France - iNaturalist World Tour

We wrap up week 2 of the iNaturalist World Tour in France. Top observers are well distributed across the country. There are clusters of top observers around Montpellier (e.g. @jujurenoult) and Paris (e.g. @brunodurand). @fabienpiednoir is based near Nice, @pdubois near Lyon, and @zanskar on the island of Corsica.

The number of observations per month from France has doubled the last couple of years. Like most countries in Europe, there is a strong seasonal pattern in the graph.

While @weimenroy is the top identifier in France, @mercantour has identified the most plants, @pdubois the most insects and spiders, and @ldacosta the most birds.

While iNaturalist use has been growing in France, I believe its still relatively little used in the country. What can we do to make iNaturalist work better in France? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum post

@fabienpiednoir @pdubois @jujurenoult @tkoffel @zanskar @perkpenn @brunodurand @weimenroy @mercantour @pierrenoel

We’ll be back tomorrow with Ecuador!

Posted on July 07, 2019 05:32 PM by loarie loarie


English language, which should be the language used in the discusses in the website, is not fluently spoken by the large majority of french people, it's probably one of the difficulties for Inaturalist to grow in France. Moreover the country has already several regional/national websites to report naturalist watches (especially for birds).
Maybe an easy way to translate automatically to english the comments written in french could be a help.
The whole website should need to be translated to french too.

Posted by brunodurand almost 5 years ago

I'd like to acknowledge a global contribution of @mercantour, who is among top-20 experts of the "Flora of Russia" project. Merci beacoup!

Posted by apseregin almost 5 years ago

I agree with most of the remarks of Bruno @brunodurand - As for Montpellier, where I live, it's a city where agronomy, biology, genetic resources are very present through universities and research institutes. This is probably part of the explanation of the existence of some top contributors in this region. But this is also the place where is developed PlantNet which is a longtime, French speaking, serious competitor of iNaturalist! I also know numerous naturalists here that prefer to use specialized networks for instance for orchids or birds... On my side, I try to contribute as much as I can for Musaceae and Zingiberales.

Posted by chris971 almost 5 years ago

A few years ago, I took a number of pictures while visiting my family in France, and put them on iNat. Since French is my first language, I will agree that speaking English is not a priority in France. We used to have the common name of plants, for example, in as many languages as we could contribute. When I looked for it again, I could not find it.

Maybe, iNat could spread in France as it did all over the US and the rest of the world by naturalists letting others know about it. That might mean organizing Bioblitz or getting school children involved.

We also all have a limited amount of time to contribute. I know there has been wonderful improvements but I haven't kept up with them so, I do things the old fashion way.

Most importantly, getting some training on how to use the site in one's native language would be a plus.
Bonne chance!

Posted by microm almost 5 years ago

Most reasons have already been listed: PlantNet is a major competitor, iNat is in English.
Each time I go back to France (I'm French but SF-based) I try to spread the word but the 2 reasons above are often brought up by locals. I haven't been able to hit an "influencer" who could spread the word.
Anti-americanism is fairly common in France so if you brand the site "American" you'll get knee-jerk negative reactions... branding it "Californian" will work much better :)
You probably need at least one local influencer who could spread the love. Maybe building relationships with some of the ecology/environment schools/universities could be a good entry point. I attended one of them (Agro ParisTech), ping me if you want to chat.
How did iNat spread in other countries? I'm thinking you guys probably have a bunch of data points by now.

Posted by clem almost 5 years ago

In South Africa we also hit the stone wall that no one wants to use an American site, and that our data and observations should not go or be stored there. But a Californian Academy of Sciences site is totally acceptable, and even more so National Geographic.
Interestingly, by far the majority of people have not seen the need for an Afrikaans or Zulu (or any other of our 11 official languages) version of the site: they prefer English.
There is a growing frustration about our common names not yet being on the site, and that is probably the biggest problem with selling the site to the layman: they know their local common names and expect to be able to use them and get the correct IDs. (fortunately, the 11 official languages are geographically very local so the bulk of our plant and insect species dont have names in all languages, but many of their vernacular names are generic and wont get down to species level).
It is unexpected and small things like this that make the difference between plodding along and getting widespread interest: users dont want a good tool, they want something that they feel comfortable and familiar with.
Although French names seem to be loaded on iNaturalist, in only a handful of cases is there more than one name: most other languages appear to have several names for common or widespread species. Are French names far more standardized, with less local variations?
(and - has different French and Français names - if people are using Français names on iNat they are going to be very disappointed ... - might it help a little if the dictionary lexicons used the actual language terms e.g. "Français" instead of "French" because that will just make it easier for localized people to use the site in their own different languages?).

Posted by tonyrebelo almost 5 years ago

I'm not the best person to evaluate the French version... because I use iNaturalist in English! The reason is that I'm trying to keep an international subnetwork alive, and it's easier to share the site in English in this case. I have to get back to the French version.
I also agree with the fact that California Academy of Science and National Geographic are perfectly acceptable for French people in my opinion.
Maybe it would be a good idea to have an easy way to switch languages on the interface, other than to have to go back to one's account parameters. This could help non-English speaking people to adopt the site. A flag in the upper right corner, that you can click to access other languages in a blink could be a solution.

