Bulk Selection of Observations to Add to a Project

It would be really helpful to be able to select a lot of observations at once for an area or species (not only your own species) and batch add them to a project.

Are there any plans in place to add this sort of functionality?

Just a note that it was asked/requested many times on the Google Group:

Links to some previous topics


Ever since I created my first project on iNat it has baffled me that this feature doesn’t exist.

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Oh gosh YES! Please.

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But is this not a catch 22?
If you want to select by user or place or taxon then create a “collections” project that does not need additions.
But for a project that requires something specific - e.g. Scats or deals with a specific case - e.g. Roadkill how are you going to select those observations to add to your project.

Basically if you can (easily) select for adding observations to a project, then perhaps you should be using a “collections” project.

I agree that this is a major problem if the purpose of your project is to access obscured localities. Then you need a traditional project and a quick way of adding all the allowable observations to it.


What are some examples for situations where this would be really helpful? I tend to agree with @tonyrebelo that for most projects, a collection project would be more suitable (and easier on the iNat servers). Adding lots of observations to traditional projects is one of the more taxing activities, infrastructure-wise.

Collections projects do need a manual add option. If any part of the obscuring box falls outside the collection area then the observation is not included. That negatively affects the project.

Alternatively, if you’re not using a collections type project due to the much discussed problems with obscured observations (see a large number of previous discussions both recently and old), then you need a way to manually add observations in bulk from a large number of users.


A manual add option would be a major boon in addressing some of the issues we have been discussing regarding obscured observations in collections type projects (conversations that you’ve taken part in).

Some of the ‘advice’ offered on those previous discussions was to stick with a traditional project to avoid some of the problems with collection type projects (again discussed at length in previous conversations). That means that there needs to be a bulk add option.

Others in the previous discussions mentioned the issue of having to contact a large number of other users one by one to ask if about their observations and including them. This would also alleviate that issue. I believe the example used at the time was for Red-legged Frogs in a small project near Napa in Northern California.


As I have on other threads, I will again strongly disagree that this or any other process that allows self-appointed users to override the obscuring rules should not be permitted.

Putting aside that this would require a complete re-write of how collection projects work, which is a decision the dev team is free to make (if they did so, its likely easier to just get rid of collection projects and turn the auto aggregator back on).

The principle that I and all other users agreed to upon signing up and submitting data is that I alone decide if and with whom the locations of my obscured sightings can be shared.

A project owner or anyone else should not be able to add my record or do anything to reveal or even know, let alone share details about it without my ok. Adding a record to your project or checklist or whatever under my name effectively says to the world I believe it is acceptable to know you can locate this threatened species at this location, when I have expressly indicated in my choices that I do not find this acceptable.

How is this different than me configuring my settings to retain full copyright over photos I submit, and you saying I don’t care what you have expressed and configured, I’m going to do with it as I want.

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i don’t think anyone is proposing making the creators collection projects able to see obscured locations?

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What they are proposing is I have a project for somewhere, that could be a 10000 square kilometer park or a tiny little refuge, and I should be able to get your record into that project. This could be either by knowledge they have or pure guessing.

I try and add your obscured record, it passes the validation rule that it really is there, and bang now the project owner knows where it is, and reveals it.

Adding my record to your project for location X reveals where it is even if it is otherwise obscured.I made it clear I was not willing to share that I knew you can find it in location, yet now that is taken away.

Charlie, just to follow up you dont have to be able to ‘see’ the actual GPS for this to totally break the obscuring.

If this were implemented, lets say there is a rare orchid I want to see, lets be less generous and say there is one I want to pick.

I think it may be in a particular location. So I create a project that covers 100 square meters, and try and add the record to it. If the actual location is not in that 100 square meters, the adding will fail as it does not meet the project rules, so I move the project a 100 meters to the west, and try again, and it fails again, so I move the project another 100 meters to the west, and now suddenly the project accepts it. Kind of gives away where it is.

Doing this would fundamentaly break the promise made to users that they alone choose when and with whom their obscured locations are shared.

that seems to be a different issue than the one being discussed here, unless i am just confused.

Its the same issue, it has just branched out across 2 different directions. The discussion started as functionality to add records to a project (which FYI if it is a traditional project I support, so long as if users configurations about it are accepted, although I understand concerns about it leading to massive server issues like happened with the aggregator).

It was then proposed that this functionality needs to also be given to owners of collection projects. That is what I specifically responded to and object to. Hopefully the response above, i think we were writing at the same time clarifies why.

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fair enough. for what it’s worth, i don’t think admin is actually considering adding obscured locations to small-area collection projects.

