November 09, 2018

Can you see it now? The solution.

In the last journal entry, we described several scenarios where posting observations to iNaturalist can lead to undesirable results. In this journal entry, we'll discuss an easy way you can ensure your observations on iNaturalist don't do more harm than good.

For observations of species that are vulnerable to poaching or persecution, or from places you would prefer to keep underwraps, the easiest thing to do is adjust the 'Geoprivacy' setting of the observation. Three options are available:

Open - everyone can see the coordinates (unless the species is threatened - more on this later)

Obscured - public coordinates are shown as a random point within 10 kilometres of the true coordinates. True coordinates are only visible to you and the curators of the projects to which you add the observation

Private - Coordinates completely hidden from public maps; true coordinates only visible to you and the curators of projects to which you add the observation

You'll notice that curators of projects can always see the true coordinates regardless of the geoprivacy setting, so please make sure you only add your sensitive observations to projects with trustworthy curators!

It's important to also note that coordinates are automatically obscured for all species that are 'Near Threatened' or worse according to the IUCN Red List. For (not .org), NatureServe Canada (which includes the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre) has worked with iNaturalist to automatically obscure the coordinates of a number of other species. Currently that list includes all species that are rare to uncommon either nationally or provincially. That is, all observations of species with a national conservation status rank between N1 and N3, or a provincial/territorial rank between S1 and S3, has the coordinates obscured (for more on conservation status ranks, see

Because the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre (MBCDC) sits on the board of NatureServe Canada, which in turn sits on the steering committee, the MBCDC has significant input into which species get included on the 'automatically obscure' list. Some people have suggested that the current criteria obscure too many species, and some jurisdictions automatically obscure only those species that are most vulnerable to poaching or persecution.

Did you know about the 'Geoprivacy' setting? In what circumstances do you use it? What criteria should the MBCDC use for determining which species are automatically obscured?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Posted on November 09, 2018 16:03 by manitoba_cdc manitoba_cdc | 2 comments | Leave a comment

Can you see it now? The problem.

You finally lay your eyes on the rare orchid you've been looking for, snap the perfect picture, and post the observation on iNaturalist. You revisit the site a week later to see the orchid again and are dismayed to find a shovel hole where the orchid used to be! Could it be that an unscrupulous person has found your observation on iNaturalist and used the location information to find the orchid, dig it up, and bring it home for their personal 'collection'?

One of the great things about iNaturalist is the ability to share all the great things we find with other nature enthusiasts. Whether it's something weird, wild, and wonderful (or all of the above!), sharing that observation with the iNaturalist community is so good in so many ways, and something we at the CDC certainly encourage. However, it's worth keeping in mind that sometimes sharing everything may not be the responsible thing to do.

In addition to the above example, consider the following scenarios:

After a long night of owl surveys, you find a great spot to view the comings and goings of a pair of Great Gray Owls. After adding the observation to iNaturalist you hit the hay for well deserved night's sleep. You find out later that your special spot has been taken over by a crowd of photographers who saw your observation on iNaturalist and are hoping for the perfect picture, much to the chagrin of the owls trying to raise their young in peace.

Or perhaps your neighbours have a nice wooded area on their property and let you hike the woods whenever you'd like. You see some neat things living there and post the observations on iNaturalist. Now your neighbours are swamped with requests by others who want to see the neat things you saw. Even worse, some aren't even asking and are just 'visiting' without permission!

The vast majority of iNaturalist users are upstanding people who would consider the interests of wildlife and landowners and never do such things. But, unfortunately, there's always those few who will use iNaturalist data for less noble purposes.

Thankfully there's a few simple things we can do avoid these situations, but since this entry is getting a bit long, we'll discuss them in the next entry: 'Can you see it now? The solution.'

Posted on November 09, 2018 16:02 by manitoba_cdc manitoba_cdc | 0 comments | Leave a comment