An observation with multiple photos taken on multiple dates

Suppose an observation consists of six photos of the same group of plants. The photos were taken over a six-week period, from June 11 to July 27. The observed date of the observation is set to June 11 (the date the first photo was taken).

Is the observed date correct? That is, is it appropriate to mark the observed date as incorrect in the observation’s Data Quality Assessment?

You need to add a comment for the author so they split those, I wouldn’t mark it right away.

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I’d say it’s best to start a conversation first with the observer, and suggest that they split the observation into several. Although it might be technically correct to mark the observed date as incorrect in DQA, in many cases this might be overkill. If at least one of the photos is from the correct date, then it’s not a problem for the maps, GBIF, etc. Phenology annotations should be restricted to the photos taken on the “correct” date.

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Tom, I mentioned this on the observation in question, but an observation is meant to be evidence of an organism at a place and time. If I go out and get photos of a liverwort, realize I need microscope images to ID it, and go out the next day to add more images to the observation, it still does not change the fact that the organism was at the originally specified place and time. It’s similar to how an observation may list an exact time, but photos in the observation may encompass several minutes or hours. Regardless of the range of dates/times, as long as evidence the organism was observed at the specified date/time exists, the observation should be RG.

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Did the plants change in those 6 weeks? Blooming? Fruiting?
Otherwise why were later photos added? Wreaks havoc with phenology graphs.

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You need to post those as separate observations and link them if you collected samples at a different day, if you collected them at the day you made the photo, even if you do the microscopy later it’s still a single observation, but as you collected them on a different day it’s a new observation, plus it can be a whole new specimen.

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Yes, but there’s no phenology marked on the observation. The purpose of the observation was apparently to show the change of the plants over time.

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Yes, on June 11 the plants were newly emerged with leaves unfurling, but on July 27 they were fully grown with flowers.

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No, I don’t. If they are the same plants I can maintain it as a single observation with evidence taken not just on the date observed, but also with follow-up for clarification. Whether an observer chooses to add to their existing observation or create another is up to their discretion. iNat isn’t so precisely concerned with accuracy, so long as the date shown is representative of a real date observed.

The fact of the matter is that sufficient evidence has been presented to show that the organism was seen on the date listed in the observation, therefore it deserves RG.

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Who told you that? It’s not true.
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#observations1
" An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location. This includes encounters with signs of organisms like tracks, nests, or things that just died. iNaturalist provides a place to add this information along with associated text, photos, and tags.

You should make separate observations for each separate organism you encounter. But if you take multiple pictures of the same organism, please combine them into a single observation. If you revisit that organism later, such as returning to a plant on a later date when it’s in bloom, you should make a separate observation because it was observed on a different date."

It can be RG when you separate them and add links between them, photos should be from one day only.

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If the purpose of the observation was to show change over time and the phenology changed, then they should be separate observations with that amount of time difference (if it’s a couple of days later and a person is going back to get a pic of a specific detail or something, it’s fine to add).

The other observations of the same organism can be linked via comments or observation fields.

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“Should,” not “must.” So, up to the observer’s discretion. Note that the text you’ve selected makes no mention of RG, or taking observations out of RG, just states the ideal form an iNat observation should take. Unless you have a statement that says no observation with images from multiple dates can ever be RG? That would go against the fairly lax attitude staff have shown toward community observations, though. I do generally agree that observations should be single dates, but stating that a date is not accurate when the organism was clearly encountered on that date doesn’t seem justified.

I mostly disagree with your strict interpretation, as it’s not realistic or necessary. Observations can be whatever observers want, so long as it follows the community guidelines. Ultimately, it will be the community that decides RG status on individual posts based on the observer’s presented evidence.

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If part of photos is done on a different day, of course it can be marked as date inaccurate, the same way if one photo is a butterfly and second is a tiger you can’t id the observation as lepidoptera, because not all photos fit it. All media in observation should fall into the data that observation states. I’m not sure what is unrealistic about posting things separately, it’s easy and we do it.

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What is unrealistic is expecting any corroboration of the observation on a date that doesn’t show all the distiguishing marks, even if you comment and link that it is the same individual as another observation. Unidentifiable seedling, but it’s in your yard, you see it every day, and then you photograph it again when it flowers? The observation in flower will be corroborated, but the seedling will be stuck forever with only your one initial ID, no matter how clearly you comment and link it to the flowering one. Because the identifier “cannot independently identify it” on just your word that it is the same individual plant.

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I have quite a few such observations and they’re ided, all you need is tag an identifier on each if they don’t come by themselves. There’re enough iders who don’t think in lines of what you wrote.

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Just for reference, there are multiple other forum posts discussing this which all confirm that observations like these should be made as separate observations:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-do-i-add-new-observations-with-different-dates-but-the-same-location/33601
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/single-specimen-single-observation/32330
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/making-multiple-observations-of-the-same-organism-s-when-it-has-undergone-a-notable-change/31271

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This thread has a very helpful method detailed for how to link observations of the same exact plant/tree together so you can track growth: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-often-to-observe-the-exact-same-plant-tree/35570/8

It’s the 9th post, by @optilete.

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@rynxs I think you might be splitting hairs on iNat’s language. As is becoming fairly clear, it is iNat’s preference–in the strongest possible terms shy of dictating rules–that multiple observations on different dates be uploaded separately, for all the reasons mentioned in this thread.
Consider the counter-example that folks have mentioned: Trying to track the phenology of a plant, for instance, will be lost and/or confused if images over a considerable span of time are lumped together. When was it leafless? When did the buds form? When did it flower? When were the fruits mature? etc. Those questions are unanswerable with combined images, but self-evident if uploaded as intended (hoped for) by iNat. Even if there are no phenological annotations, the status of the plant should be evident to a researcher from each photo.
Another example which begs for separate observations: Age- or seasonal-related changes or molt in bird plumages.

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I have to split hairs, any vagueness seems to invite misunderstanding. I don’t see this as being nearly problematic enough to warrant the discussion that has erupted here. The observer can choose to do what they want with their observation, I see no issues so long as they communicate.

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The same way iders can decide to mark such observations as casual, it’s preventable.

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