About iNaturalist NZ–Mātaki Taiao

is a place where you can share what you see in nature, set up citizen science and community-based monitoring projects, meet other nature watchers, and learn about New Zealand's amazing natural history.

The world is filled with nature watchers, from trampers to hunters, birders to beach-combers, and pros to school kids. Many of us keep notes of what we find. What if all those observations could be shared online? You could learn about the butterflies that live in your neighbourhood, or discover someone who knows all about the plants in your favourite reserve. Yet, for a long time, everyone's notes have been scattered in notebooks, private spreadsheets and dusty library shelves, or, more recently, buried in hard to reach commercial social media sites.

As a society, we have seen a lot but collectively we remain blind to most changes in our biodiversity. When enough people record their observations on iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao, we change all this. We build a living record of life in Aotearoa–New Zealand that scientists and environmental managers can use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone can use to learn more about New Zealand's amazing natural history.

That's the vision behind iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao. So, if you like recording your findings from the outdoors, you want to connect with other nature watchers, or if you want help identifying and learning about all the species living around you, join us!

Mātaki Taiao

Mātaki Taiao is the Māori name of iNaturalist NZ. We were named by long time user tangatawhenua with agreement by a group of Māori leaders around Aotearoa. We'll let tangatawhenua explain Mātaki Taiao in her own words.

I choose Taiao, reflecting the natural world around me/us — and that is all I see at home as I live in the bush overlooking the moana! Mātaki was chosen not only because of the watch, but also because of the observe and examine aspects, and we all know the hours we have spent just watching critters and observing them!"

Native bees are fascinating and quite mesmerizing. I am lucky that on my property I have walls of manuka and under there the native bees live, so when there are flowers I can spend hours just observing their habits — then I remember to take a photo or two! I have seen wasps dragging insects backwards to their lair, hermit crabs fighting, ika eating koura and did you know that ika — fish — sleep on their side like a patiki — flounder — at night? I kid you not and have the photos to prove it! *LOL* (And tamure — snappers in their striped pyjamas at night, not the usual silver they wear during the day) All of this is more than watching to me, it is observing who does what, how and where and why.

I use the examine aspect for the plants, as I have to examine the fruits of some plants to be able to get to species level — for example sea rockets (Genus Cakile). Examining the tide lines also gives me an idea of what lives where in that section of moana — I don't watch the tide line — I examine it :)

So hopefully you will now have a greater understanding of Mātaki Taiao as it is so much more than a translation of our old Nature Watch :)

About iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao

iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao is run by the New Zealand Bio-Recording Network Trust, a registered Charitable Trust in New Zealand dedicated to bio-recording. The Trustees are:

  • Colin Meurk
  • Jon Sullivan
  • Jerry Cooper
  • Murray Dawson (from 2020)
  • Stephen Pawson
  • Shane Orchard (2011–June 2018)
    1. Our lofty aims are:

    2. To increase knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of New Zealand's natural history.
    3. To engage and assist New Zealanders in observing and recording biological information.
    4. To develop and support online tools to assist individuals and groups to record, view, share and use biological information.
    5. To collaborate with people and groups interested in bio-recording.
    6. To promote and provide secure, open, and ethical sources of biological information for the public.

    The Trust is also supported by a larger group of advisors and collaborators who have helped develop iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao over the years. Big contributions have been made by Kimberley Collins, John Barkla, Murray Dawson, Zane Gilmore, Dave Lane, Barry Mathews, Marie McDonald, Leon Perrie, Davena Watkin, Ed Wilson, and Tony Wills. Plus there's all the amazing users making observations, identifications, projects, places, and guides on iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao.

    A little history

    We began in 2005 with a grant from the New Zealand government's TFBIS programme to prototype a community nature observation system for New Zealand. Colin Meurk and Jerry Cooper from Manaaki Whenua — Landcare Research and Jon Sullivan from Lincoln University led the project to adapt for New Zealand the award-winning Swedish nature observation system, Artportalen (which means species gateway). Artportalen had, and has, a great following in Sweden and neighbouring countries. Manaaki Whenua — Landcare Research IT developer Mark Fulgestad unexpectedly found himself taking a crash course in Swedish.

    With our NZ version, called NZBRN, we were able to amass several hundred thousand observations, mostly of birds, fungi, and plants. Most of this was from the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey and botanist Graeme Jane's extensive personal database of plant observations. We also attracted a small but devoted group of users who collectively shared tens of thousands of observations and greatly increased our knowledge of the natural history of New Zealand. NZBRN had lots of detailed features and could make great distribution maps and spreadsheets, but it was generally regarded as too difficult and complicated for widespread use.

    From NZBRN to NatureWatch NZ to iNaturalist NZ: progress!

    Internet technology changes quickly and after few years the original NZBRN system was creaking at the seams and looking ready for a museum. To the Facebook and Twitter generation, it was a dinosaur. It was time for a change. At the end of 2010, we secured more funding from TFBIS (thanks TFBIS!) to build something new and shiny. We started by reviewing the options internationally, and one new system really stood out, iNaturalist. It ticked most of our boxes; it was beautiful and fun to use and made full use of modern social media to build an online community. Plus, it was open-source, which meant that we could join in the development of the iNaturalist code-base for the benefit of them and us. We like mutualisms!

    iNaturalist began as the Master's final project of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda at UC Berkeley's School of Information in 2008. Nate and Ken-ichi continued working on the site, along with Scott Loarie, a climate change researcher at the Carnegie Institution. Because it's open-source, a variety of new developers are now sharing in the ongoing development of the iNaturalist codebase.

    The New Zealand Bio-Recording Network Trust launched its New Zealand optimised blend of iNaturalist in August 2012 as NatureWatch NZ. This new development included all of the masses of observations and users from the legacy NZBRN system, transferred some of the NZBRN bells and whistles like "Sought but not found", and linked to the New Zealand Organisms Register (NZOR) for a complete and up-to-date list of all NZ species.

    Moving forward with iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao

    In June 2018 we moved from our old domain (naturewatch.org.nz) to our new home at iNaturalist.NZ which is more secure thanks to https technology. As part of this shift, we rebranded to iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao. The NZBRN Trust no longer operates the content on naturewatch.org.nz.

    iNaturalist NZ is one of a growing number of international partners in the iNaturalist Network. iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao gives kiwis all the goodness baked into iNaturalist with a vibrant online community of kiwi nature watchers and connections to NZ information and features.

    A whole lot of thanks

    We wouldn't be able to make iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao or the international iNaturalist platform without many, many wonderful open source projects, open datasets, and public APIs, including (in no particular order): New Zealand Organisms Register, Catalogue of Life, uBio, Ruby on Rails, jQuery, Google Maps, Mark James' Silk Icons, and lots of others. iNaturalist.org has also been helped by many people along the way, including Coye Cheshire and Andrew McDiarmid. iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao has benefited from the technical skills and enthusiasm of Dave Lane's team at Catalyst IT software developers (including the part of it that was formerly Egressive), and IT pros Zane Gilmore and Kit Randel. And, of course, thanks to all of you users for making iNaturalist NZ — Mātaki Taiao an online community.

    Need help?

    You got it. Head on over to the Help Pages or send us an email at help@inaturalist.nz.

    Revised on November 05, 2021 10:30 PM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan