Bulk ID: Is there a way to identify large numbers of observations of the same species?

Hi everyone. I have two questions, listed in bold at the bottom of the post.

I’ll give some context, before I ask the question.

I’m running a project which is essentially a one-person bioblitz of an island in Australia.

I often upload large numbers of observations of different individuals from the same species, because this helps me get an idea of the geographic distribution of the species.

To date, several experts have been quite active in identifying my observations. I’m very grateful for the contribution they make to the project.

However, one particular expert has become quite irate that many of my observations are of exactly the same common species. Eg, observations of the same species at 100 different locations (eg, 10 metre gaps between observations of the same species of mollusc)

1. Is there an iNaturalist guideline about whether it is acceptable to make observations of many different individuals, of the same species?

2. Is there a way that someone can submit an ID for multiple observations, all at once? (ie, is it possible to select 100 observations and identify them all as the same species, with just one click?)

Thank you,


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There is no way to submit an ID for 100 observations at once. In theory it’s a nice idea, but it opens up way too many possibilities for incorrect IDs to be instantly applied at a huge scale. If someone (for whatever reason) decided to troll, they could theoretically misID thousands of observations at once and remove RG status.

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As Thomas points out, there is no way to ID multiple obs at the same time. You are allowed to post multiple observations of the same species. I can see why it might be annoying, but the identifier can simply filter to your account first, mark them all as reviewed, take off the filter, and then carry on IDing as they normally would. Your obs would remain as Needs ID for other identifiers of course. Alternatively, if you are confident of the IDs and don’t want the observations to impact on the identifying community, then you could make them photoless observations, or if photos are needed you could mark them as “ID is as good as it can be” to force the obs to casual grade. Casual grade observations don’t by default appear in the “Needs ID” pool

Thank you @kiwifergus. Food for thought. You’re right, if identifiers aren’t interested in IDing a cluster of similar observations, they can filter out my observations. I’m not sure what others think, but this seems like a very reasonable approach to me. I believe the alternatives you mention preclude the observations from achieving research-grade status.

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Yeah, sorry… that was the point of what I was getting at. Do your observations need to get to RG? If you are certain of the IDs you are applying, then you don’t need the confirmation that comes with attaining RG status. If it meets your needs, then a casual grade observation can be just as useful as an RG one…

There has been discussion before about whether iNat observations represent accurate abundance data, and the concensus I think is that it won’t. Perhaps an area such as where you are undertaking your observations might be, depending on how thorough you are with your survey, but irrespective, you will find that RG status really has no bearing on whether an observation is useful for a study or not.

While in truth the community does not fully support this approach, inaturalist guidelines written by the site themselves say every single individual you wish to document must be a separate record.

If you wish to document 2 separate individual plants of the same species that are 5cm apart, it is supposed to be done as 2 separate observations.

The degree to which people are willing to invest that much entry effort varies, but you are following the set site guidelines


they may not like it, but honestly, that’s their issue not yours. Your use of the site is fine. If they don’t like it they can filter you or that species out of their ID page if they want, but they should not be acting irate about this. If they persist please email help@inaturalist.org.


this doesn’t work if no one else has added an id - ie for your own IDs. It used to but it doesn’t any more. There’s a feature request to put this back how it was, and i don’t really understand why the change was made, but since i’m mostly the only one who seems to care, i doubt it will get changed

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Good point Charlie, I had forgotten about that change.

Thank you @cmcheatle .

On the point of the amount of effort required, I’ll just make the point that for my own observations, I am able to select 100 of them and suggest an ID for all of them, all at once.
(by going to “edit my observations” then to “batch edit”, etc).

It seems it is disproportionately more labour-intensive for external Identifiers to identify 100 similar observations than it is for the original observer.

I understand that having providing the ability for users to make “batch edits” to other people’s content opens the site up to possible vandalism, however iNaturalist is not in a unique predicament here. Once users on Wikipedia have a proven track record of good behaviour, they are able to use “bots” to make thousands of changes to various wikipedia pages. Misbehaving users lose the privilege to use these sorts of powerful instruments (and they may become banned from the site via an IP block).

The key, I think, is to ensure whenever you give users the ability to make batch/bulk changes, you also make it easy for moderators/admin to do a one-click batch/bulk reversal of any vandalism that a particular user may have done.

This is really good to know. Thank you, @charlie

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What about editing a batch of observations? You can select observations by specie, genus or any number of search criteria, select them and then modify certain characteristics as a group using apply to all. I suppose they have to be your own observations. I’d bet there’s an ‘under the hood’ way of adding the user to that batch selection.

No, you can only edit your own observations. It’s at inaturalist.org/observations/irag

Chris, I missed the one individual-one observation criterion on iNaturalist. In fact, it is one of the things about BG that annoyed me and I appreciated that iNat (I thought) would allow a set of one species all on one date at one location to be uploaded as an observation (e.g. 5 moths of the same species on the same sheet on the same night to show variation). I’ve done this innumberable times with moths. Dare I ask: Where is this indicated in user guidelines? I may continue to be an unrepentant scofflaw in this regard until/unless I hear a major objection (e.g. for my moths images). :- ∫

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From the user guide:
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. You should make separate observations for each separate critter you encounter

If you record an observation of a tree, then go back a day later to take a picture, please add a new observation for the picture, because it represents the tree at a different point in time.

Please move further discussion about this site guideline here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/what-is-an-observation/3367 Thanks!

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