Explore biodiversity with iNaturalist and the Appalachian Mountain Club

Do you want to know more about the world around you?

iNaturalist allows anyone, anywhere to contribute to a global record of biodiversity by uploading pictures of plants and animals with their smartphone or computer. In a new podcast episode (listen below!), co-host Justin Schell talks with Dr. Carrie Seltzer, the Stakeholder Engagement Strategist for iNaturalist, and with representatives and a volunteer from the Appalachian Mountain club.

Tip: add your iNaturalist username to your SciStarter dashboard, and you’ll get credit for your contributions.

Photo 5726794, (c) Sean Blaney, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). This observation on iNaturalist is of a species tracked by the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project.

Why iNaturalist?

In the podcast episode, Carrie says she started working with iNaturalist because she was “deeply excited by everything that iNaturalist can do to get people excited about the natural world and open their eyes to everything that lives in their neighborhood.”

When asked about the mission of iNaturalist, Carrie says she describes it “as turning photos of plants and animals into useful data. And the way that happens is through crowdsourcing.”

iNaturalist relies on people like you to upload photos of plants, animals, and other living things you see around you. Then, the community helps identify these observations, which become research-grade and are shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility after the community comes to an agreement. Learn more about this process and hear more from Carrie by listening to the podcast episode!

PS: She even talks about the infamous #toiletweasel. This  observation of a rare Colombian Weasel went viral on Twitter because, well, as Carrie says, “Because it’s just so funny to think about this rare mammal being spotted in someone’s toilet and being a really important scientific discovery.”

You can learn more about the #tolietweasel on iNaturalist.

Appalachian Mountain Club

Featured in this podcast episode is the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the oldest outdoor group in the United States. The AMC runs multiple citizen science projects, and in this episode, the team speaks about how they have been able to supplement the core data fields on iNaturalist with some specific to their project, as well as how they have approached citizen science and research with the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project.

Georgia Murray, a staff scientist at AMC, describes in the episode why the Appalachian Mountain Club engages in citizen science: “We really care about people learning when they’re outside.”

The citizen science projects run by AMC inspire passion in AMC staff and volunteers alike. Sometimes, one becomes the other, as  Annie Evankow, a research assistant with AMC, describes in this podcast episode. “I actually started out with Northeast Alpine Flower Watch [one of AMC’s citizen science projects] as a volunteer,” she says. “I started taking photos for the project before I became the Research Assistant, and I will continue to do it even after I stop working at the AMC. I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.”

Photo 49335341, (c) Annie Evankow, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC).

Above is a observation by Annie of a Bog Bilberry, one of the species the AMC is tracking as part of the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch project.

Alina Michelewicz, a volunteer with a number of AMC projects, speaks in this episode about how her love for the outdoors led her to citizen science and iNaturalist. She told us that, “iNaturalist was a way that I could get help with identifying the plants from experts and also to contribute to something larger, which was really exciting.”

Want to learn more about the AMC’s work, what this team has discovered so far, their future plans, and how YOU can get involved? Tune into the podcast!

Listen to Citizen Science for Your Ears

Our latest episode is below. Looking for more episodes? Head over to our podcast page. Please reach out via email with your ideas and thoughts. You can find us at info@SciStarter.org.


iNaturalist: https://scistarter.org/inaturalist
AMC: https://www.outdoors.org/
Seek: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app
GBIF: https://www.gbif.org/
National Phenology Network: https://usanpn.org/
Toilet weasel publication: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ele.13200
Justin’s (Mistaken) Coyote Identification: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/13082333


Music for this episode is from MWD, used under a Creative Commons license from the Free Music Archive. Special thanks to Jill Nugent for conducting the interview with the AMC team. A transcript is available here.

Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

Categories: Citizen Science, Ecology & Environment, Nature & Outdoors, Project Profile

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About the Author

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson is an advisor at SciStarter, where she assists with the Citizen Science Month Program, SciStarter’s Corporate Volunteer Programs and other programmatic and outreach efforts. Caroline is a Master of Public Policy graduate from American University, where she was a Reilly Environmental Policy Scholar, and is a current PhD student at the University of Florida. She also works with the UF-VA Bioethics Unit, the Christensen Project, Florida Community Innovation and other organizations. She was the 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess representing the state of Florida and the grand prize scholarship winner at Miss Earth USA 2021 as Miss Louisiana Earth.