Best practices for adding multiple observations of invasive species to a project

I am a curator on an iNaturalist project that will document the results of a creek restoration. The project currently tracks all observations made within specific coordinates, which is great - it’s serving that purpose well.

Here’s what I’m wondering:

Some of our work will involve removing invasive trees and brush using a girdling technique. It will take approximately a year for us to see if our work was successful.

We want to track the exact location of each tree we girdle, along with photos of the tree at the time of girdling; we also want to pass this information to the next group that will be working on this project. They will be able to use the data to check on our progress for each tree, assess our success rate, and make decisions about whether to continue using our method.

I am concerned with overloading the iNaturalist community with dozens of observations of privet, all from the same time and the same small area, when the data isn’t of broad interest the community. Sure: it is valuable to know an invasive species can be found in our small creek bed, though it is probably of little value to add them in a way that might require viewers and identifiers to comb through dozens of them. This can quickly become fatiguing - I’ve experienced when school groups go out to a field and each student submits a picture of the same flower, for example.

Having that background:

Is an iNaturalist project an appropriate place to track this type of data?
— If no, what other options might we consider? We have many talents within our group and can certainly investigate other mapping tools if necessary.
— If yes, what best practices or suggestions can others offer that help us achieve our goal without hopefully flooding iNaturalist with dozens of similar photos of the same invasive species?

Thank you!


You could have a member of your group (different than the one who posted) confirm the IDs quickly so they go to research grade before they spam anybody’s ID page.


You could also mark them all as ‘not wild’ during the upload process, so that they would not appear for IDers using the default filter settings.

After waiting for some days or weeks, go back and remove the mark - then they would not show up as recently uploaded.

If in the meantime some of your colleagues would have added an additional ID, as suggested above, they would then directly switch to ‘research grade’ and thus not appear at all in the ‘needs ID’ pool


Or instead of noting as “not wild” you could mark without an observation date which would make them a casual observation. Then after some time you can add the date (I don’t think you can do this within the app but definitely in the website).

you could basically ‘misuse’ any of the listed parameters in the DQA section, but I considered ‘not wild’ as the most practical solution, as this can be specified via the app as well and allows for an easy filtering (‘not wild’ vs all ‘casual’ observations)

Would it be possible to set the location privacy on them to private? I’m not sure how many users are involved in your project, but even if there are more than a few I think it would still work; you would just access the observations via the users’ profile pages without them ever clogging the identify screen.

My main concern with using the DQA incorrectly on purpose is that someone might, for example, intentionally trawl through the captive/cultivated screen to try to catch things that are incorrectly marked, where they might see your invasive privet observations and try to mark them as ‘wild’ or take the time to comment & ask if you’re sure they were planted. Plus, you might forget to correct them (if it was me, I’d end up doing that by accident more likely than not :sweat_smile:)

It would be possible to set the privacy back to public after getting them to RG and at some later date where they’d be in the usual backlog, so even if you can’t permanently keep them private, that could be an idea.

I’d think private observations do still show up, as they are in status ‘needs ID’, just like obscured or open observations

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Private observations are prevented from showing up in anything filtered by location, so unless someone is using Identify globally (which almost no one does, I hope… that would be an exercise in insanity, haha) they shouldn’t be able to see them at all.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find a FAQ that has the exact specifications about how Private locations work, but this is close:

Private: No geographic information is shared publicly. Latitude, Longitude, and Locality Notes are completely hidden from the public (note that the timezone part of the date is still shown). Similarly, observations are ignored by all place-based observation searches (e.g. a private observation located in California would not be returned by a search of observations in California). The private setting should be used sparingly since the complete lack of geographic context makes it difficult or impossible for the community to identify observations or spot geographic data quality issues.

So although I’m sure someone somewhere is looking at global observations of plants, I have a feeling they aren’t going to be dedicating too much time battling weed ID on things with no location. Certainly there are very few of those people, particularly compared to the identifiers who are using place-based searches where this project’s privet observations would show up.


