March 22, 2021

My observation workflow

I'm largely documenting this for myself, but sharing here in case it ends up being useful for anyone else. This is a work in progress and I'll continue to edit this to add details or clarifications.

In the field


  • Phone camera + macro
  • Digital camera
  • Spare camera battery
  • External phone battery (if I'll be out for more than 4 hours)


  • Start GPS track on phone
  • Camera timestamp matches phone time (this is especially important when traveling across time zones, and when daylight savings changes)

I carry my iPhone XS with a Ztylus Revolver lens. Unless I'm hiking with my "fast friends" who don't stop and look at everything, I try to make plant and fungi observations in the app now. For faster-moving things that might need multiple shots to get a useful one, I use the default camera app. If I'm really disciplined in the field, I can get all of my stationary organism observations made in the field, and then go back through my photos later for just the animals where I took multiple shots. I turn off auto-uploader and I don't often enter a taxon name in the field. Later, I either add identifications before uploading, or upload from the app while I sit at my computer and identify them shortly after uploading.

For the last couple of years, I also often carry a Sony a6000 with a zoom lens for birds, flying insects, and more distant plants. It does not have a built in GPS, so I run a track on my iPhone using a free app. I'm using Motion-X GPS. I try to start the track either when I leave home (especially if I'm traveling on foot) or when I arrive at the area I'm exploring (if I drive), and then stop and save the track with the date when I get home. I don't notice a battery drain that's too bad unless I forget to stop the track when I get home. I should add that I'm usually not out for more than a few hours, but if I were planning an extended trip I'd bring an external battery for my phone as backup.

I always try to keep a second battery for the Sony in my purse. It's a knock-off one that isn't as good as the original Sony, but since I'm not usually out for extended periods of time it works well enough.

Back home

In the app, I add identifications and upload. These are mostly plants or other things easily photographed with my iPhone.

When I take out the SD card, I often also charge up the camera battery too, unless I know I didn't use it much. I leave the door to the SD card and battery open if either one of them is out, until they're both back in. This keeps me from walking out without them next time.

I import the photos from the Sony SD card using Dropbox. I have it set up to import new photos whenever detected. It does the same for photos from my iPhone when I connect it by USB. It automatically renames all images with a date and time stamp, which I like for being able to organize photos chronologically. Once imported, I move them into the appropriate folder. My folder organization is pretty simple: folders for each year (e.g. 2021), then folders for each month within those (e.g. 2021-02). If travel, especially if I'm crossing time zones or months, I might make a special folder for those photos.

I use Airdrop to share the GPS track from my Motion-X GPS app on my iPhone to my MacBook Air (email works too, I just find Airdrop most convenient). Then I put the track in the same folder as my photos.

In Lightroom Classic, if I'm starting a new month, I import all of the photos in the folder corresponding to that month. If I'm working with new photos in a folder I've already imported, I right-click on the name of the folder and select "Synchronize folder". This will bring in all of the new photos I've added.

Then I use the library filters to filter by date and review my photos. I use the keyboard shortcuts: "r" to crop, "x" to reject, and numbers to rate. For a while I was tagging or flagging photos I wanted for iNat, but now I've just settled on rating them 3s. The vast majority of photos I take are only for iNat. If I take some others I want to keep, I often rate them 4 or 5. I'm trying to be more ruthless in rejecting photos and then "Deleting rejected photos" (command-delete). I select "remove from disk" to save space.

I use the Map tools to "Load tracklog", filters to select all of the photos from the appropriate day, and then "Autotag __ selected photos". I check to make sure the locations where the photos ended up makes sense. If not, then there's probably a time zone offset needed.

When I've gone through all the photos, I use filters to select the 3-star photos to export them. The settings I use are:

  • Same file names but in a subfolder called "Resized" in the original folder
  • Resize to fit long edge 2048 pixels (Don't enlarge) with 72 pixels per inch (this corresponds to the size that iNaturalist keeps, so no sense in making it larger in size or higher resolution)

Then I have a nice folder of photos to add to iNat. I use the bulk upload tool on the website and drag on batches. I usually don't do more than 20-30 images at a time. I usually don't drag on multiple different locations at once because I find it harder to refine or edit locations. I obscure observations from home and add them to the project "Carrie's home biodiversity". Since photos geotagged in Lightroom from the GPS track don't have a radius of precision associated with them, I usually add that on iNat. I typically use 10-20 m and check on the map that it makes sense.

Once I've uploaded them to iNat, I drag the resized images from the "Resized" folder to the main folder and replace the originals with the resized ones. This makes sense for me because I don't need to be storing high resolution, uncropped versions of my mediocre photos. I am also aggressively deleting the camera images I don't need by marking them as rejected in Lightroom, then "deleting from disk" when I remove them from Lightroom.

Working through my backlog


  • Is my iNat account set to the timezone that corresponds to the observations I'm uploading?
  • Do the timestamps on my photos make sense?

I've honed the checks above after all kinds of time-consuming errors that mixed up time stamps or files or locations, which is to say that some of my backlog of images that haven't been uploaded to iNat yet (yes, still!) is a bit of a mess. As of March 2021, I've got everything from October 2016 to present, and 2005-2014 except for photos from Tanzania in 2010-11 and photos from New Zealand in 2006-07 (these are tricky because they're not geotagged and getting precise locations involves a lot of research). I'll expand on this section when I work through more of my backlog.

Hope this helps someone!

Posted on March 22, 2021 13:30 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 5 comments | Leave a comment

January 09, 2020

iNaturalist workshops in Singapore

@tiwane, @aztekium_tutor and I will be in Singapore later this month for two workshops. On Saturday, January 18th we'll have a gathering focused on experienced iNaturalist users (more details and RSVP here). On Sunday, January 19th we'll have a public talk and workshop aimed more at beginners, including many students from Yale-NUS (more details and RSVP here).

We are grateful for the support of this workshop from National Geographic, Yale-NUS, and Nature Society Singapore (including @meiyeesung @anuj @gancw1)

We're glad that some others from the region can also join: @mutolisp @shellfishgene @anncabras24 @roktaviani @naufalurfi @franzanth

We've reached out to everyone tagged in this post by email, but know that some of you might be more inclined to notice a tag on iNaturalist than an email ;-)

@kokhuitan @lenachow @big-simonchan @caligin @techieoldfox @sohkamyung @johnascher

Please tag others in Singapore who may be interested to attend.

Posted on January 09, 2020 21:59 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 4 comments | Leave a comment

January 03, 2020

iNaturalist Social on Monday, Jan 6 at Teaism in Penn Quarter (downtown DC)

Come meet other DC area iNaturalist enthusiasts in person!

We'll meet inside at Teasism in Penn Quarter. It is within easy walking distance of every metro line! Food and drink available for purchase upstairs, then come find the group downstairs.

Monday, January 6, 2020
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Teaism Penn Quarter
400 8th St NW
Washington, DC

More details and RSVP at Meetup:

I'll have iNaturalist stickers to share if you want to share your iNat pride.

Hope to see some of you there! Tagging the top 40 observers in the Washington Metropolitan Area in 2019
@ana_kaahanui @angela58 @ashley_bradford @belyykit @bertharris @botanygirl @capitalnaturalist @carriestaples @carusocm @dbarber @djweyer @ecologyelise @elliotgreiner @erininmd @herbalexplorer @hholbrook @imasongster @izafarr @jane41 @jmgconsult @jstaplesjr @judygva @krosenthal @lisam @lucareptile @mefisher @mjmwx @mjwcarr @mmn_noriko @mstrecker @nanjemoycreek @peggyo @rosalie-rick @sholtz @stephen220 @stratness @telbill @tomarata @treegrow @vagabondreports

Posted on January 03, 2020 19:49 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 15 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2019

Biodiversity_Next in Leiden

I'm excited and honored to be speaking about iNaturalist during a keynote address tomorrow at the Biodiversity_Next meeting in Leiden. I mainly want to make sure that I connect with the iNaturalist users who are here for the meeting.

Thank you to @dimitribrosens for setting up a bioblitz project so that I can easily see who's here!

