Getting involved as a citizen scientist


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The Atlas of Living Australia wouldn’t be what it is without citizen science and volunteer involvement. There are many ways to get involved with citizen science, and you don’t need any special equipment or expert knowledge –  that’s the beauty of it. One of the easiest ways to contribute to the ALA is to submit biodiversity sightings via iNaturalist. You could do this all from the comfort of your home and record birds you see in your backyard! Another citizen science initiative is DigiVol, where you can volunteer to assist with the digitisation of physical collections. 

Sharing data – iNaturalist 

About is one of the world's most popular nature platforms for recording and sharing species observations. It's an independent nonprofit organisation and has grown steadily since 2008. It now has more than three million users globally.

The ALA is a member of the international iNaturalist Network, along with many other countries including Canada, Mexico and New Zealand. Each network member creates a locally branded gateway into iNaturalist, focusing searches within their national boundaries, supporting local conservation, and sensitive species management. For Australia, the local gateway is iNaturalist Australia.

The key to iNaturalist's success is the unique combination of a passionate community and machine learning technology. This system is built to assist with species identification. Naturalists needing help with species identification benefit from both the knowledge of the many experts that use iNaturalist, and iNaturalist's image recognition software. Within hours of uploading an image, you can receive confirmation of a species identification. Users with expertise in a particular taxon can help identify observations, share their knowledge, and contribute to a global conversation. This drives two great outcomes: connecting people with nature and improving citizen science data quality.

How does the ALA get data from iNaturalist?

Data is harvested from iNaturalist Australia to the ALA weekly. Observations will come across to the ALA if they are:

  • Shareable under a creative commons license 
  • In Australia 
  • Verifiable observations – those which are marked as Needs ID or Research Grade 

If an iNaturalist observation is updated with a new identification, image, or a changed location, the record in the ALA with be updated as part of the regular data harvest. If records are removed from iNaturalist, they will be removed from the ALA. 

Creating an iNaturalist account 

1. Head to and click on Sign Up. If you’d like you can read their Terms of Use and Privacy Policy before you begin. 

iNaturalist homepage, with a Sign Up button and Explore button shown


2. Fill in your details (only a username, password and email address are required). You’ll also need to check the four boxes regarding image use and personal information. Then click on Create an Account.

iNaturalist registration screen. Fields include email, username, password, and four questions around data licensing and personal information

How to record an observation

You can record an observation with iNaturalist in a number of ways, including via their website or using your iPhone/Android. From the website, once you’ve logged into your account, you’ll want to select + Add Observations:


screenshot of the home page of the iNaturalist site once a user has registered or signed in. The "Add observations" button is highlighted in the top right

Now you can either choose your files you want to upload, or you can also record a sighting without an image by selecting the +Add drop down in the top left-hand corner:

The drag and drop photo or sounds interface. A large blue "Choose files" button is the main focus of this page. There is also an "Add" button in the top left, with a drop down menu including "Observations without media"

Now add the species name, if you know it. iNaturalist might make some species suggestions based off the photo which you can choose from. If you are submitting a sighting without a photo you will need to populate the species field. We also recommend you add as much information as you can into the description box as this can help with identification and helps the data users know where the data has come from. 

iNaturalist's add an observation interface. Users can edit the details for several draft observations at a time, such as species name, location and time, descrption

For more detailed instructions we recommend reading A Guide to iNaturalist, or checking out the getting started pages on iNaturalist. You’ll also find some specific information for recording a sighting with an iPhone or Android. 


DigiVol is an online tool that enables volunteers to capture data and digitise collections held within museums, libraries, archives, and herbaria. DigiVol is a collaboration between the ALA and the Australian Museum. Volunteers can help collection owners make their research material available to everyone online. 

DigiVol home page

Examples of projects, known as 'expeditions' include transcribing labels for museum specimens, and identifying species in camera trap footage. All you need to get involved is a computer, internet access, and an email address to create an account.

The expedition search page, showing several results for expeditions related to camera traps

The data have many uses but most importantly it can help scientists and decision makers better understand, utilise, manage, and conserve Australia’s biodiversity. Once these data have been digitised, the information is fed into the ALA as well as some other individual institutions and databases making it available to a wide range of people! 

Learn more about DigiVol, including a summary and celebration of their contribution over 10+ years of Citizen Science.