What are people posting to iNaturalist via Seek?

In the Spring of 2019, we added functionality for Seek by iNaturalist users to post to iNaturalist from Seek. To date, over 2.3M observations have been posted via Seek. For comparison, just under 100M observations have been posted to iNaturalist with 53.5M from the iNaturalist mobile apps and 41.9M posted via the website. Note these numbers include all observations not just Verifiable (where Verifiable = Needs ID & Research Grade). The graph below shows the accumulation of observations posted via Seek. Like other iNaturalist activity, there is a seasonal pattern that reflects the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Compared to the observations posted via the iNaturalist mobile apps, there is a noticeably larger fraction of captive observations have been posted via Seek. But the remaining quality grade categories are remarkably similar across both apps.

More plants and less birds have been posted via Seek compared with the iNaturalist apps. But again, otherwise the species categories are remarkably similar.

Proportionately fewer observations of rare (species with less than 50 observations), uncommon (species with 50-100 observations) and common (species with 100-1000 observations) species have been posted via Seek compared with the iNaturalist mobile apps. For reference, species in the computer vision model have around 100 observations or more.

Lastly, we compared the spatial distribution of observations posted via Seek and iNaturalist. The map below shows the ratio of observations posted via Seek to observations posted via the iNaturalist Mobile app in each 1-degree grid cell. Bluer colors indicate relatively more observations from Seek while red colors indicate relatively more observations from the iNat Mobile app. The Eastern US and Europe show up as Seek hotspots.

The observations posted to iNaturalist from Seek represent a small sample of Seek usage. But because the rest of Seek activity stays on users' devices and we know very little about it, it's the only insight we currently have. In summary, the kinds of observations are quite similar to what's posted through the iNaturalist apps with some interesting differences. There is a larger percentage of observations of non-wild organisms, more plants than birds. Likewise, observations of rarer species are posted less commonly through Seek and activity, relative to the iNaturalist mobile apps, is greatest in the Eastern US and Europe and a few other scattered enclaves like Peru.

Posted by loarie loarie, November 30, 2021 18:24

Comments

Now you have piqued my curiousity. How does Website use differ from Mobile/Seek in terms of groups and abundance?

One of the issues with promoting Seek in southern Africa is that it does not use the local Common Names, but strange American ones.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 months ago (Flag)

@tonyrebelo Does Seek ignore when a common name is set to a certain place?

Posted by raymie about 2 months ago (Flag)

@raynue - how do I do that? I dont see where I set the place in Seek
Currently it is not displaying our local common names.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 months ago (Flag)

interesting comparisons, thanks.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 months ago (Flag)

How does this impact the privacy of Seek users? One of the big "selling" points I've used for Seek was it was a great way to introduce kids to citizen science without risk of interactions with internet strangers. [Edited to add: Through the link provided above (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?oauth_application_id=333&place_id=any&verifiable=any) you can access user profiles, location data, and message them.]

Posted by pinkpimpernel about 2 months ago (Flag)

@tonyrebelo I guess @raymie refers to the common name set to a certain place https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-to-add-a-common-name-to-a-taxon/9792/19 and your own account refers to that place.

Posted by optilete about 2 months ago (Flag)

@pinkpimpernel - correct, one of the big features of Seek is that its private in a way iNat isn't. These data come from a feature on Seek where people, if they want to, can create an iNat account (which leads through an age gate which includes getting parent/guardian permissions if needed) or log into their iNat account, and then individually post their Seek sightings to iNat. So the data we're seeing here is all from users who proactively took those steps to share certain info with iNat. The flip side of course is that its a tiny tiny fraction of Seek activity and we know nothing about the majority of Seek activity because of the privacy features you mention.

Posted by loarie about 2 months ago (Flag)

Could the bird difference be related to cameras? That is, do bird photos come more often from people who use non-phone cameras and submit to the website on iNaturalist? How do just the iNaturalist app bird numbers compare to the Seek bird numbers--are they more similar?

Posted by erikamitchell about 2 months ago (Flag)

@loarie Awesome, thank you for the clarification!

Posted by pinkpimpernel about 2 months ago (Flag)

Where has the North Island of New Zealand gone? ;-)

(Perhaps I shouldn't complain. In lots of other maps on the internet, NZ is missing completely. Tourism NZ even made a funny ad about it recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjTLOh_zz1g.)

Posted by jon_sullivan about 2 months ago (Flag)

"Compared to the observations posted via the iNaturalist mobile apps, there is a noticeably larger fraction of captive observations have been posted via Seek." Do you mean the observations are captive because an identifier marked them captive, because the iNaturalist automatic algorithm marked them captive, or because the observer marked them captive? Is it possible to know the difference? I'd be interested to know if using the Seek interface somehow makes it easier for observers to know whether something should be marked captive. Is it possible to upload unknowns from the Seek app or are observations always identified (presumably by the computer vision?) I could see how more observations might become captive if fewer of them start out unknown, either because more identifiers see them or because the iNaturalist automatic algorithm only operates observations with an ID.