If you don't already have an iNaturalist sticker, please find me and ask me for one. I'm here through Friday. @damiano_oldoni @wouterkoch @mikkohei13 @dryomys @libnaturalist @pieterhuy @steinarildhoem @rdstevenson @jerry2018 @dimitribrosens @karlseb @qgroom @jannahorjus @eeuw @alexwei @richardhaltonzaf @cassandraa91 @paulschrijvershof @hdn @duncan40 @lesvesel @minkie @flo_grattarola @milotictanja @paul_luap @siobhanleachman @emeyke @stinger @agosti @kcopas @dhobern @clauden

Posted on October 23, 2019 18:12 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 26, 2019

iNaturalist Happy Hour in DC at Wunder Garten on Tuesday, August 6!

It's been a while since we've had a gathering of iNaturalist users in the DC area, and there are a lot more of us now!

Tuesday, August 6
4:30-6:30 pm
Wunder Garten
1101 First St NE
Washington, DC 20002

More details at Meetup:

I aim to make this a regular thing, so suggestions welcome for the next location.

Tagging the top 30 observers in DC, even though I know some of you aren't around anymore. Please tag your friends who are!
 @treegrow @elliotgreiner @jmgconsult @sharonforsyth @achang @muir  @woodcut55  @belyykit  @tkirk304  @stella20009  @mstrecker  @rhondaridley @lynnparsons  @krosenthal @reallifeecology @gwh  @rumeltr @dossification @jmandela @mjmwx  @alex_bairstow  @caedocyon @timbir5 @anacostiabiota @cldc @calopteryx @jorbogmont  @hbfeducation @briangratwicke

Posted on July 26, 2019 20:56 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 10 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2019

iNat Happy Hour at Citizen Science Association meeting in Raleigh, NC, USA

Next Wednesday at the Citizen Science Association meeting in Raleigh there will be an informal meet up for iNaturalist enthusiasts at Crank Arm Brewing.

Wednesday, March 13
4:30-6:30 pm
Crank Arm Brewing
319 W Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601

The location is about 0.5 mi from the Raleigh Convention Center and about 0.6 mi from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (where the CSA opening reception begins at 7 pm). The brewery is kid-friendly and if the weather is agreeable, they have outdoor space.

To get a sense of attendance, please respond on this short form if you plan to attend. Thanks!

There is also an iNaturalist workshop which currently has a waiting list. If you are already registered to attend the workshop, please look for an email from Richard Smart requesting more details.

Hope to see you there with @chrisgoforth @sambiology @smartrf @mordenana and many more!

Posted on March 06, 2019 14:39 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 22, 2019

ID party at Nat Geo on Feb 28

Want to meet local iNaturalist enthusiasts and learn more about identifications on iNaturalist? Come help us identify last year's observations from the City Nature Challenge! We'll meet in the cafeteria at National Geographic. Pizza provided! Bring a laptop and any field guides you want to reference.

Thursday, February 28
5:30-8 PM
Register here:

National Geographic
1610 M St NW
Washington DC 20036

Enter via the courtyard from M Street. From the courtyard, enter the building on the left, then inside turn left to the cafeteria.

5:30-6 Arrival & check in
6-6:15 Welcome & tips for identifying on iNaturalist
6:15-7:30 Identifying observations!
7:30-7:45 Check in on progress, sharing of learning
7:45-8 More identifications, goodbyes

Please contact if you have any questions about the event.

If you're local, don't forget to join the 2019 City Nature Challenge project for our area to get the great updates posted by @dbarber.

Posted on February 22, 2019 04:27 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 18, 2018

Sept 20 Workshop at Cope Environmental Center in Centerville, Indiana

I'll be visiting my alma mater Earlham College this week, and while I'm there I'll lead a short workshop at Cope Environmental Center.

Thursday, September 20
1-3 PM
Cope Environmental Center
Details here:

This post is mainly to tag those of you who have been making observations in Wayne County, Indiana. I know some of you definitely aren't local, but I'm tagging you anyways so you can tell your friends :-)
@heelsplitter @matthias55 @jamesjbond @damontighe @anne_royer @jimhoff @coachwhipbooks @abookb @eliana @andromidary @leah127 @danr_m @emilysmith2 @tbeele01 @aprilpegg @dholly89 @jmfreem @aarwigg @catspit @evelyn31 @barbetsmith @chris472 @haggfann @hlerner @orangevity @prosanta @supurdueper @baileymosey @brennamarie @bugboy74 @chestnuthill @daniel80 @derekgdalton @kwaddle @lemmj000 @mglerner @micrathena @mrtreenerd @picturepoker51 @pinonbistro @roseorange58 @someclams @tara22 @tjrivard @travis93

I'd really love to see more iNaturalist activity in the area, especially among Earlhamites!

