Uncovering the mysteries and myths about iNaturalist and iRecord

Would you like to make sure the observations you send to recording apps help to protect wildlife? Read on to find out how you can help us and other conservation organistions make the most out of the data you submit.

Before you enter wildlife records into online recording apps, you are asked to choose a licence that will detail how your records can be used. It can sometimes be unclear how these licenses restrict the use of records to which they apply.

We have provided the following information in the hope it will clear up some of the myths around data usage by Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) like RECORD. Further down, we have included some information on how you can change your license if you want to. Lastly, there are some quick stats on how the different licenses affect the amount of data that we are able to use.

Different types of license
Important information

The above-mentioned licenses can be applied to the record itself and/or the photo/sound material you might upload to support the record. Therefore, if you want to retain the rights to your photos/recordings (i.e. add a Creative Commons license to make sure they are attributed, not used commercially etc.), but are happy to share the actual biological information with LERCs, then this is easy to do.

Changing your license settings in iNaturalist

In iNaturalist, licenses for the record itself and any photo/sound material are handled separately. If you would like to share your data with organisations such as LERCs, please check your settings and update if necessary. The following is a guide to help you make the changes:

  1. Log in to iNaturalist using an internet browser (it is not so easy using the app for this)
  2. Go to your Account Settings (drop-down menu below your picture if using a PC)
  3. Go to Content & Display (on the left-hand side menu)
  4. Scroll down and you will see 3 options:
    • Default observation license – change this to CC0
    • Default photo license – choose whatever you like based on options mentioned above
    • Default sound license – choose whatever you like based on options mentioned above
  5. Under each option there is a checkbox saying ‘Update existing observations with new license choices’. Make sure you tick this box if you want the settings to be applied to records you have previously added on to the system (recommended).
  6. Save Settings (blue button in the bottom right corner).
Alarming statistics

Whilst we understand that some people might only want to use apps such as iNaturalist for fun, some people are unaware of the license issues. The majority of people would like their records to be used in conserving local wildlife, which is why it's important to be aware of this.

As a breakdown of the iNaturalist data for RECORD's Coverage Area (based on data up to July 2022):

Therefore, based on the above stats, less than 10% of iNaturalist data is available for use within the local planning system.

iRecord Data

If you are using iRecord, licenses are a bit easier. By joining iRecord, you automatically allow the use of your records by other organisations including LERCs. However, you can still choose a license for photos or other media in your account settings. You can read more about the terms of use here.

iNaturalist Data transfer to iRecord

To make things easier for organisations like LERCs as well as verifiers, iNaturalist and iRecord have started working together. This means that iNaturalist data is incorporated into iRecord. However, the data needs to meet certain criteria:

So what do we suggest?

For any common species that you can confidently identify, our preferred method for submitting data is to enter it straight into our online database, Swift. You can create an account via this link . You can even use Swift on your phone whilst you are out and about. A big plus point is that you do not need a photo for your record to be accepted. This can be a point of frustration when recording common, easily-identified, species with apps such as iRecord and iNaturalist, as records without photographic evidence are normally rejected.


Use iRecord for any species you are less sure of and that you are able to photograph. iRecord has a community with experts happy to help identifying a variety of species groups. A number of national recording schemes and societies also use iRecord.


iNaturalist is a great tool for beginners and younger audiences to start their wildlife recording journey and to explore the natural world. We also use it for some recording projects like the City Nature Challenge or our MyPatch Campaign as it's a fantastic way of sharing what's been seen with others. iNaturalist is also useful for identifying species, i.e. to point you in the right direction of a species group. Records which have a photo and which are correctly licensed do make their way to us, but it is worth being well aware of all the information above before using this platform as your main recording tool.

As mentioned previously, it is entirely up to you how you choose to record wildlife. Different things work for different people and in different situations and all routes have their own merits and down sides.
We hope you found this information helpful. If you have any more queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

RECORD - Local Environmental Records Centre,
Cedar House,
Caughall Road,

01244 383749
Charity number: 1095859
Company number: 04046886
VAT number: 455 8632 62

An ALERC member

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