Add a DQA choice for "survey" photos

Sometimes people have “establishing shots” of areas that they’re working in to show an animal habitat, or pictures of those squares botanists use during a survey, on the survey field. Sometimes there are a lot of submissions in a series. Typically there are a lot of disparate species per shot, with no way to designate a focus. “Evidence of organism= no” usually feels odd to flag them as such, since there’s a ton of evidence assorted organisms, just no particular subject of focus.

iNat doesn’t have a lot of “rules”, but one of the principle guidelines is that an observation is a species in a place at a time. If they are putting an observation of a “plot” then it is not an observation and they should be discouraged from doing so.

Usually I will put up an observation that has the main photo of the organism, and then additional photos showing identifiable (hopefully) characters. I will often also add a context photo, that shows where in the overall habitat the observation sits. While this one is not mine, it illustrates nicely what I mean:

So, given that a bunch of on-their-own plot photos are already there and that people may not remove, what’s the best existing DQA for those?


I just identify one of the organisms visible in the photo.


I tend to do what @bouteloua does when I come across these photos, and make at least one comment explaining to them that iNat is not a general mapping tool. Something like is more likely more appropriate. I do think these “observations” should be discouraged.

@kiwifergus all photo of an observation should have the subject organism in the photo. Right now there’s no good way to distinguish environmental photos from subject photos. I would propose that, to deal with this situation, iNat comes up with a way for a user to designate some photos as environmental photos.


So, what Tony said, but to add, this also, maybe individual photos need their own DQA, or, my preferred alternative, some kind of categorization scheme, which could also handle other things like anatomy (wing detail vs full body), scale (fruit body vs spores), preservation state (in situ vs dried specimen), etc. And yes, there’s some legit but annoying feature creep potential here, e.g. annotations on photos etc.


as a spatial ecology person, i’ve always pushed to get functionality for habitats/natural communities/etc, but over time i just realized… you can pretty much always find a way to take a photo which includes an identifiable plant in it. So when peoplew ant to do habitat photos, one approach might be just to have them choose an indicator species (white pine, coast live oak, whatever) and add a ‘habitat’ photo that includes an identifiable photo of that species. Might be a good way to get ‘animal people’ more into adding plants as well. If we eventually get more robust observation linking functionality that could help too but in the mean time, annotations work quite well to track natural communities, habitat types, etc. I just wish we could do a reverse search (I can get a list of which species occur in Cattail Marsh, which is awesome, but I can’t get a list of all natural community types that have cattails). Anyway… maybe that is feature creep too :slight_smile:


Categorization could be nice for “traces” vs. the actual organism as well, which I think I’ve seen requests for occasionally. I’ve been reviewing a lot of old mammal observations recently and there are tons of tracks, scat, claw marks, nest holes, and so on.


It would be nice if the Android version provided a ‘survey’ mode, where you can group observations together, to indicate that you expect them all to be same species. Then, identifiers should be able to review all photos of the group of observations at once to confirm that they’re all the same species. Once a consensus has been reached that all species in the group are identical, then all identification activities should apply to the entire group as a batch, rather than require poor identifiers to go though each and every observation in one at a time. I believe this is a necessary efficiency measure.

@j-k we use a field for grouping observations of different life stages for the same organism, such as lepidoptera when raising on… called “similar observation set” and we use the first observation number as the key to link them. Then following “view with same field and value” (or some such wording) a query of just the relevant obs results. I also intend to use it to tie together observations of the undescribed species, so when a name eventually becomes available, we can just follow that link to go and update them all… your suggested purpose would fit this same field use, and perhaps putting a link into the observation description or comments to make it even more noticeable to an identifier…

@kiwifergus Thanks for your reply. Are you able to explain in a bit more detail the steps to use the function you’ve described? Is there a set of instructions somewhere online?

