Allow multiple taxa as value of a single observation field

It would be convenient and powerful to be able to list multiple taxa under an observation field. Currently, an observation field can only be added once, and can only have one value.

To annotate this owl pellet with the three species found within it, I had to add three separate observation (and different) fields.

Multiple-species interactions are certainly a minority of iNat observations, but I believe they are a crucially useful component of iNat data. While museum specimens can reliably document historical range and morphology, those collections do not provide a record of how species interact.

You could make an observation for each of the species in the owl pellet then give all the observation field “Eaten by: Typical Owls”.

Would be nice to be able to add several species for one observation field also for flowers visited by several insects at the same time.

I wish for one of these options:

  • either have the funcionality to add (e.g. comma separated) several taxa per observation field
  • or be allowed to add the same observation field several times, with different values (= taxa)

Say a photo shows a Wild Carrot being visited by a longhorn beetle, two fly species and a stink bug. I make seperate observations for each insect, and I can simply add the associated plant, but vice versa for the carrot I have to choose one insect species to be associated with the plant. To circumvent this, one can select similar (redundant) observation fields, like ‘flower visited by’, ‘pollinator of’, ‘interaction -> pollinator’ etc. However, I would like to stick to one of these fields, also when exporting observations these many obervation fields makes it kind of messy to keep a good overview.

Additionally, I provide the link for each insect in the description, as I cannot add several URLs in one observation field

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Although I sometimes wish this option were available, I think anything that makes iNaturalist more complicated should be avoided. We make enough mistakes as it is.

I agree. New users are sometimes discouraged from continuing if they come across difficult situations or complicated features. While this would be helpful for the majority of us experienced users, for people who don’t know exactly what they are doing it probably wouldn’t be helpful.

The “Associated with: (Interaction)” and “Associated Observation:” fields both will accept multiple observations, at least using the web interface:
Screenshot from 2020-12-29 18-36-58
To enter multiple observations, simply copy the observation URLs into the field separated by spaces. In my experience, some fields allow multiple entries, some don’t, so you just have to experiment.

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I was actually inspired to make this feature request by pollinator systems. My housemate is surveying the full bee diversity of the state and finding a lot of very specific (or missing) natural history information that is essential to find rare or specialist bees.

The functionality to search by observation fields and their values is very helpful for some of this work.

@pkm Following up on my earlier response, I looked at the various observation fields with the word “associated” in them, here
https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields?utf8=✓&q=associated&commit=Search
Note that most of these fields have a Datatype of either “taxon” or “text”. “Taxon” fields only allow a single value that matches one of the iNat taxa, while “text” fields allow lists of plain text values. For example, the “Associated Taxa” field has type “taxon” so allows only one value (despite the plural in the field name), while the “associatedTaxa” field is a “text” field and so accepts a list of taxa. So, there are ways of accomplishing what you want if you are willing to trust users to type in taxon names accurately as plain text – text fields have no spell checking.

Note that “associatedTaxa” is a special Darwin Core term (see here), and can be used to define multiple interaction types as well as taxa. This may (or may not) be exactly what you’re after, if you’re willing to type all the info into the field in the right format. I see there’s also an “Associated species:” (yes, the colon is part of the name) field that is “text” type with no special formatting and so may be easier to use.

We don’t plan on developing Observation Fields further, so I’m going to close this request.