US regional iNaturalist participation

I built an observation metric to understand what US regions have more or less observations compared to the overall population. (More detail in this post iNaturalist participation across the United States.) For each Census bureau division, I found how many observations existed (as of 23 June 2019) and also computed the sum of all observations for the United States. From this, I calculated % total US iNat observations Next, I computed the percent of the US population in the division. Finally, I computed a metric of observations as % total iNat US observations/ % total US population.


Region Division Population estimate, 2018 % total US population iNat Observations (23 June 19) % total US iNat observations (23 June 2019) % total iNat observations/ % total population Rank
 West Pacific 53,441,278 16.2% 3,957,722 30.7% 1.9 1
 South West South Central 40,318,727 12.2% 2,296,972 17.8% 1.5 2
 Northeast New England 14,853,290 4.5% 761,005 5.9% 1.3 3
 West Mountain 24,552,385 7.4% 919,914 7.1% 1.0 4
 South South Atlantic 65,322,408 19.8% 1,856,532 14.4% 0.7 5
 South East South Central 19,112,813 5.8% 507,656 3.9% 0.7 6
 Northeast Mid-Atlantic 41,257,789 12.5% 1,030,636 8.0% 0.6 7
 Midwest East North Central 46,931,883 14.2% 1,132,770 8.8% 0.6 8
 Midwest West North Central 21,376,861 6.5% 406,606 3.2% 0.5 9
 None None 3,576,620 1.1% 31,276 0.2% 0.2 10



Using the Pacific division of the West region as an example, there were 3,957,722 observations out of 12,901,089 total observations which is 30.7% of all US iNat observations. The Pacific division population of 53,441,278 comprise 16.2% of the total US population. I divided the Pacific's 30.7% of all US iNat observations by the 16.2% of the total US population and computed that the Pacific has 1.9 times more observations than overall for the US.

At a regional level, the Pacific division leads with a 1.9 observation metric, that means that these states contribute about twice the observations as compared to the overall US population.. The states (and observation metric) that comprise the Pacific division are: Alaska (2.7), California (2.1), Hawaii (1.7), Oregon (1.3), and Washington (0.9) In this case, almost all the states were above the overall US. The exception was my home of Washington State, the laggard of the Pacific division.

Next, the West South Central division had a 1.5 observation metric. The states (and observation metric) that comprise the West South Central division are: Arkansas(0.6), Louisiana (0.7), Oklahoma (0.6), and Texas (1.8). In this case, the strong performance by Texas naturalists (about 3/4 of the West South Central division population) brings up the performance of the division.

The New England division had a 1.3 observation metric. The states (and observation metric) that comprise the New England division are:Connecticut (0.5), Maine (1.6), Massachusetts (1.0), New Hampshire (1.0), Rhode Island (0.4), and Vermont (11.2). I'm mighty curious as to why Vermont has such a high metric; we all have something to learn from them.

On the other end of the spectrum, the entire midwest region was well behind the rest of the United States. Here are states (observation metrics) for the Midwest region:
East North Central (0.6): Illinois(0.6), Indiana (0.4), Michigan(0.5), Ohio (0.9), and Wisconsin (0.6)
West North Central (0.5): Iowa (0.2), Kansas (0.4), Minnesota (0.8), Missouri (0.4), Nebraska (0.3), North Dakota (0.3), and South Dakota (0.4) As an aside, I've had recent opportunity to explore some of the midwest region and have found it might interesting.

Finally, the regions not covered in the US Census divisions had an observation metric of 0.2 These comprised: Guam (1.1), U.S. Virgin Islands (0.8), Northern Mariana Islands (0.5), American Samoa (0.4) and Puerto Rico (0.2) The low metric for Puerto Rico caused the overall metric to be low; because Puerto Rico has almost 90% of the population of this region.

I spent time thinking about an observation metric because I wanted to learn more about the iNaturalist population in the US but I'm also quite curious to understand how this data looks for the world. After all, we all live on Spaceship Earth. I'm heartened to see the iNaturalist staff and community starting to look at how we can use this wonderful tool across the globe.

I assembled statistics state by state using data from the Biodiversity projects from each state (as of 23 June 2019), thanks @zoology123 along with current 2018 population estimates(see iNaturalist US observation Analysis 23 June 2019

Census Bureau-designated regions and divisions
Region 1: Northeast
Division 1: New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont)
Division 2: Mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania)

Region 2: Midwest (Prior to June 1984, the Midwest Region was designated as the North Central Region.)
Division 3: East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin)
Division 4: West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota)

Region 3: South
Division 5: South Atlantic (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, and West Virginia)
Division 6: East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee)
Division 7: West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas)

Region 4: West
Division 8: Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming)
Division 9: Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington)

Puerto Rico and other US territories are not part of any census region or census division
Source: accessed 25 June 2019

Posted on June 27, 2019 09:36 PM by brewbooks brewbooks


I have to grin a bit at the nerdormouse project this is.
Did this have anything to do with Excel or something more sophisticated?
I like Excel, this is the sort of thing I can see myself doing, but in other contexts, i.e., I don't know how you did this, but it is cool.

Posted by chauncey almost 5 years ago

As I look over it more, I want to add a "Wow!" in regards to what you put together. Wow.

Posted by chauncey almost 5 years ago

@chauncey Thanks. Definitely a nerd project, which are my favorite kind. I did start using Excel and went through state by state gathering data. I copied the spreadsheet I used for this analysis into Google Sheets so that others could see the data.
(see iNaturalist US observation Analysis 23 June 2019

The original data I started with is here StateTerritoryInitialData20190623

Posted by brewbooks almost 5 years ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments