Frequently Asked Questions (and related topics)

What kind of photos do you want?

Our goal is to create a comprehensive data set of photos and records for all Maryland species.

  1. New species for the project (not on any checklist). This is still quite common if you focus on insects, especially high quality images of small insects.
  2. New photo species for the project (the species page has no photos)
  3. New county records (the species page does not list a record for that county)
  4. New USGS quad records
  5. Photos that improve on the quality of photos shown on a species page
  6. Any photo that shows a different element of the species. For plants, this might included close-ups of leaves, flowers, or seeds. For birds, this could be different plumages, nests, or interesting behaviors. Photos of predator/prey relationships are always of interest.
19,000 species in checklists? What are checklists? What are records?

Each species in our database is based on a published source, expert contributor's records, or a photo. If you go to the "Vertebrates" menu and select "Birds", you are viewing our Maryland bird checklist. For many categories, these are near complete and based on all available records (e.g., birds, butterflies, dragonflies). For many others, they are very much works in progress. (Many of our active contributors have added new species to the project!) Now click on any species in the checklist to view its species page. Notice that at the top, you can see its kingdom, phylum/domain, class, order, family, genus, and species. You can click any of these words to view that checklist. So you can view any taxonomic grouping as a checklist, whether ducks, hawks, rodents, orchids, milkweeds, or a specific family of beetle. You can also use the search box in the top-right to seach for a family or category. Try typing "Scolopacidae", "Orchids", or "Ticks". By the way, you can also search for species by common name, scientific name, and hundreds of synonyms. You can search by bird banding codes and moth Hodges numbers!

So a checklist is any list of species logged at MBP. A record is an observation of a species at a place on a date. American Bullfrog counts as one species, but we have many records. Records are mined from published sources, contributed by known experts, and of course documented in photos from our large, growing, and very active community of interest. See more on how to contribute below. We strive to be extremely conservative with species and records, and we welcome viewers to scrutinize anything on the site. All published sources are in our bibliography, which is linked on every page of the site.

How can I share photos?

There are a number of ways to share photos. Here are some of them in general order of preference.

  1. Submit observations to iNaturalist. All photos submitted for Maryland are automatically added to our project and queued for review and possible ingest into MBP!
  2. Post them in the Maryland Biodiversity Project Flickr group.
    (This requires a Flickr account (easy) and signing up for the group. New to Flickr?)
  3. Post photos on any photo sharing web site or personal web site and let us know periodically via e-mail that updates have been posted
Do photos shared with MBP "count" for the Maryland Plant Atlas?

Yes! Maryland Biodiversity Project and the Maryland Plant Atlas use a shared database. Any photo/record processed for MBP is automatically included in the Maryland Plant Atlas!

Ways to help when submitting photos

We process an enormous volume of photos and records. There are many things you can do to help speed up the processing.

  1. First and foremost, please be patient! The volume is very high (which is great!), and there will be times when a large backlog piles up. We assure you that we will review all photos as time permits!
  2. Please avoid sending e-mails inquiring about the status of specific photos. This just increases the volume of responses we have to write. When we process your photos, we always let you know whether we added the photo, the record, or both. We try to always point out the noteworthiness of each photo, such as whether it's a first county record for the project.
  3. Always include at least the date and county of the sighting. (Note: Flickr typically automatically shows the date for photos taken with nearly any modern digital camera. For older photos and scanned images, please manually add the date.)
  4. Specific locations are very important, but are never required if you are uncomfortable sharing the precise site. Note that a general area (e.g., Patuxent River, Green Ridge SF) and the USGS quad name is usually perfectly fine. Do not post specific locations for very rare or sensitive species. Please avoid locations for orchids and other vulnerable species (e.g., Wood Turtle) due to poaching concerns. You can always post the county and then e-mail/message us the specific location so we can add it to the database.
  5. For insect and other arthropod IDs, consider submitting photos to
  6. If your photo has been identified/verified by an expert, please include that in your photo caption! If confirmed on BugGuide or by an expert elsewhere, please include the link. Don't be shy about sharing your verifications. No one is an expert on every group of plants and insects, and if someone boldly claims to never be wrong, we are sure they often are. Expert verification is critical to presenting high-quality data, and we have a responsibility for high quality! We consider regular inclusion of expert verification a sign of careful and experienced naturalists.
  7. If submitting a plant photo and you're wondering about "countability" (established/naturalized/cultivated), include a sentence or two about what you saw (e.g., "At least 12 saplings growing along a wooded edge with no obviously planted individuals nearby.").

Yes, please! Maryland Biodiversity Project is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Maryland and we are coordinating our federal registration. Any donations will be applied to furthering the cause of the project. This may include professional web hosting fees and related expenses, outreach efforts from social media to supporting bioblitzes, specialized equipment, and so on. If funding becomes available, we are interested in bringing on one or more interns. Long-term, Jim and Bill would love to dedicate themselves to full-time to biodiversity cataloging, so wealthy benefactors are welcome to try coax us away from our day jobs.

How do I submit a photo to BugGuide?

It's easy! And expert identification of tiny, challenging species is a great way to contribute new county (and state!) records to MBP.

  1. Go to
  2. If it is your first visit, click "Register" to create an account. Provide your user name and e-mail address. Account information will be sent to your e-mail address.
  3. On future visits, click "Login" and enter your username and password. Click "Remember me" to save that info in your browser.
  4. Click the "ID Request" tab near the top of the page and then click "add image"
  5. Complete all of the fields as best you can. It takes just seconds.
  6. Click the "Browse" button to upload your photo, which must be in standard JPEG format. Please crop your photo so there is very little extra space around the subject. This helps reviewers very much in seeing details on the resized photos. If you don't, you will quickly receive this request from reviewers.
  7. Click Submit. You're done!
  8. You will receive updates each time the page is modified, including when it is filed to order, family, or genus. This can take a few hours or a few weeks. Usually it's a few days, but it depends greatly on the category of living thing and the quality of the photo. Experts from many areas graciously volunteer their time here. Let's reiterate that point - they are all awesome volunteers - please always be friendly and appreciative!
  9. IMPORTANT: A species is not verified until the species is listed in the "breadcrumbs" at the top of the page (Example). Anyone with an account can comment on any page, but only designated experts can file the photo as a specific species.
  10. If/when a species is verified to species, we are nearly certain to accept the record for Maryland Biodiversity Project. Thanks!