Acceptable observations for Humans


I recently came across a new user posting pictures of sign boards of birds in a “park”. The signboard had a clear printed picture of a bird along with so The user self identified the observation based on the information on the sign board which has Common English Name, Scientific Name and Status (resident. migrant etc).

Meanwhile some identifiers corroborated the id and the result was the signboard bird (signbird) became a research grade observation.

Some one shared the observation(s) on a WhatsApp group after which I, and a few others from the WhatsApp group, visited the observations and downgraded the id using the DQA parameters. (I did Flag the observations and the response was that it was adequate to downgrade the observation using the DQA. )

Later I commented on the observation, as pasted below :

Hi @inatusername. The image you uploaded appears to be a copyrighted artwork or a photo of a hoarding, rather than a real organism.

On Inaturalist, users are encouraged to upload original content that they have created or have permission to share. This includes photos of real organisms, drawings, sounds, and even plain descriptions made from the observers own observations

Unfortunately, your uploaded image does not fit these guidelines as it is not an original creation or a photo of a real organism. Therefore, it is not acceptable as a valid observation on Inaturalist.

It really does not matter if the picture / sound is of high quality, what is quite important is the originality of the observation.

Kindly do delete these observations.

We appreciate your understanding and hope you can contribute to inaturalist community by sharing your own original observations.

The original user has yet to see this comment or respond to it.

However subsequent to this some other identifiers have identified this observation as “Homo sapiens” / Human.

On further querying the identifiers responded, saying that, this signboard is human made hence is is a sign of a human.

I understand the need to encourage new users but I don’t understand this need to id the signboard as human activity instead of encouraging the deletion of something that is obviously a newbie mistake. It seems to me this type of “human id’s” will become the entrance of a deep rabbit hole and basically anything uploaded and not fitting into the non human life forms will just be id’ed as human without questioning the observers original intentions.

Looking for thoughts on this issue


This already happens a lot, and I don’t think it is necessarily bad if these observations aren’t the point of iNat anyway. The primary goal of iNat is to connect people to nature, so I ID observations as whatever organism the user seemed to be interacting with. In this case I would probably agree with IDing as human because the user isn’t encountering the actual birds. But you could also ID as the bird and flag for copyright infringement.

Either way I don’t think it matters a whole lot. The observation will become casual and largely overlooked.


According to the iNaturalist guidelines “an observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location”.
Finding a track, a nest or a carcass represents an encounter, since those are traces that were left directly by the animal, and directly found by the user.
A signboard was not left behind by the animal it represents, it’s evidence of human activity, so the Homo sapiens ID is accurate.
Personally when I find such observations I don’t ID them, but I answer “no” to “evidence of presence” section, because the user’s intent was obviously to post an observation of the pictured animal and not a human.


IMO these should be identified as Homo sapiens.


Noted your responses @tiwane @neutral @thomaseverest and it relaxes the tension I was feeling

So the follow query is that the intention of the observer is not “relevant” ? especially a new user ?

I do consider the intention of the observer.
For example, if the user posts a picture of a meadow and tags it as “Apis mellifera” but the bee is nowhere to be seen I will select “no evidence of presence”, since the organism that the uploader intends to show us is not present. Other organisms like grasses and bushes might be present in the meadow, but I don’t consider them because they’re not the target of the observation. This also applies to the signboard example.
If the uploader posts a picture of a frog and IDs it as “Rana dalmatina” but it’s actually Rana temporaria I will ID it as the right species. The subject of the photo is the frog, but the original ID is incorrect and can be improved.


I think all such observations should be IDed to Human, but under the condition that all observations IDed to Human will be silently deleted after some time.

Observations of Humans and Human-made objects are completely absurd in the context of iNat.


is this your suggestion, or is this what happens ?

Human observations are not mass deleted.


@opisska – sometimes human-made objects are mistaken for objects made by other organisms, or human-made objects can appear to actually be other organisms.


I slowly and excitedly crept up on this “bird”… :crying_cat_face:


Yup, and even stranger things happen too.

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Pictures of pets, humans, abiotic phenomena, or obvious test observations are okay unless someone repeatedly posts such content.

I actually like posting pictures of human-made objects which I stumble upon in a natural context–whether because they move me in some way, for the contrast they provide with the setting, or simply because they make me laugh.


So, the problem with a signboard is that it doesnt really represent an organism’s presence. Like @neutral said,

If I were to make an observation of a picture of a snowy owl in a bird field guide, for instance, and this got to research grade, it would show up on the map as an organism. This, ofc, would cause problems.
I would just put:

And ID it as homo sapien/ no evidence of life.


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