Posted by chris971 almost 5 years ago

That's interesting. We have similar issues in Russia where "" is a major long-established competitor and iNat is (or was) in English. The problem now is solved (more or less) by more attractive and user-friendly interface of the iNaturalist and complete translation of the platform into Russian including help tips, app, and vernacular names.

As for "anti-Americanism" mentioned above, I really haven't heard about this here in Russia as a reason against iNat. It's fun, isn't it? I guess, people are accepting iNaturalist as being an international venue like Google or Facebook. Meeting here people across the globe is confirming this proposition.

90% of comments in discussions of observations are in Russian, so there's no language barrier at all. Just a big and rather isolated Russian-speaking iNat community.

Posted by apseregin almost 5 years ago

Language and fierce competition with other pre-existing and more local (ie maybe closer to a community that you know in real life, less intimidating) platforms are indeed probably the key here. The "American label" is not a problem or it should not be...

I think the strongest advantage and key difference of iNaturalist relative to more local systems is its openness: open data, open source software (that's why the "American label” should really not be a problem). That should be a strong argument to convince people to use it.
Many more local systems are not open. At best they let the users see the data but most of the time they do not allow them to download the data. This might seem far from most observers considerations but it should not be. Most observers want their data to be available for nature conservation and research (whoever is behind it). If the data are locked in local systems, in many situations they will not be available for these purposes (or they would be underused). Many local platforms tend to build huge databases that can be used only by the people who "own" the database (or if you “collaborate” with them) or that can be used to negotiate contracts with public authorities or to be directly monetized (the data are sold). I have seen several time data locked in such databases and not being provided in scientific or nature conservation projects because of that “what personal benefit could I gain” spirit of the database owners and in contradiction with the willingness of the observers. For the same reason, it is also often a real pain when you want just to gather regional data to have a more national view of the distribution/trends of species. The fact that all iNaturalist “research grade” are systematically uploaded to GBIF without any data degradation is one of the best examples that iNaturalist is not trying to “lock” the data. Most other platforms do not contribute to GBIF of if they do they typically spatially degrade the information (typically at 10 km in France and 5 km in Belgium). This is a problem for example if you want to make an impact assessment of any land use planning project. Basically, iNaturalist is not behaving like Facebook while many other platforms do (even if they are “French”)...

A series of screencasts in French showing how the platform works (including its “open philosophy”) would be a very good promotional tool. That could be done by the French-speaking community...

Another reason why many naturalists stick with other platforms is that iNaturalist is very good for punctual photographic observations but much less for systematic relevés without pictures. i.e. it is not as easy as in other platforms to encode long/complete lists of plants, butterflies, dragonflies,… without pictures. This is however typically how many more local systems work. The trustworthiness of each observation is then based on a combination of the rarity of the species in the region at that time, the difficulty to identify it and the reputation of the observer (which is difficult to make work in a more international platform like iNaturalist). It would be painful for an experienced naturalist to post a picture of every daisy (Bellis perennis) she/he would encode in order to have her/his observation accepted by the community…
Speed/easiness of encoding is key here. You could improve the interface for such kind of observations (you can encode lists on iNat’s web interface but without the taxonomic library which is problematic). Also having more localized taxonomic libraries (eg show only or first the species present in France or Europe) would improve and speed up the encoding. Also showing first the species already encoded by the observer when he/she starts typing would speed up the encoding of such observations.

Posted by gillessanmartin almost 5 years ago

Thanks @apseregin It's a funny way to travel !
About using english that's sure that isn't easy sometimes to express all we want to say, especially botanical words (already difficult in french !!! ;) ). But it's for sure the only way to communicate with the whole world !

Posted by mercantour almost 5 years ago

@gillessanmartin - I dont think iNat should be a tool for scientists to record the releve data. There are alternatives that better handle that. Locally we encourage the surveyors to take specimens (and a photograph for iNat) or rare or difficult species, and photograph the more common species when they need a "specimen". Of course, they can take as many photographs of a species as they want: one for each releve if they want. An observation field links the iNat record to the data.
Although not quite the same, have you played with the lists under "Places"?: that might meet some of your list requirements - depending on what you need them for and how you want to access them. (see
I dont find the global dictionaries a problem. I merely type 'pro cyn" or 'aga glab" and the dictionary delivers exactly what I want: three letters for genus and species works 95% of the time.. And if a name escapes me, i simply add the genus as the ID and then use the compare tool to give me the local options.

Posted by tonyrebelo almost 5 years ago

@tonyrebelo : that's exactly my point. iNaturalist is not a good tool for relevés data. If iNaturalist could provide a good tool for that kind of data it could attract more experienced naturalists who could help the community with IDs, contribute with their own observations (including verifiable observations with pictures), etc... This is particularly true when other local and technically better alternatives exist. The main problem with these alternative tools is that they are not as open as iNaturalist (locked data)...
Wouaou, I didn't notice the possibility to type just the first letters of a taxon like "pro cyn" ! I just tested that for identifications and it works great indeed! Thank you! I will be able to ID even faster now ! You made my day :-)
I vaguely looked at lists and the different alternatives for encoding data but I was not convinced... I will try again one of these days...