Posted by arboretum_amy about 2 months ago (Flag)

@erikamitchell everything above is Seek vs. iNat mobile. As tonyrebelo suggested, it would be interesting to also include iNat web. But since Seek vs iNat mobile are both on smart phones I don't think that would account for the bird difference.

@jon_sullivan apologies for NZ!

@arboretum_amy the ways they get marked as captive would be the same: either in the obs form, automatically by iNat, or by the community once posted. I think the difference is that Seek is used in more 'houseplant/garden' settings than iNat but thats just a hunch

Posted by loarie about 2 months ago (Flag)

@optilete Common names.
Yes that works on the web version (i have curated over 4000 species, and processed the files for adding 40,000 common names to iNat, so i know the process well). But not on Seek. (The iPhone app does use local names).

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 months ago (Flag)

@ erikamitchell i think the Seek app wont even let you observe something if the algorithm can't identify it. Harder to get IDs on birds using the smartphone cameras since they tend to be small and far away.

Neat data! I didn't realize so many people were using Seek to add to iNat.

Posted by charlie about 2 months ago (Flag)

How does the iNaturalist Website compare to both the mobile App and Seek? (i am never using iNat on a mobile device)

Posted by bagous about 2 months ago (Flag)

Interesting...

Posted by taipeibunny about 2 months ago (Flag)

@charlie you can't save an obs in Seek if it doesn't identify it to species using CV, but you can post any observation (even if it's coarsely IDed by Seek or has no ID at all) to iNat (and edit the ID before posting if you like).

I was totally expecting Seek-to-iNat observations to be much more biased towards plants, but perhaps people are posting many non-plants from Seek because they're harder for Seek to identify so folks are using iNat to get a better ID.

@bagous There's a comparison chart in the Seek User Guide at inaturalist.org/seek.

Posted by tiwane about 2 months ago (Flag)

@tiwane i mean in terms of the data shown above

Posted by bagous about 2 months ago (Flag)

Thanks @tiwane, that is interesting. To be fair i haven't used Seek in a long time since i use the regular iNaturalist app instead.

Posted by charlie about 2 months ago (Flag)

@loarie Would it be possible to for me to search through my observations for relative rarity of the species as it was demonstrated here?

Posted by eric-schmitty about 2 months ago (Flag)

Is there a hypothesis to explain why the east US has larger Seek adoption than the west coast?

Posted by birdenheck about 2 months ago (Flag)

my guess is because iNat started in the West so many people who might like Seek were already using the iNat app?

Posted by charlie about 2 months ago (Flag)

@charlie that was my first thought. Wish we could see Vermont a bit more clearly, as it also has an iNat community that started early in the platform's life. I think I see a yellow dot where Vermont should be?

Posted by tiwane about 2 months ago (Flag)

It looks like Vermont may be yellow. The people I know here are way more likely to use the iNat app or the website uploader rather than Seek, i only know one person who uses Seek here. But that's a biased sample.

Posted by charlie about 2 months ago (Flag)

It looks like europe is mostly blue.
And also thanks for bringing this up iNat!
I'm not a Seek user so this was interesting to find.

Posted by taipeibunny about 2 months ago (Flag)

Also thanks for the comparisons. Those were fun to look at.

Posted by taipeibunny about 2 months ago (Flag)

Probably more iNat users that discover Seek find it more convenient.

Posted by taipeibunny about 2 months ago (Flag)

@jon_sullivan the NZ video is hilarious!

Wild speculation re bias towards Seek observations in Eastern US & Europe - could this be due to a larger fraction of people concerned with internet privacy in these regions?

Posted by jakob about 2 months ago (Flag)

Re my hypothesis: there's a study (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.06.007) including a map for European countries, which doesn't show any obvious match - actually quite the contrary:

EU internet privacy concerns

Posted by jakob about 2 months ago (Flag)

I'm surprised seek is popular in Europe. I've never heard of it until now

Posted by fuerchtegott about 2 months ago (Flag)

It would be interesting to see between the app and seek within a taxon (eg. insects) the proportions of RG observations, captive observations, needs ID etc.

Posted by robotpie about 2 months ago (Flag)

I like the real time ID feature of Seek so typically only use that when I don't know what something is (mostly for plants) and want to know quickly. I use the iNaturalist app also for things I don't know but am not looking for an answer right away...seems like the two apps could be combined together someday? Most of the time though I use the iNaturalist website when I have time to go through photos from a trail and document what I saw.

Posted by ajvanh-arch about 2 months ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments