A request to not identify

A user near me has recently added a few observations that are marked as unknown but has added in the notes “please don’t tell me who this is.” This seems… odd?

My guess is that their personal goals are a bit different from the way most people are using iNaturalist- for example more of a personal record. There have been a few other observations by them that I was a little confused by where the notes had very detailed identification info but the observation was still “unknown.” What’s the etiquette here? Should I leave a comment, message them, or just ignore it?


Personally I would just ignore it, at least initially. If the observations remain a long time and the OP never adds an ID, or if they start uploading a large volume of these observations, then I’d probably shoot them a DM. Here is a relevant comment from iNat staff given in a different, but somewhat similar, context:


i would ignore, but if you’re really curious, you could message the user.

to me, it looks like just 3 lichen observations. maybe they want to try to identify these on their own. who knows?


I think this is close to what I would message if it feels appropriate to say something- maybe adding a suggestion about adjusting settings so that observations don’t automatically upload.

For now, I’ll just leave it. (I’m at least partially motivated by an upcoming BioBlitz at my site and wanting to make sure I’ll be prepared for weird questions.)


Teaching a botany class during COVID shutdown, I sometimes posted observations on iNaturalist with a note something like, “Please do not identify this observation. My students need to ID for a lab exercise.” People nearly always left them unidentified and I appreciated that. Recently I stumbled across a couple that were still unidentified after 2 years, to my surprise. (I put a name on them.)

So I would say, leave the observation alone if it’s recent, or ask the observer to explain.


Maybe it would cause some sort of trouble if people knew what it was or could search for it. I know that I’ve felt some hesitation in revealing bugs that might be considered an invasive species because I worry about their lives, even though they’re bad for the environment. Also, here in Colorado, an entire pack of wolves were killed off by a hunter because officials were too open about the location of the pack. So perhaps they cannot resist the urge to share their photos online, but are still worried about what someone might do to it. It could come to harm.


Obscure the location
Or reject Community ID
Or - don’t make it an iNat obs at all.


It sounds like this might also be to do with a language barrier? Using ‘who’ to refer to a species is somewhat uncommon, so a lot of the nuance of the observer might be lost.

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It does seem like an odd request but there probably are reasons. As others have said, probably it’s best to ignore it. I would mark it reviewed and move on. For someone trying to key things out, which does take time, it may be frustrating if someone else comes along and suggests an ID before they can, especially if that suggestion is based on CV and wrong since the observation is of something more obscure that’s less common and not yet included in the CV training set. That may just make it get stuck at genus level or above.

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