This would not be possible. Collection projects are simply a set of saved search parameters. A search is run when you load the project page and the project displays all observations matching those parameters. It’s essentially a nice-looking observation search that can be used for outreach. They are much easier on iNat’s infrastructure (for example, City Nature Challenge would be impossible at last year’s scale without collection projects and save users from having to add each observation to the project manually.

I’m not sure “advice” in quotation marks is necessary, it comes off as sarcastic and I think everyone here gave what advice they could, and with the best intentions. So please refrain from this kind of tone on the forum. If you have an issue with the way iNat works, fine, but there’s no need to disparage the contributions of people here.

That being said, users themselves can use the Batch Edit page to add their own observations to a traditional project in bulk. So the outreach on the project creator/curator’s part is to ask the user to join the project and allow you to see true coordinates of their observations in your project. If your goal is to get access to those coordinates, bulk adding the observations of a user who has not joined the project won’t help you. That’s the way the system was designed, anyway. Which is why I was asking for a specific example of how bulk addition by someone who is not the observer would be beneficial.

One possible middle ground would be the addition of an Add to Project section in Identify. Would that be helpful?

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I’d fully support a notification when you make an observation offering the option to add your observation to an existing relevant project. Something simple like:

“Your observation is within the area of Project XXX. Add observation tho this project? Y/N”

Many projects are in areas that have a very percentage of observers who are just passing through and who are completely unaware that their observations may fall into a project area or even that the project exists. The number of those people and observations are often far too for it to be realistic for any project manager to be able to contact each person about all of their relevant observations.

As for the “collections” project issue. There are observations in my area that I know were fully within the area as I was the person who identified the species and prior to that identification the location was clearly visible and were listed within the collections project list. Once I made the identification the location was obscured, a tiny corner of the obscuring box fell across the border of the project, and the observation was thus removed from the project.

That’s a problem and those observations should remain within the collection list. In the case of at least one of the species in question it’s an endemic one, so literally the only place it can be found is within the collection area, yet the iNat obscuring process removes it from the only place that species is found.

An option to add those back in would be good.


I dont see a viable way to have a prompt asking if you wish to add a sighting to a project at upload can work. Or more precisely how it can work without becoming incredibly annoying.

If I look out my front window and see a Bald Eagle, photograph it and submit it, I really don’t want to get

  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Birds of the World’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Birds of Ontario’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Birds of Prey of North America’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Birds of North America’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Birds of Canada’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Animals around Ontario’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Kiara’s Southern Ontario’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Biodiversity of Ontario’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Biodiversity of the Hamilton Study area’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘The Birds of Canada’ which is apparently a different thing than ‘Birds of Canada’
  • Do you want to add your record to ‘Biodiversity of Canada, Provinces & Territories’

etc etc etc, I am sure this is far from a complete list of the projects this 1 observation qualifies for.

I intentionally chose Bald Eagle as that is an obscured species here. Some of these are collection projects some are traditional. For some of the collection projects it is not relevant because if the geography of that project is large enough it will go in anyways. If the geography is too small, then the obscuring should apply, and even if that were not the case, as has been noted without a complete rewrite of the technology there is no way possible to add specific records into a collection project.

So effectively the only use case for this is traditional projects, where as has been noted the curator has full ability to find qualifying records already and reach out to users and ask, rather than constantly putting pop ups in the way of doing uploads.

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That’s not thinking it through, a very simple solution would be not to list all the projects it’s suitable for all at once.

For example:

  • a single question/notification first: letting you know that your observation falls within a or many projects (possibly mentioning how many projects it falls within), with a “learn more” button.

  • next step: a list of the projects with an option to “add to all” or to individually select as the user chooses.

That would be an easy and simple solution that eliminates your concern about too many projects showing up all at once.


There is a fundamental issue that we appear to hold very different views on how the site should work. You appear, and please note I said appear to believe you should be able to access any data you want which is loaded to the site, including obscured observations.

I believe obscuring and the right of a user not to have data they do not want disclosed to be unavailable without their explicit consent is fundamental to the site (What should be obscured is a different discussion) .

As has been said several times, the only way to achieve what you are asking for that does not involve completely rewriting how projects work, which is a multi month effort is to turn off the obscuring, whether that is to all users, select users or whatever. The only way to achieve it even if the site commits to a rewrite is still to turn off or at least significantly disable the obscuring process.

If you believe the benefits of what you want outweigh the benefits of the obscuring that’s fine, it’s a perfectly legitimate stance to hold, but if that is the case then please go add a feature request to remove the obscuring system laying out why and see how much support it attains.

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