2023 6:37 AM   Subscribe

iNaturalist Strikes Out on Its Own "This summer, iNaturalist, the global social network for recording and collectively identifying the biodiversity around us, went independent. With the help of a $10 million startup grant, the organization that started as a UC Berkeley master’s project separated from the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society and became its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization."
posted by dhruva (13 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I suppose I shouldn't be scared. Being in the non profit world, and having shared a funder with inaturalist, I worry about taking things away from the academy-if they will lose the better parts of that culture and move toward 'gamification' or some other fad.

That said, being the in Gulf Coast, where non profit biologists are sparse, Inaturalist is often the backbone of research efforts and public education. I want them to grow.

I've often dreamed of a cetacean survey crew for the Gulf of Mexico, for example. The lives of these animals are inconvenient enough that it s difficult to get funding to document them. The American Petroleum Institute will not look favorably on your grant application
posted by eustatic at 6:59 AM on September 15 [7 favorites]

If they somehow mess up Seek, I will personally riot.

posted by jquinby at 7:37 AM on September 15 [10 favorites]

I realized I haven't been using iNaturalist nearly as often as I used to, the last things I logged were a sea snail and a dead rat. Maybe I just need to get out more.

Also I just love to log random fish that birds drop on the sidewalk. Not sure if I should say "cultivated" or not...
posted by credulous at 7:43 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]

I love love love iNaturalist. So much so that I'm currently using it in class. It's an amazing way to for all my students to contribute to a georeferenced database without having to create my own data entry portal from scratch. A lot of us in the Ecological Research as Education Network have gotten serious use out of it.

I'm happy for them that their independence will allow them to seek their own grants. As a devoted user, I would also be glad to setup a recurring donation with no added benefits except knowing that iNaturalist will always be around.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:02 AM on September 15 [7 favorites]

I love love love iNaturalist. So much so that I'm currently using it in class. It's an amazing way to for all my students to contribute to a georeferenced database without having to create my own data entry portal from scratch. A lot of us in the Ecological Research as Education Network have gotten serious use out of it.

This on all counts - I just spent the morning out with one of my field classes getting more data and more iNaturalist post. (Hello EREN friend!) I've had a recurring monthly donation going to iNaturalist for a while, and it is well worth the value I am able to get from the platform with my students.
posted by erolls at 9:06 AM on September 15 [3 favorites]

Hi, erolls! I had never noticed that iNaturalist already had a Donate button on their website, so the monthly donation is now set up. Glad to support such a great app.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:15 AM on September 15 [2 favorites]

iNaturalist has occasionally revealed magic to me, when what I’ve logged due to curiosity or interest has had genuine scientific use. There was the time a random shrub I photographed in the Cleveland National Forest was used as evidence for sub-speciation. There was another when a photo of a dead fish taken in Hermosa Beach was used in an Academy exhibit on algal blooms. And then there are all of the times I’ve learned about some crazy flora or fauna all around me- my favorite being the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, which lives literally in my backyard. Long live this app!

My pony request would be partnership with the Cornell Lab to bring in functionality from Merlin Bird Id, my other nature app love.
posted by q*ben at 12:56 PM on September 15 [5 favorites]

I have used Seek in my yard a few times. It always amazes me.

So I volunteer at a local community farm. Do they have suggestions on doing things like a species inventory or whatever to improve their body of data?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on September 15

You might be interested in organizing a Bioblitz
A bioblitz is a communal citizen-science effort to record as many species within a designated location and time period as possible.

Bioblitzes are great ways to engage the public to connect to their environment while generating useful data for science and conservation. They are also an excuse for naturalists, scientists, and curious members of the public to meet in person in the great outdoors and are alot of fun!
posted by hydropsyche at 4:32 AM on September 16

Does this mean it will soon go behind a paywall? I would be sad about that. The app is one of the few free ones that works ok and has a nice community.
posted by bluefly at 6:08 AM on September 18

They haven't announced any plans for that. I think it mostly makes it easier for them to get grants because they're not having to go through Berkeley or National Geographic to do it. It is a very grant fund-able endeavor, so hopefully they will not have to resort to charging for the app.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:11 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Whatever happened to the National Biological Survey?
Frederic H. Wagner
BioScience, Volume 49, Issue 3, March 1999, Pages 219–222,

NBD (lol),
and the WERC

What happened to the National Biological Survey? Seemingly, the same thing that happened to child care in the US.

My own area, the Mississippi River Delta, is an ecosystem unique on the planet. It also lacks an Federal Ecosystem Research Center.

I'm very grateful for INaturalist, but it's important to remember that all of our biological science students could have had a future where such survey work is a paid function, and they wouldn't have to drive cabs and scrouge in the non-profit sector.

I genuinely love that educators can drive research results, because there are ways that the classist nature of the academy ruins the practice of biology. But I can't help but think that the discipline would be improved by increased federal funding for basic species counts and discovery.

NatureServe is the non-profit that Dr. Ron Pulliam went on to serve on after the National Biological Service was re-organized.

But, these non profit formations, but their non-confrontational nature, are going to systematically exclude study of ecosystems occupied by state governments that elevate plantations and property, including drilling rights, above all life.

I never thought we would see a return to drilling in the Mississippi River Delta Ecosystem, but here we go again. we are still on Exxon's plantation.
posted by eustatic at 7:32 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

Absolutely true, eustatic. Another loss was the National Biological Information Infrastructure, which was supposed to be a forever publicly available repository for federally funded biological data with common formatting and metadata requirements. It was killed unceremoniously in 2012, with some folks managing to scrape some of it and host it elsewhere.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:55 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

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