At Last (the fruits of labor)

As I’ve returned to more activity on iNat, I’ve been able to pay closer attention to my (always overflowing) notifications inbox. Recently I’ve had the deep pleasure of seeing quite a few observations which I’d identified coarsely 2-4 years ago reach species level and/or RG. It really is a good feeling. It keeps me motivated!

Here’s the observation that sparked this thread:

who else has similar stories? a puzzle finally being solved by the accumulated efforts of several people… then the right person can come along and finish the task! (as it were; doesn’t hurt to get a third ID or annotations!)

or, on the converse side: who has succeeded in bringing observations to species level after they’ve been sitting and waiting for ages? I’ve been able to do a few, whether they were easy IDs hiding in a large “bucket” like Plantae, or tough IDs which were just waiting for a specialist to finally come around…


I think my recent favourite is this host-specific Australian plant fungus

I first observed it myself way back in July 2020, and there was an even older observation observed and submitted in January 2019. Over the last few years more and more observations accumulated, all on the same host plant and with very distinct symptoms, but none of us could figure out what it was.

After years of trying to figure it out, I finally stumbled upon a paper last year and figured it out; the paper described and illustrated the fungus, it matched perfectly, and was from the correct host as well. Very satisfying, and now have 40 observations of it on iNat (every record in GBIF except the holotype is from iNat)


It’s not really a species level ID since flowers are missing (and are needed for this genus), but this obs was finally RG ID to genus after waiting 5 years (4 years in Plantae, one year in Dicots and 9 days at genus).

I remember excavating a lot quite old obs when doing Clematis and Convolvulaceae last year but I wasn’t able to find them sadly - besides this one that waited for 3 years before I finally found it again today with enough experience to validate the original ID.


I’ve been working through the obs stuck at those very coarse IDs in my area recently- a lot of them I don’t have the ability to ID for a number of reasons, but a lot of them I can, at least to genus, which has been a rewarding exercise. On occasion I’ve gotten a couple wrong, but then that’s gotten someone else around to correct it when it had been sitting there for half a decade and I still consider that a win once I correct my own.


You have the 2 taxon specialists on that - so 100% to @astra_the_dragon

Scooped out of African Unknowns.
To species in 22 hours.

Or this one with 3 spines in 8 hours

So much wide and deep knowledge in iNat - if you tap into it!

And then there were the 10 year old ones I pulled out, thanks to the Pre-Maverick project.


I have that occasionally happening to my own observations that some expert is stumpling along and pushes it to species… Love that!

Most recently happened with this one, now waiting for someone to confirm

I myself do this all the time as an IDer… there is a lot to do in spiders… even some that is actually not too hard, once you know your stuff… I sometimes manage to put observations from 8 years ago to species level


I think my personal record is finding an observation posted 12-years ago with zero subsequent identifications. I always feel good when I rescue those efforts from obscurity and I often apologize to the observer for taking so long to find it.


I can’t think of any recent specific examples, but I’ve been doing a lot of work to push observations stuck at arthropoda and insecta a little further down the taxonomic tree and it’s fun to see people with more expertise than I find them and get to work.

I distinctly remember when @wongun joined iNat and all of a sudden my hemipteran observations that had been languishing for years were getting IDs. That made me so happy.


This recent one comes to mind which eventually revealed a new species for the California flora, soon to be published by the observer:

Also this older one which eventually resulted in a 2022 paper authored by three iNatters (comments include links to the publication and a more detailed Journal post):


Actually, since I started the strategy of picking one avatar off the “People” tab and focusing on that user’s observations, I have brought many to RG that had been languishing at species-level Needs ID for years; all it took was looking at their observations in ascending order. I’m talking really easy ones which just simply got buried in the avalanche of newer observations before a second person saw them.


I haven’t kept a record, but going through unidentified in ascending order is bringing a few to species. I was happy to identify some Melaleuca that were introduced in California, they won’t be confirmed any time soon since I marked them as cultivated and are outside Australia (like this Snow-in-Summer).
This mornin I had a notification that @petitcrabe brought to genus a false bindweeds on a 2021 observation I could only identify as angiosperm (too many things). Thank you :)
And I must admit, I always feel like @dianastuder is looking over my shoulder and being despaired with every unknown I send in dicots (or worse, cultivated dicots!), but once in while it gets to RG like this one. So, sorry, I’ll keep on dicoting (I promise, if I know better I do better). :D


Yes, I also had these moments. A lot of spiders will never get touched again after upload… Just the Dolomedes-observations of the US are a never ending well of work… I already did quite a lot of IDing last winter (almost 9.000) often starting with the oldest observations. Still, I do have 365 pages in the ID-pool at the moment and just pulled one from genus to species that was sitting there for 9 years.


There, I did a few of “yours” today, hopefully not too many for your inbox.


This obs had been sitting un-identified for a few years with quite some uncertainty when I found it. It was a newt (Taricha) that was confusing people whether it was Taricha or Granulosa. ( I was able to figure out that it was a Rough Skinned and got one person to agree with my ID. Although it’s not a research grade, (the other people haven’t agreed with my ID) hopefully this will bring attention to it. Maybe this is kinda dumb, but I feel proud of figuring out what it was when others (who I’ve always looked up to when I first joined this awesome platform) couldn’t. :)


I am reassured when my, very tentative, broad ID - is supported by a taxon specialist I respect. At that same broad ID!

When I started IDing African Unknowns I felt as if I worked alone. Wasn’t true of course, there were obs I never saw - straight to RG or at least Needs ID.
Today I have a whole 3 obs waiting!!

To @tiwane 's hemipterans, @chemp did the same for African orthopterans.


I got about 70 notifications overnight from you alone… abysmal (joking, affectionate)


I observed Amata leopoldi in Nov 7,2011. Whereas the genus was quite clear I had tried some years on different platforms to get to the species name but in vain. In 2015 I uploaded the observation to iNat but it was in 2018 when I finally got the full name.


Of all the social media notifications, the best are those for someone IDing your observation on iNat!


I agree, and I’m always so grateful to the scientists and other experts who provide IDs, and even confirmations of my guesses. I have a project I started eight years ago when there was no such project, Since I’m not a biologist, the project benefits enormously from knowledgeable people who help. Thank you, everyone!


While it only took about a year to be identified to family, when I saw the name of the thread the first thing that came to mind was an observation from Madagascar uploaded two years ago. There was an extraordinary amount of back-and-forth in the comments (Is it a plant? Is it an insect?) and the observation currently has 13 IDs, 218 comments, and 56 favorites:

One from the African ‘Unknowns’ that @dianastuder helped push in the right direction as well, I believe.