Can I post about specific species identification guidelines?


I was going to make a post asking about the ways to identify between two closely related species (C. umbellata [Pipsissewa] and C. menziesii [little prince’s pine] if you’re wondering) – and whether certain differences I noticed are backed by actual, published science or are simply my own amateur conjecture.

Is the iNatForum the right place to discuss species information and specific species identification guidelines, among other related topics? If so, which category should I post under? If not, is there any good place to do this? This can’t really be done under specific observations since it’s a question general to entire taxa.



I hope it is appropriate, because this could be a good forum for sharing identification tips. I have some questions as well about certain taxa. My only concern would be that identification strategies can vary a lot in different regions. In any given region, only a small subset of large genera need to be considered (at least for wild organisms), greatly simplifying identification.

I see this type of advice is being posted here and there in the identifications on specific observations, but that’s not easily found by all the people who would benefit from the information.


I know some people use their journals for such posts, which is also nice, because you can easily link to them when doing IDs… if you want to discuss with specific other members you could also @mention them in your journal post or make them aware via message


A good place for identification tips is to edit the Wikipedia entry for the taxa since that will show up for anyone who views the taxon pages.


Good question and welcome to the Forum!

There are some of those posts on the forum, and I think it’s fine to make them. If a post or topic doesn’t specifically discuss iNat or some aspect of it, it’s generally best to put it in Nature Talk, I think. If you have questions about your ID guide or something, or want to solicit input, this could work well

That said, I think @Ajott’s suggestion is a good one. I’ve also seen these types of journal posts on iNat, and I think you might get more beneficial use of it there. A lot of iNat users aren’t on the forum, and you can just post a link to your ID focused journal post on any observations. So if you already know what you’re going to post and aren’t interested in feedback, that might be more ideal.


I am indeed working on editing Wikipedia articles - that is one reason I’m seeking advice


Yeah! I agree, @Ajott 's suggestion is rather clever. I might post stuff there once I’m sure of it, or just generally record my thoughts - but do you think people will actually respond to these? I’m looking for engagement on otherwise unanswered theories or questions.


Based on just my own memory, I think that some of the forum posts like what you are proposing get some responses, but others don’t get much action. For really detailed info/questions, there may just not be users that are familiar or interested on the forum - it’s a small subset of iNat users. But it probably doesn’t hurt to make a post and see how it goes.

You could also try messaging iNat users who might be interested and see if they want to set something up like a Whats App group or Discord or something.


It depends on the topic and the community. I have seen some journal post where quite interesting discussions have evolved over time, especially when you link your post to relevant IDs. You could just try it out with a forum post or a journal post and see what works best for you


I’m probably misunderstanding what you’re trying to do but individual observations seem to be a good place to test the waters (so to speak). If someone makes an observation with the ID of a look-alike species, why not ask the observer how they know it is X (and not Y), or put another way, how can they rule out Y in this case?

Also, you probably already know this but just in case…Wikipedia is not the place for conjecture or hunches. Like all wikipedia content, identification keys or guidelines should be traceable to a reliable secondary source.


Thanks! I’ll probably try the responding-under-observations next time I see one that looks iffy. And yep! - Don’t worry, I know about Wikipedia editing guidelines. Part of what I’m trying to do is find more accurate information, independent confirmation, and adequate sourcing so that I can add on to articles.

… also part of the annoyance is the fact that a lot of the information currently in said articles is completely uncited and likely just paraphrased many years ago from cursory internet searches.

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I prefer this method:

I’ve posted information about identifying specific plant species in my area several times. Personally, I think that due to the global scope of iNaturalist it’s better to publish with the journal post feature and link it with an ID. I feel like those specific posts would quickly turn in a large pile of unorganized identification information (different groups of animals, plants, fungi + different regions of the world) if they were the forum, unless an different organization/management system is developed. Different iNatters take different spins on this though.

Using journal posts on the website:

Using Slides, PDFs, or other separate documents (often linked through a journal post):

Sometimes iNaturalist observations serve as a guide—either the observation itself or information provided by an identifier: &

I’ve seen people post specific ID information on separate websites, or use the old guides feature of iNaturalist (like here). It depends on what you prefer.

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I will note: The downside is that specific identification information is spread out in various different places, in different forms, which makes these resources hard to find or keep track of. What users have done to keep track of these varies. Some will favorite observations with useful ID information, some will bookmark the resource, or add a link to the resource in their journal posts. Often the way these are shared is through word of mouth or by the author/other people linking it in an identification or comment.

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I don’t know what method is best, but I think there’s a real need for something like this. It’s one of the things, actually, that makes bugguide so valuable - species info pages often address identification tips for closely related, or close-in-appearance species. iNat desperately (sometimes I exaggerate :grin:) needs something similar!


You could also start a project for the wider taxa and use that journal to post things - might be easier for people to find.


This lack of identification guidance has been my biggest frustration in using iNat. The species page gives me a whole tab full of commonly misidentified similar species, but offers no clues for making the correct choice. Often it is a photographically obvious characteristic such as woolly stems, prickly stems, or hairless stems that separates similar species. Why isn’t this clearly and consistently stated in the “about” tab?

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The About tab is usually sourced from Wikipedia, or if that’s not available, Encyclopedia of Life.

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