The steps to making wild counts.

written Jan 8, 2018 (last updated Sep 6, 2021) • by Jon Sullivan • Category: How to count

First steps

So you’ve decided to get started counting your wild. Great! What’s next?

Below are steps to make sure that you, and the world, get the most out of your wild counting. Each of these steps is explored in more detail in its own set of pages.

1. Decide what to count

Start by deciding on a consistent core of species that you’ll always count in the wild. It might just be one species you see only occasionally, or it could be several dozen. You’re making the commitment to always count these when you’re watching nature.

You’ll still be able nature watch for other species when you’re out and about, but your commitment will be to consistently count your core. Those are the species that you’ll learn the most about. You’ll document where they are, and aren’t, how that changes over the seasons, what species they interact with, and whether their numbers are trending up, or down.

Learn more.

2. Learn the method

Look at nature, not your screen. Your counting needs to be quick and easy and not get in your way. The best ways to do that are to type your observations in WildCounts shorthand, or speak observations into your phone with WildCounts spoken.

Learn more.

3. Work on your ID skills

If you’re going to count a piece of the wild, you’ll need to be good at identifying your core species. The best place to build up, and demonstrate, your species ID skills is iNaturalist. You can upload your own identified photos and audio recording to see if you’ve got your IDs correct, and you can help others to identify these species in their observations. Both are excellent ways to sharpen your species identification skills.

Learn more.

5. Gear up

Got a smart phone? Get it set up with the right apps and you’re good to go.

If you want to do more, there’s some extra gear that will help.

Learn more.

6. Share your counts

Wild counts get really useful when they’re shared and combined with others’ counts to uncover much larger patterns and trends. is not (yet) able to store all your wild counts, but you can freely put them on big data sharing platforms like Figshare and Github. Label them the right way and researchers can find them and weave them together with other data to describe how the natural world is changing.

The WildCounts data format is built to be compatible with international biodiversity data standards and is GBIF compatible (that’s the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). (Uploading biodiversity survey data to GBIF is, at the moment, very difficult unless you work for a biodiversity institution that maintains an authorised data pipe into GBIF. Watch this space.)

Learn more.


Once you’ve made lots of counts, it will be time to head over to the Data section to make sense of the patterns and trends emerging from your counts.