Citizen scientists give NPS 100,000+ biodiversity records for 100th birthday

Today, the U.S. National Park Service turns 100 years old. The National Park Service has been celebrating all year by organizing over 100 BioBlitzes to document the species living in our national parks, recreation areas, monuments, and historic sites. In addition to the BioBlitzes, NPS has been working with iNaturalist to keep track of biodiversity records for the entire year in a servicewide project. Four days ago, the project passed the 100,000 records mark just in time for the centennial anniversary.

Clicking this map will take you to a page where you can explore the observations from National Park Service lands. What's near you?
Click to explore observations from National Park Service lands. What’s near you? Map credit: Scott Loarie, [DISCLAIMER: This map does not necessarily reflect the current map policy of the National Geographic Society.]
At least five thousand citizen scientists have contributed observations this year from NPS lands to iNaturalist. The records were uploaded by 5,092 user accounts, some of which represent many individuals, such as students who contributed to a class account during a BioBlitz (note: children under 13 cannot create their own account).

Collectively, they have recorded more than 10,600 species including common and easily photographed species such as the Western Fence Lizard and American Robin as well as more than 600 threatened species (note: the locations of threatened species are automatically obscured).

“Citizen scientists are contributing so much more information about biodiversity than the NPS could possibly hope to collect on its own, especially when it comes to under-studied creatures, like insects. There is tremendous power in a citizen armed with a smartphone and a curiosity about nature working together with an online community of naturalists to explore our national parks,” said Simon Kingston, a Data Ranger with the National Park Service.

Anyone visiting national park lands with a digital camera can turn their photos of plants, animals, and fungi into useful data. Even if you don’t know exactly which species you saw, members of the iNaturalist community work together to crowdsource identifications. The National Park Service will use the verified records from iNaturalist to update NPSpecies, its internal database that tracks all of the species recorded in each park.

National Geographic Society has partnered with the National Park Service for the last 10 years to do BioBlitzes in different national parks. You can read more about the history of NPS/NatGeo BioBlitzes here and the BioBlitz origin story here.

Explore more:
Explore all of the records on iNaturalist (not just the National Parks)
Join the NPS Servicewide project once you’ve created an account with iNaturalist.
Download the iNaturalist app for Android or iOS.
Getting started with iNaturalist

Carrie Seltzer is a Program Manager for BioBlitz at the National Geographic Society.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Carrie Seltzer joined National Geographic in 2014 to work on biodiversity-related citizen science projects. She has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.