Attach non-taxonomic qualities to species for searchability

Apologies if this request is covered somewhere else; I couldn’t find anything in the same vein while searching the forums but I could have missed something.

Platform(s), such as mobile, website, API, other: Anywhere where searching is used

URLs (aka web addresses) of any pages, if relevant:

Description of need: Lately I’m finding myself using searches of an area of iNat to try to answer questions like ‘what kind of aquatic plants are common in this area’, ‘what are the most common pond fish in this area’, ‘are there any carnivorous plants that grow around here’, etc, etc, and while sometimes certain projects can help you to narrow down to a particular interest group there’s no way to use the search bar to filter a search down to a quality that’s not necessarily taxonomic (like ‘carnivorous plant’ or ‘freshwater fish’) unless I am totally missing something

Feature request details:
I’m picturing tags that are attached to certain clades (maybe similar in function to the ‘Threatened’/‘Endemic’/‘Invasive’ statuses that already exist although I don’t think they’d need to be as prominently featured) agreed upon by the community that aid in searchability. I’ve attached a mockup to demonstrate roughly what I imagine these looking like. In my mind’s eye I also picture there being a dropdown menu in the filter drawer that autofills suggestions for tags when used (You type ‘carniv’, ‘carnivores’ and ‘carnivorous plants’ pop up as suggestions).

Here’s my mockup: (And no I haven’t checked if all sarraceniaceae are necessarily bog-dwelling… that would be for the community to agree on!)

You could make a project specifically for the non-taxonomic group you are interested it and then you can search that. I made one for lichenized fungi: Deciding which plants should be considered “aquatic” is not a very hard line. Might be difficult to come up with a list. What makes something a pond fish? Project for carnivorous plants is very doable.


This can be done – with a lot of work – by making and using observation fields. Those are searchable, though you’ll get hits on other stuff with the same key terms elsewhere (like observation notes).
I’ve thought it would be nice to do searches on habit for plants (tree, shrub, woody vine, herbaceous, etc.) or things like flower colors. I’m too lazy to try to set up observation fields for those, though.
I did snap and put together a project on aquatic plants:


This has kind of been addressed in the past:

The upshot is that the way to do this for non-taxonomic categories would basically be to use the annotations or observation fields and work through those (the first link in the above list).

An issue with this is that many people never use the annotations or observation fields, limiting what would show up in searches.

Doing it any other way would require an unreasonable amount of time and effort by inat staff to manually go through and add non-taxonomic qualities to each and every species, and even if that was a viable option there would be disagreements on how certain organisms are categorized.


my instinct was that applying these labels at a species level rather than an observation level would be easier because there are less species than there are observations, but I see what you mean in terms of the pressure on iNat staff.

I haven’t delved into observation fields very much at all, so maybe that’s an avenue to explore.

I get that it opens several big cans of worms to get iNat users arguing about what plants are aquatic v. not, or any other of the various controversial labels that could be applied – I guess for me the guiding question is, “how useful is this label in terms of what it shows to people using it to search?”

It might be too dense a task to sift through for now, but I think it’s worth thinking through a feature like this philosophically because it makes it easier for more people to use iNat to get real-time, evidence-based info to answer specific questions (which to me is a good goal for iNat to have, though I recognize it’s not the site’s main mission statement or anything).

Just thinking in terms of where I live in the midwest US, a google search of ‘what are native prairie plants around here’ would have you believing 90% of prairies are Echinacea purpurea. iNaturalist has the data to give a much more nuanced and truthful response to that question, but it isn’t easy for the more casual user to find.

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