@charlie from the OPs first post and in relation to the title. He refers to “Survey” photos and describes what he means as quoted.

hmm, i think i got my threads crossed with that last post or something, sorry. I deleted it, mostly to see what would happen…

I replied by email, as a way of both explaining by example, as well as to test “reply by email” to this group. The reply hasn’t shown yet, so it will be interesting to see if it turns up in the forum

… and keep in mind I have only used the “Similar observation set” via the website, not using the android app… so it would be good to hear back how it works with the app (if at all).

I would multi-vote (or at least test the possibility of multi-voting) that idea… categories to include “Main observation photo” (which could be defaulted to for first photo), “ID character detail”, “Habitat/Environs”, “Related photos”… that last one to be used for images from literature (where copyright or fair use rules allows) that depict the ID character shown in a previous photo, or for including photos of imagos when raised on etc, which would not be part of the observation per-se, but people often add to observations anyway. I do it occassionally (hangs head in shame), and feel it adds value to the observation.

Another way to add similar functionality would be to allow photos to be added to comments. I know you can link external photos, but I am talking about being able to upload them to iNat and use, in the same process as uploading the observation. Perhaps marking each such photo as “additional” and they appear in a pop-up accessible from the photos thumbnails, and can be clicked in order to copy the url in an image tag to the clipboard that can then be pasted and used in the comments or description area. They could be stored with lower resolution.

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there’s been what i interpreted as a pretty strict rule against putting other people’s sketches or photos in observations, even if open source. I agree with it for what it’s worth, for reasons ranging from messing with the algorithm and taxon photos to things that mess with the annotations/phenology info to the headache for curators to track down whether such a photo is truly open source or not. So I personally don’t think we should be doing that. I think it would be ok in a place like the hypothetical taxa wiki or maybe in comments in some cases, but should be sourced clearly and not as an observation photo. That’s what i think we should do anyhow.

Annotations for individual photos would be great though.

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Ok, it seems my iNat account was created back when I had a different email, that address is now re-directed to my in-box, and when I replied to the email, it came from my new address, so the forum didn’t like it and bounced my reply.

I’ll copy and paste through in case you never got it!

As an example, three observations for a caterpillar I found and raised on…

Notice all three observations have a field called “Similar observation set” and the value is set to 16545226, which is the observation number for the larva (first obs), which is easily obtained in a chrome browser by double clicking on the number in the url and using ctrl-c to copy it. Of course, there was a bit of time between each obs, so I wrote the number on the container it was raised in, so I would remember to link each subsequent observation.

To view all three obs in a search result you just left click on the field name and select “Observations with this field and value”:


Notice that it initially only brings up one observation in the search result, being the first one. This is because I made the other two observations “captive” because they were technically captive from that point on. To bring them into the query result in this example, one more step is needed, which is to change the query to include captive observations, which is done by de-selecting “verifiable” on the left hand side of the Filters box:

You can see the extra two obs added to the query have casual against them. It took me a while to figure out why only some of my obs would work with this linking method!

In this first pic above, you can see the field description I gave it, back when I created this field for linking similar observations. We were seeing a salticid popping up in obs, we all knew it as “undescribed tree jumper”, and my intention with this field was to use that informal nick-name as the linking value. I soon after stumbled on the use for situations like the raising on, or where you go back and get follow up obs for trees to get different stages (leaf emergence, flower buds, flowers, fruit, fall-leaf colour and so on)… any situation where you might like to link together a group of observations without going to the full on project way of grouping them!

If the name of the field doesn’t gel with you, you can create your own with similar functionality, as every field can be accessed with that Field/Value choice when clicking on the field name. Once you use a field, it appears in the shortlist of fields that appear when you next go to add a field, so using it is really easy. Our using the obs number is just a quick and dirty way to get a unique number to use for a specific set of observations.

Once you have built the set, you can share a link to the query that groups them… like this one for a tailed forest spider as she laid a series of eggsacs: You’ll notice that again the linking field value was the first obs number, but if a descriptiove field value is used then the url for the query effectively would carry it’s own description of what it is!

Have a play with the field and let me know if you have difficulties, and especially if you find other interesting uses for it!


Sensational. Very helpful. Thank you @kiwifergus

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