I know I'll see at least a few of you this weekend. Hope you have fun exploring with iNaturalist, no matter where you are!

Posted on September 18, 2018 01:22 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 07, 2018

The First ESA iNaturalist Mixer!

Thank you to everyone who attended the iNaturalist Mixer during the Ecological Society of America meeting in New Orleans! It was great to meet so many of you (more than 40 people attended!) and I'm sorry I didn't get to talk to everyone.

For fun, I created a little project to see how many observations are made in New Orleans during ESA (and to motivate myself too!). Check out the iNaturalist during ESA2018 project. Presently, @vireolanius is leading followed by @bmtranchina and @cwarneke. I need to upload a few tonight!

2018-08-06 19.34.13-2

Did I get these labels right? Please help me fill in the usernames to faces below!

1 - @jmheberling
2 - @tom_carlson
3 - @johncarlson
4 - @dataecologist
5 - @laurskizi
6 - Daniel Park (username?)
7 - @jzeldin
8 - @enjing @jane518 (Do you have two accounts?)
9 - @kevinlove (???)
10 - @andy71
11 - @ ???
12 - @tkoffel
13 - @ ???
14 - @ajm1993
15 - @mjsaver @matthewsarver (Do you have two accounts?)
16 - @cypseloides
17 - @dlnarango
18 - @accordiongordon
19 - @shrike2
20 - Wade Bishop
21 - @ ???
22 - @elsitakiekebusch
23 - Libby Ellwood
24 - @onjarazafi
25 - @sue_meiman
26 - @acknaturenerd
27 - @parker_hopkins
28 - @vireolanius
29 - @ ???
30 - @carrieseltzer
31 - Julia Drapkin
32 - @ ???
33 - @beccamadsen
34 - @lizardeve
35 - @ ???
36 - @ ???
37 - @krstphr
38 - @kkucera

Not labeled (or maybe not pictured?):
Emma Deleon
Hilary Rollins
Hannah Greenberg
Robert Logan

Not pictured:

If you're at ESA and still want a sticker, let me know! I have more. I'm going on the crosstown walk field trip on Thursday morning if anyone would like to join.

Thanks again and have fun exploring!

2018-08-06 18.06.51

Posted on August 07, 2018 05:33 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 6 comments | Leave a comment

July 12, 2018

Meet up in New Orleans on August 6! And stickers!

Next month I'll be giving a talk about iNaturalist at the Ecological Society of America's Annual Meeting in New Orleans. It's part of a session called Natural History in the Digital Age on Monday, August 6 at the Convention Center.

That evening, I've reserved space for folks to meet up at a place nearby called Coterie. We'll have some appetizers and there will be a happy hour menu for you to buy drinks and other food.

135 Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans
Monday, August 6
6:30-8 PM

Also, stickers! I'll have the very first (official) iNaturalist stickers.

iNaturalist stickers have so far only been spotted in captivity, but will be released into the wild in New Orleans with the help of enthusiastic observers.

I'm tagging the top 10ish observers in the state of Louisiana, along with the top 10(ish) in Orleans Parish, then folks from a bounding-box search of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and western Florida. Then a few ecologists I know mainly outside of iNat who I know/think will attend. I know some of you tagged here are likely too far to make it, but I wanted to be inclusive, especially in case you're coming for the meeting anyways. Please tag others in the region who may want to attend!

@royaltyler @matthewherron @zoology123 @cypseloides @ilouque @kgardner @amberenergy @reallifeecology @jameswbeck @henicorhina @elliotgreiner @audubon23 @kevinmcdunn @supersecretspyguy @brmaldo @terrapinjoe @natureguydev83 @mdurham @johncarlson @eustatic1 @nolafrog @mmacphe @monicap @ehjalmarson @janetwright @misspt @collin_st @kdg @kchiasson @kenbosso @terit @mcferny @mmcmasters @howard_horne @hholbrook @teresa45 @justinscioli @thehaplesshiker @gigirose @tewksjj @davidcarr @haldre

Please comment if you plan to attend!

Posted on July 12, 2018 22:18 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 32 comments | Leave a comment