Posted by gillessanmartin almost 5 years ago

Bonjour aux utilisateurs Français. N'hésitez pas à me "tagger" ou m'enjoyer un message privé si vous désirez une traduction au sujet d'une observation.
@chris971, I love the suggestion of a flag and drop down menu to change language. That's my main issue with visiting France, I like to see the names in both languages so I can learn them in French and talk about them with locals, but I also like to see the names in English since some of the flora/fauna is similar in other European countries.

Posted by patsimpson2000 almost 5 years ago

@chris971 and @patsimpson2000 have you noticed the language chooser at the bottom right of the website?

Posted by loarie almost 5 years ago

@loarie wow, no I had not seen this before. I will make good use of it. Thanks!

Posted by patsimpson2000 almost 5 years ago

@loarie and neither did I! I think I've never been that low in the page... I will also use it now, but maybe it's a sign it's not at the right place to be easily found. (I understand that it's not possible to put 'ALL' options at the top of the page of course)

Posted by chris971 almost 5 years ago

@gillessanmartin : By "screencasts" do you mean a (I shudder at the term) "webinar" where someone can share their screen and show others how to use iNat, live? That would definitely be cool.

However, I just wanted to point out that anyone can create subtitles for any iNat video by using the free tool and then email me, letting me know it's complete. I can then add the subtitle file to the video. You'd still be stuck with my terrible voice, alas. Here's our Vimeo page: Message me and I can send you instructions if you like.

Posted by tiwane almost 5 years ago

@tiwane : I meant recording of your screen while you speak but not live.
In my mind, a webinar is live (eg with a rendez-vous hour) and with interactions between people... (but maybe I misunderstand the meaning of these terms ?)
So, for example, this is what I call a screencast:
Adding french subtitles to the "official" screencasts would certainly be a good idea. Most of these screen casts are very good. But a French voice is obviously more comfortable and less a barrier for many people.
Also as discussed above it seems that there are many other competing platforms locally. So a more "local" screencast could insist on the differences between these platforms and iNat...

Posted by gillessanmartin almost 5 years ago

Les données iNaturalist sur le territoire français (outre-mer compris) sont disponibles dans l'Inventaire national du Patrimoine naturel :
Elles sont récupérées via GBIF.
Comme signalé par d'autres, il y déjà de nombreux outils naturalistes en France pour naturalistes confirmés (Géonature, Carnat/CardObs, SERENA, BDN...) et des portails participatifs (Faune-France, INPN-espèce, SPIPOLL/VigieNature, etc.), avec ou sans photos et avec ou sans protocole d'observation.
Il n'y aura jamais un seul outil ou un seul portail. L'important c'est que les connaissances et données soient bien partagées (SINP en France, GBIF pour l'international).
Une autre remarque : le nombre de naturalistes et de personnes sensibilisées en France reste plus faible que dans d'autres pays.

Posted by touroult almost 5 years ago

@touroult : est-ce qu'il est possible de téléchager les données centralisées via le SINP ?

Posted by gillessanmartin almost 5 years ago


À ma connaissance le SINP n'est pas un système de bancarisation centralisée des données (voir Néanmoins vous pouvez retrouver un ensemble de 977 datasets publiés par l'UMS PatriNat sur le site du GBIF ici:
I do not think SINP intend to be centralized databank (see As an alternative , you could reach 977 datasets published by UMS PatriNat (organization in charge of Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel) on GBIF website.

@clem @chris971 I agree PlantNet is an iNat competitor and a serious research program. Nothetheless, iNat ID auto suggestions seems to be more effective for Arthropods, Birds, Reptile Amphibians (though not perfect), isn't it? Furthermore, iNat is open and community-driven which make it an amazing tool for beginners and less experienced naturalists who are not aware of naturalist local networks. To my experience, few seasoned french naturalists use iNat on a regular basis but I know many elementary and high school teachers, nature hobbyists, local cities (who are not aware of Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel) who already use iNat as a pedagogical resource.
As skilled naturalists is needed to validate IDs, linking these two communities (experienced vs newcomers) through iNat seem to make sense.

@tiwane I'm quite new to iNat community. What do you think about creating a french node to iNaturalist network ( to strengthen the community in France?

Posted by gaetanateag almost 5 years ago

@gaetanateag it would be great to have France in the iNaturalist Network! In order for that to happen, we need one or more local institutions that wants to take responsibility for local leadership and outreach. Very little technical expertise is required of the local institutions. I'm happy to arrange a call with anyone in France who is interested in learning more.

Posted by carrieseltzer almost 5 years ago

@carrieseltzer @gaetanateag if you organize a call I'd love to join.

Posted by clem almost 5 years ago

Thanks @clem! @gaetanateag and I spoke on Friday. Now he's planning to do more outreach to other groups and organizations in France. It would be great for you two to connect and join forces in that effort. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Posted by carrieseltzer almost 5 years ago

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