Thank you, I’ll try to test the privacy settings. I think they might still show up for identifiers, but with extremely broad ranges - I’m not sure though. This will be good to explore regardless.

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So far several interesting ideas we can try. It makes me wonder if others run into this more than it’s noted, since there isn’t a “simple” solution that doesn’t have at least one or two things that could potentially happen. I didn’t see anything like it in the forum though, so it may not.

I’ll mull over some of these and also additional suggestions / thoughts that are posted.

In a presentation to a Wildlife Refuge staff, I once suggested that a practical use of iNaturalist would be to mark invasive plants that they wanted to easily go back and find for treatment. They reacted in some horror that this might have the effect of making their refuge look like it was overrun with invasive plants! and they didn’t pursue that use. But you need to realize that if someone looks at your overall project and chooses “species,” the invasives will probably be listed as the most observed plants, and you might work on countering that with lots of native observations. Also, a Comment could be added for each of your girdled trees a year later recording that they were no longer living.


I do global ID’s fairly often. I do see observations with geoprivacy marked “private.” These observations bother me so much that I have a paragraph explaining why it’s a problem and paste them onto each such observation I see. I’d say, “I’ll probably annoy you with these paragraphs!” except that iNaturalist gets such a huge volume of photos (like 100,000 per day) that the chance of my seeing yours is low.

What I personally would recommend is, post them normally but include a standard paragraph explaining that you’re tracking the effectiveness of control efforts. Will some people be annoyed to see whole pages of privet? Yes. Will most people read your paragraph, realize this is all in a good cause and just move on? Also yes. Will some complain? Of course. Will this be easier for you than posting observations that you have to come back and edit? Very much easier.

Possible conflict of interest: I’m saying this as a person who posted hundreds of photos of Douglas-Fir along certain roads in a survey of damage during the “heat dome” we had here a year or two ago. This annoyed some people but most were tolerant.


I was going to suggest a copypasta in the notes. But you have covered that.

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I’m with @sedgequeen . Yes some identifiers may be annoyed by numerous observations of the same species but I think as long as the purpose is clear most should understand. After all, it is easy to skip past things we can’t be bothered with.


I’d go with @kevinfaccenda 's recommendation to have project curators set aside some time to help with IDs specifically for your project - this should be a best practice for any curators setting up these kinds of projects anyway.

Any of the intentional misuses of the casual/quality grade or privacy system seem needlessly complicated and could be opportunities for incorrect data to creep into your projects and create some bad habits among users. I’d avoid any of those methods, personally.

I think in general monitoring invasive species is a good use of iNaturalist, and I believe it’s something the staff has highlighted in the past. Depending on where you live, there may be some other options to consider that are specifically intended for invasive species treatment, like Weed Mapper in California ( Depending on your capacity, a custom form (in ArcGIS Survey123 or similar) could also be helpful.


I see absolutely no issue with uploading them normally. That’s what I would do.


We have a national project

So long as your obs are clearly in a project - identifiers can see that, and skip or agree, as they wish

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Regarding design of the project to include girdling (of privet?)-- raised eyebrows here. My experience, and voiced by , " Girdling alone is often ineffective for long-term control of woody invasive species due to their ability to regrow from the root system." And according to Rick Travis, Texas Master Naturalist tree instructor: "“Girdling [removing a band of bark and underlying cambium so tree fluids can’t circulate] isn’t usually practical for Chinese and quihoui privets because of their multiple trunks. However, glossy privet tends to grow with a single trunk or a couple of trunks, so girdling can be a great option. It’s a slower process versus cutting, and it takes longer for the tree to die, but you avoid the need to use herbicides.” So be sure of your species!
You may find this study by US Forest Service helpful, comparing return of native species responding to different types of privet removal vs. control. Woodchipping/mulching and hand-hewn were best methods.


I think, although I’m not sure, that identifiers can’t easily see what projects an observation is in if the identifiers are working in the Identify mode, rather than the Explore mode.


For the interesting ones - I click to open. Would need in a new tab to see which projects.

For the ‘too many’ like our leopard toads - I mark as reviewed and next.