Can iNat influence the taxonomic treatment of certain taxa?

I think that iNaturalist has a number of strong points. For example the huge number of observations that cover a broad portion of the described taxa on almost all lands. Moreover, there are many experts that dedicate themselves to identify observations and provide suggestions on what they consider the more suitable taxonomic treatment for certain taxa.
There are also cases in which users have expressed a point of view which is in partial or total disagreement with what could seem the “most popular” taxonomic trend for certain taxa.
So, can iNat influence the taxonomic treatment of certain taxa? In other words, is iNat a place where new taxonomic treatments are elaborated or overlooked ones are reconsidered?
I think it already did. If you are aware of some of these cases, feel free to let us know.


I’d have to offer a nuanced response to your question:

First, let’s separate the use of iNaturalist data for taxonomic work, versus offering up a taxonomic revision on the iNaturalist platform (e.g. in a journal or blog post). The former use of iNat data is ongoing for many groups of plants and animals. There are Forum posts which are collecting references to external published research based in part or in whole on iNat data.

On the matter of “influencing” or “elaborating” on taxonomic treatments here on iNat, it has long been the stance of iNat staff (and founders) that iNaturalist is not intended to be a place for taxonomic/systematic revisions in a formal sense. However, I am of the opinioin that iNat–via journal and blog posts–is a suitable and quite important venue to discuss taxonomic questions which need to be addressed elsewhere in a more formal context/research/publication. My own journal posts are replete with such suggestive ideas.
In the sense of these types of speculative offerings, iNat would certainly seem to be a place to discuss needed taxonomic work, and in that vein hopefully “influence” the direction of ongoing or future research.


It absolutely is for plants. Very frequently somebody will bring up a flag taking issue’s with iNat’s taxonomy and either a curator, or the flagging user will email POWO (our framework for plants). Upon communication with whatever scientific references were compiled by the iNat community, POWO then updates their database, and then iNat can follow that and then update our taxonomy to follow POWO. It’s great that Rafaël is so receptive to our changes.


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