Collection Project transition regret

Heads up: Emotional, freaking-out-a-little-bit post incoming…

I received a pop-up notice suggesting that my geo-fenced biodiversity project looked like it was eligible to become a ‘new’ Collection Project. I hadn’t really read much on the added project types, but I checked out these links and thought I understood what would change when I converted:

I liked the landing page format of Collection Projects and misunderstood that qualifying observations (ie. from others) would be included in project search results, but that I would be able to continue to manually include observations to my project. I now understand this was my mistake and that is not how Collection Projects behave.

The first observation made after converting my “traditional” project to a “collection” project failed because of “Client Error (422)”. This was a new error that I’d not seen in all the years I’ve used this platform. A quick forum search yielded that was a spurious thing and that I should delete the record and resubmit. I did this a few times and eventually after removing all but one photo, it went through… I added the 2 additional photos and didn’t receive the error after the record had been created. That isn’t really something that concerns me.

What concerns me is that record doesn’t show up in the Collection Project when it meets the criteria to be there (afaik). Also, from the mobile client, when I view “projects” for the observation, my project is highlighted, but from the web interface (on PC), the project is not listed and it clearly isn’t “in” the project (which I see now that’s how collection projects work). It isn’t just this one observation either. I had around 722 species in my project and post-conversion, there are 504 species. The observation count when down substantially as well. If I allow any criteria as long as it is within the project geography, why such a change? I just don’t get what happened. Here I was striving to grow my biodiversity log to greater than 1000 species in the project and it drops 218 species with the click of the mouse.

Since I don’t understand how observations are included in results (or not) and there is no way to manually add them to the project that I’ve been maintaining for years, I deeply regret converting my project to a Collection Project. On the surface, the conversion to the new project type looks like a GOOD thing that was aligned with my project goals. It is not. It resulted in a loss of control and completely deflated the fun out of contribution.

Is there any way to revert from a Collection Project to the old “traditional” project format? I want to continue to have my project observations listed as “in” the project because I use that flag for queries often. I can’t understand how important project membership of observations is to how I use iNaturalist. Collection Projects sound great right up to the point that you can’t flag an observation manually into a project like you could in traditional projects. I really, really dislike this behavior. Help? Please?

Thank you so much for suggestions as a solutions to this unfortunate mistake on my part. I love iNaturalist. It’s a big part of my life and I’m a monthly supporter. I really would like to go back to happily observing as I have for years. :cry: If this is irreversible, I fear my iNaturalist days may be coming to an end. I couldn’t find anything on the forum about how to roll back or undo this mistake I made.



one possibility is that the uncertainty buffers are extending too far out of your property or else some things are obscured. If it’s the former, just creating a larger boundary would work, except that it might include some things that you observed on neighboring land if you did that. If it’s the latter… you’re probably better trying to go back to a traditional project. If you want to do that, it may be possible (i am not sure) but i think the best way to find out would be to email, they have lots of archiving type stuff and may be able to fix it.


Thank you, Charlie. I have tinkered with the knobs and sliders as much as I think I’m able have agree that the loss of observations and species probably has to do with the small geographic bounding area (6 acres). The bigger issue (for me) is not being able to actually flag/include/tag an observation into the project manually. I just want to go back to the old, traditional project where everything was flowers and sunshine.

I appreciate the response and I will email as suggested.

Warm regards,


Hopefully they can change it back. I have a similar project ( and I kept it as a traditional project. I wanted to obscure location for this project and that doesn’t work with collection projects but even if I didn’t care about that, it would be an annoyance to have to change the mapping or tweak things so that observations on our boundary didn’t get kicked out of the project. It’s an even smaller location too, just an acre and a half.

There’s been requests to add a ‘home’ place to an inaturalist profile, which could be private or not, could auto obscure or not (for people who don’t want to reveal where they live for whatever reason) and could have some additional species listing features and such. For now it doesn’t exist.

Good luck!


There are definite advantages to the new collection project format, not least of which is they are less of a burden on the servers. However, I have struck the obscuration/accuracy problem as well.

A bit of a clunky workaround is to create a collection project to pick up observations automatically. Then create a traditional project to allow addition of specific observations. Then finally create an umberella project to pick up the observations from both projects. This last one, the umbrella project, becomes your “public face” for the project.

The advantages of this approach is that it lessens the burden on the servers while still allowing you to add specific observations regardless of criteria. It also automates the adding of many of the observations making the administration of the project easier. You can make the traditional project very tightly controlled so that only admins can add observations, or you can open it up so everyone can. It also allows you to add vulnerable (obscured) species without having to make a ridiculously large boundary.

The disadvantages are that it seems really clunky to have to set it up this way, and it creates three entries in the project lists instead of one.


