How to use iNaturalist

With National Moth Week quickly approaching, we want to make sure that each of our current and potential contributors know how to upload their photo observations to iNaturalist! After all, your observations are the heart of our mission.

We understand that using iNaturalist can seem intimidating at first glance but it’s a simple process, you’ll see! We’re going to make sure you are all set to submit your photos for National Moth Week (annually!) and that you’re ready to observe many other subjects in nature as well.

So, what is iNaturalist?

The website describes it as “an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature”.

I will describe it as a platform for people to share their nature photos, sounds, etc., in order to create accurate identifications, make discoveries and to learn, while contributing to science, education, and the overall health of our planet- worldwide.

When we mention photo observations, that photograph of Uncle Charlie’s dog, sitting in the tall grass with a moth on his nose, unfortunately isn’t going to cut it. As adorable as that would be, we’re here to focus the moth (or moth caterpillar), itself.

Imagine taking a photo of some pretty flowers and showing it to your gardener friend in order to find out what kind of flowers they are. Or, maybe you know exactly what they are, but you want to use it to inform others that what they keep calling “Spikey blue field flower” is actually “spiney violet meadow flower” and it truly matters, because one is invasive and the other is not (these are fictional names, even if great ones, sorry). These misidentifications alone, make iNaturalist an important source for nature lovers, learners and caretakers. Through its online network, you have many knowledgeable people waiting to help and share information at any time and place.



If using a mobile phone, download the iNaturalist app and follow the steps to get yourself set up.

If using a computer, head over to and look to the top right for an option to sign up, then continue the prompts.

Once you have your account set up, you can play around with your profile settings, or just leave it alone. That part isn’t mandatory, but you may want to do it later (as you become obsessed with it). Again, totally up to you!

Before we go to the next step, now is a good time to join our National Moth Week project!

Desktop Users – Click “Community” a the top, and then click “Projects”.  Search for National Moth Week 2022 and join the project!  This ensures your moth observations are added to our project, automatically.


To upload a photo, click the “+ Add Observations” on the upper right side of the page (desktop) or tap the green “+” on the bottom right of your mobile app. You will have the option to upload your photos or even take one through the app, on the spot!

Once your photo shows up, you’ll be prompted to fill in a few details, such as the date, time and location. The app can automatically detect these things, depending on your phone settings, but please do enter what you can. For privacy reasons, you have the option to obscure your location so it’s not exact, but a general area. This is still very helpful!

Here, you’ll also have to option to click/tap “What did you see?” and browse ID suggestions. Unless you are confident in your identifications, it’s best to avoid going farther than “Butterflies and Moths”.

While there is more to add, this is as far as you need to go!  See, not so bad, right?  When you get the hang of it, you can start adding more details. In the meantime, the iNaturalist community can take care of the remaining information, once they have identified it.


  1. Get as close as possible to your subject without compromising the focus (or the subject itself!)
  1. Getting different angles of the subject is very helpful and will aid in identification, though it’s not always necessary. If you have just a single, top-down shot of a moth/caterpillar, we welcome it!


  1. Night-shooting is difficult, as there isn’t much light. Flash can be useful, but it can also brighten your subject beyond recognition, so keep that in mind when using it. Some people like to place material or tracing paper over the flash to dim it, but feel free to get creative (safely, please).


  1. Refrain from editing. Cropping is fine and often necessary, however editing can have an effect on identification.

We hope this guide helps you and that you are feeling encouraged to get your observations in!  As always, please reach out if you have any questions regarding your National Moth Week observations, we are happy to help!


Aundrea Schneider

Aundreas is NMW Canada Coordinator

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