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Name that Aussie seaweed

Updated: May 7

A mix of different coloured seaweeds washed up on the beach
Storms offer a bonanza for seaweed spotters, with diverse species often washed up on beaches. Photo: Melissa Marino

Interested in identifying the strange seaweed you’ve just found washed up on the beach, or spotted in the water while snorkelling?  The free iNaturalist app can help.

The app can also connect you to a larger community of those who appreciate nature’s diversity.

Australia has about 1500 species of seaweed, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. So identifying different seaweeds is no mean feat.

In just over 18 months, the number of seaweed observations recorded in seaweed projects on the app in NSW and Victoria has more than doubled. The number of species identified in NSW has increased from 127 to 230, while in Victoria it’s increased from 252 to 318.

Through the app you can record your findings and share them with others. You can also check out what others are finding in your location or where the same species you’ve found might be turning up in other parts of Australia or the world. It works for seaweed – and for any other kind of life on earth too.

Getting started

To get started, simply register with iNaturalist on their website, or download the free app.

Take a snap on your phone or camera and upload it to either the website or app.

Based on your image, and other entries, you’ll be offered some suggestions to identify what you’ve found. Alternatively, you can enter your own suggestion.

It helps to put some kind of ID on your image, rather than just ‘unknown’, as you’re more likely to get feedback from other users, confirming your find, or suggesting an alternative category.

Add an ID

The very broadest categories are:

  • green algae for a green seaweed

  • red algae for a red seaweed

  • brown algae for a brown seaweed.

However, you might know it’s a kelp or even the specific kind of kelp, such as Ecklonia radiata, known as common or golden kelp. Others in the community can provide feedback on your ID, sometimes confirming or suggesting alternatives.

A screenshot of the iNaturalist Seaweeds of the Victorian coast project.

Tracking diversity

Over time, the observations help build a picture of the diversity of seaweeds along our coasts, and researchers can make use of this data to track the presence of different seaweeds along the coast, including whether they might be disappearing or appearing in new locations.

Projects tracking seaweeds have been created in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Viewing these projects easily lets you see what other seaweeds are being found that you might come across.

Seaweeds of the NSW coast

September 2022

3428 observations

127 species

May 2024

7059 observations

230 species

Seaweeds of the Victorian coast

September 2022

3212 observations

252 species

May 2024

6877 observations

318 species

Seaweeds of the Queensland coast

Started October 2022



May 2024  

2279 observations

151 species

 What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is a free app for smartphones and tablets that lets you upload photos of any plants, animals, insects or other life forms – including seaweeds – into a global community database. It is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.


Information from the app is added to the global iNaturalist database and shared with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data.

More information:

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