Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

How to Participate

One of the incredible strengths of community (or citizen) science is that it gives researchers more eyes in the field. Why document plants and animals in our region? Understanding what is found where and when is an essential tool that aids species conservation and guides the future development of our region.

We have plenty of stories to prove that your efforts matter! Like when a team of community scientists helped find a destructive beetle or discovered invasive species, helping researchers, conservationists, and land managers better protect our environment. In fact, it was a group of amateur naturalists who came together to form the San Diego Society of Natural History—giving The Nat our start in 1874.

How to use iNaturalist

Many projects use iNaturalist, a free website and app, that invites anyone with a computer or smartphone to document plants and animals. Don't recognize something you've seen? That’s OK because when you share a photo with iNaturalist, fellow nature lovers can help you ID it.

Not familiar with iNaturalist? Not to worry, it’s super user-friendly. All you have to do is:

  • Download the free iNaturalist app to your Android or iPhone
  • Join a project. Certain projects may be global (such as City Nature Challenge) but always do a quick search for projects in your area. Maybe you're interested in spotting bees or want to document every lizard you see.
  • Take photos to make observations of wild plants and animals in San Diego (in your backyard, at a park, on a hike, etc.) Just note that we said wild. Please avoid planted gardens or pets (no matter how "wild" they are sometimes).
  • Upload your photos to iNaturalist.
  • Learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations.

If you have plant or animal expertise, you can view and identify natural history observations from around the world without leaving the comfort of your home. It’s a crowd-sourced way to determine what lives where.

Get started with our pocket-sized quick guide to iNaturalist. Download the English PDF or Spanish PDF. Most of these projects occur year-round and you can join at any time.

Spotting Nature with iNaturalist

Have you ever wanted help identifying a wild plant or animal? Want to explore wildlife near you? Interested in honing your plant and animal identification skills? Are you the kind of person who asks: what's this bug? Here, The Nat and our community partner San Diego Canyonlands show you to do all of the above using the iNaturalist app. is a free app and website that helps connect people with each other and the natural world.

Improve Your Plant Observation Skills

Already an experienced user and want to improve your plant observation skills? Check-out resources created by Nat Curator of Botany, and iNaturalist top identifier, Jon Rebman. Watch a training here or below and download this guide to photographing common regional plants.

There's always more to learn about community science at The Nat. Email and ask to be on our mailing list or join any of our newsletters to see what we're up to.