Identifying Nature

Let's find out the best ways to identify all of the organisms you might come across

Identifying Nature

The world is full of amazing living things and all of them have names. You can call things by their common name (which will be different in English or French or Cantonese) or you can name them with their scientific name (which is written in Latin, and is used by everyone).

There are lots of resources out there to help you identify any and all species you might come across.

Here are our favourites.

Field Guide Overview
iNaturalist NHM OPAL iSpot NatureGate
Species range: Full Spiders, trees, bats, insect pests, orchids, bees, amphibians and seaweeds Common British plants and animals Common British plants and animals Flowers, trees, shrubs, birds, butterflies and fish. Must also be native to Finland.
How to use: Photo upload Flow charts and description sheets Flow charts and description sheets Answering questions, providing information Provide information
Ease of use: Very easy Easy Easy Intermediate Easy

iNaturalist

iNaturalist is our go-to app for when we come across an interesting species and want to identify it quickly. With this app, all you need to do is take a photo and upload it. The app will try and figure out the species, but if it can't it will allow other users to identify it for you - neat!

  1. Download the iNaturalist app from Google Play or the AppStore (or visit inaturalist.org).
  2. Go out and explore! Take pictures of trees, other plants or animals.
  3. Upload the photo to the app, add notes and a location where you saw it, as well as if the animal/plant is in captivity or was cultivated (grown to be used).
  4. The app will try to suggest what the species is. If the app can’t work it out, the community of app users will help.

EXTRA: Click onto the Explore tab to open a map of the UK (and beyond).

If there are no species identified in your area then it’s a great opportunity for you to start hunting!

Natural History Museum Guides

The Natural History Museum has a wide range of identification guides for common UK plants and animals, including spiders, trees, bats,insect pests, orchids, bees, amphibians and seaweeds. They also have an Identification and Advisory Service team who could help you out if you were really stuck!

Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)

OPAL is a UK citizen science initiative all about encouraging people to explore their enviornment and learn more about nature on their doorstep. They have wonderful citizen science surveys to get involved in, and a ton of handy flow-chart identification guides.

iSpot

iSpot is a citizen science project run by The Open University that was developed to help anyone learn about and engage with nature while sharing and building their wildlife identification skills. iSpot has a database of over 1.5 million photos posted with hundreds of thousands observations of species from a wide range of groups including amphibians and reptiles; birds; fungi and lichens; fish; invertebrates; mammals plants and other organisms.

Their ID guides take a different route to identification, requiring you to answer as many questions as you can about the species. This requires you to have good observations of the species so may be more suitable for advanced levels.

NatureGate

We love the Finnish website, NatureGate, for identifying flowers, trees, shrubs, birds, butterflies and fish. The identification system is child friendly and allows you to use whatever information you have to find an answer. Unfortunately you can't use the location utility as it's only set to Finland.