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What seaweed is that? iNaturalist can help

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Green sea grapes sitting on a rock
Sea grapes, a recent addition to the iNaturliast project Seaweeds of the Victorian Coast. Photo: Catherine Norwood

The iNaturalist app can help identify Australian seaweeds and build a community of seaweed-curious citizen scientists.

Indulging in a favourite Australian pastime – a day at the beach – you find the tide has brought all kinds of seaweed to shore.

But which of Australia’s 1500 or so species have you tripped over? If you’re not sure, members of the iNaturalist community may be able to help.

And for those who do know their kelps from their crayweed, adding observations to iNaturalist and verifying the findings of other users can help to map seaweeds around the Australian coast.

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.

Record your observations, share them with fellow naturalists and collaborate with other users to discuss your findings. You can upload photos, and sound files too (although seaweed doesn’t make much noise).

Members range from casual observers of nature, to experts in their fields including researchers who can help identify and verify your observations

iNaturalist has 5.6 million people signed up 116.3 million observations 396,114 species identified

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.

Your observations as a nature lover and citizen scientist can help track changes in the location of different species, or even help identify a new species.

Tracking local species

Casual observations are welcome and you can also join different projects that collate specific collections of records, for example for a place, event, or particular species.

Two projects have already been created for Australian seaweeds

  • Seaweeds of the NSW Coast, and

  • Seaweeds of the Victorian Coast

Seaweeds of the NSW coast 3428 observations 127 species identified
Seaweeds of the Victorian Coast 3212 observations 252 species identified (as at 28 September)

View the projects to see what other beachcombers in your state have been spotting.

If joining an event is more for you, consider the Great SouthernBioBlitz. This takes place across the Southern Hemisphere in spring each year. The 2022 event runs from October 28-31.

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