The iNaturalist Explore Page - An Introduction

Modified on Wed, 07 Feb 2024 at 10:45 AM



If you’re interested in searching through the millions of observations posted to iNaturalist, then the Explore page (aka observations search) should be your destination. This tutorial is a quick overview of the basic tools and views available on the Explore page so you can get oriented. Below this post will be a section for more detailed tutorials.

To get to the Explore page, click on Explore in the header of just about any page on iNaturalist and it will take you to

By default, it shows all verifiable observations on iNaturalist in a map view:

The opacity of each colored square on the map tile is determined by the number of observations in that square; more opaque = more observations. If you zoom in on an area, you will see individual observation markers. Open the Map Legend (lower left-hand corner) for an explanation of the various markers and colors.

OK, let’s tackle one section at a time, starting with 

The Information Bar

This displays how many observations, species, identifiers, and observers are represented by the current search parameters, and will change when you add or remove filters. Click on a tab to view it. For example, clicking on Identifiers displays a list of the users who have add identifications to the observations in the current set of observations:

Note that the Species tab is limited to showing only the 1000 most-observed species in the current observation set.

Now let’s move to the area above this and take a look the Species and Location search fields.

Species and Location Search Fields

The Species field allows you to search for a taxon in iNaturalist’s database, and the Location field lets you look at observations in a specific location.

Species is pretty straightforward: type in a taxon (either scientific or common name) and select the taxon you want to search for. For example let’s search for all flowering plants on iNaturalist. Start typing and then select the taxon:

When the taxon is selected, iNaturalist will display all verifiable observations of flowering plants (Angiospermae). Not only has the map changed, but so have the numbers on the information bar, to reflect the new taxon filter we’ve entered:

Now let’s look for all verifiable observations of flowering plants in Mexico. Type “Mexico” into the Location field and select the country. iNaturalist searches Google Maps for “Mexico” and displays a border around the country because it matches a Place boundary in iNaturalist. The numbers shift because we are now only seeing verifiable observations of flowering plants in Mexico:

iNaturalist also displays a name for the current search area with an “x” next to it (see red arrow above). Click on the “x” to remove the location boundary from the search if you want.

Display Options

OK, now that we’ve covered the two main search filters, let’s pause to look at the display options for the Observations tab. So far we have been using the Map view, but if you take a look on the left-hand side, you’ll see two other options: Grid and List, which show observations as a grid of images or as a more detailed list, respectively. Your choice of view here is “sticky”, meaning that Explore will show you the last view option you used, even if you logged out of the site.

Check them out for a moment, then return to the map view.

More Search Filters

Let’s take a quick look at the remaining search options by clicking “Filters” and then “More Filters”. You should see this:

As noted above, "Verifiable" is selected by default, and you’ll see that "Mexico" is already filled in for Place. You can now add or remove filters, such as various date, person, and project filters, as well as show only observations which have photos, only observations which have sounds, etc.

Let’s add another filter here by choosing to see only the verifiable observations of flowering plants in Mexico seen on April 17, 2023.

Click "Update Search" or just close the Filters box and iNaturalist will display those observations:

Note the green "1" displayed on the Filters box, showing that the date filter has been added. You can add or remove more filters if you wish to obtain a different set of observations.

Identify, Atom, and Download

Finally, there are three options at the bottom of the Filters menu: Identify, Atom, and Download:

Clicking on Identify will take you to the iNaturalist Identify page and will display the observations from your current search. By default it will show you the observations that you have not reviewed and that have the quality grade Needs ID.

Clicking on Atom will take you to an Atom feed of observations based on your current search filters.

Clicking on Download will take you to an export page where you can download a CSV document based on the current set of observations. CSV documents can be opened by spreadsheet and other data analysis software.

And that’s about it for an introduction! Please play around with the various filters and settings, and start exploring the wealth of biodiversity on iNat.

If you want to do more, a good place to start is this tutorial on the iNaturalist Forum, which goes over the various URL hacks you can use to expand Explore’s functionality. We also have a deeper dive for the Location field available.

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