Just FYI, it is possible for us to revert a collection project back to the state it was in before it was made into a collection project. Only thing that might need cleaning up are images, if the banner or icon have been replaced.


My email was answered promptly by Tony and the project was rolled back to a traditional… and all is right in the world. Thank you, Tony… so, so much.

I understand what you are saying @kiwifergus completely and that certainly seems like a cumbersome workaround, but simply allowing Collection Projects to manually add observations to them would (imho) be a cleaner approach. Most collection projects would be just fine as they stand today, but for the outliers (like my small geo-fenced project), being able to pull edge observations in manually would be very helpful… and, quite frankly, that single functionality change may eliminate the need for maintaining the “traditional project” flavor altogether.

I love iNaturalist. I love the community and what this project does to raise awareness of our natural world to the regular homeowner that is curious about what is crawling on their plant, the child that wonders is curious about the caterpillar outside their window, the gardener that tracks native plants through the season, the sense of connection it helps shine a light on to those otherwise consumed with urban life… all of it.

I purchased a small piece of native forest 5 years ago and committed to never use chemicals anywhere on the property… no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. I use my little pet-project for educational outreach in my community. I teach others how they can contribute through their own observations. There is just something incredibly special about finding and logging a new species… something you’ve never seen. Observing things that are uncommon to your area… or maybe even finding a new record for your state on iNat.

I hope I can continue to grow my small contribution to this wonderful tool and continue to help others through this project. The journey has been wonderful thus far…

Thank you for helping me undo my mis-step earlier. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the assistance and feel the least I can do is double my monthly contribution.




This is one of my big complaints with the ‘collection’ format as well, especially using a project for conservation purposes. I’ve commented on this in the past, so I’m not looking to re-open a discussion on the topic. Unfortunately we appear, for now, to be stuck with the format and there are too many observations, combined with too much other job-based work for this to be a ‘traditional’ project or for the work-around to be a feasible approach.

Just one of the things we have to work around.

one idea might be to all a user to give individual collection projects permission to include their obscured observations. Of course it would require vetting individual projects, and one might somehow abuse the mechanism, but this would be a nice work around. Another way to handle it might be to create a special bioblitz collection project type that focuses more on the drawn location, allowing obscured observations to be added but requiring users to consent to do so, or something.
I will leave it at that because as earthknight said it’s already been discussed elsewhere… but interesting points to think about.

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But then there’s the small matter of auto-obscured observations, which have the element of consent removed (not that I want to stir up trouble over it - I know it’s a sore point!) Even if consent were given for voluntarily obscured observations, wouldn’t the auto-obscured ones necessarily still be excluded?

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Not necessarily, it’s true that issue exists, but you are already able to ‘trust’ people with those locations anyway, so it doesn’t seem inconsistent to me to be able to ‘trust’ a project, in fact it’s less of an issue really. There are a bunch of other issues intertwined such as how the obscuring algorithm works, what should be obscured, etc which to say the least is a rabbit hole so… yeah.

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From the pov of those that want to keep certain taxa obscured, trusting a curator is a concession I can see they might make more readily than trusting random people joining a project that has an open membership!

but you can already do so for a ‘traditional’ project, which if anything is more problematic.

Oh! I didn’t consider that little loophole. Has iNat ever gotten flak for that, I wonder?

well, it’s not really a loophole, the bottom line is the user is always going to know and have record of where they saw something, and there’s no way to stop them from sharing it one way or another. Creating a mechanism to choose who a person trusts firstly tells them there is data they should not necessarily share with everyone and secondly allows them to evaluate their trust in entities asking for the info. This is an issue that goes far beyond iNat and while the obscuring issue is difficult, i can tell you that there are also many many photos that are georeferenced on Flickr or facebook or other places without any geoprivacy at all.

iNat has gotten tons of flak about auto obscuring issues all around, from both/all sides. It’s a very controversial and well-discussed topic, there are some real rabbit holes you can go down both here and in the old Google Groups forum plus some arguments on Twitter that I should not revive, etc etc.


Right. I’m not interested in a rehash … I’m genuinely interested in the topic of supporting inclusion of obscured observations in a collection project, though. I set up a collection project for a wilderness trail I’m on the board for; the board has an interest in getting the message to policy makers & donors that we have something here worth protecting, and the iNat project could help provide some evidence supporting those goals.

I understood the compromise I was making, or thought I did … but I wonder now if it was a good compromise. I wonder if the value of the project could be improved without too much additional effort on my part by converting it to a traditional project. That said, I have enough else on my plate, so I’m not eager to jump and do this right now. If there were an easier way that allowed me to retain it as a collection project, that would be a huge help to our project and many others like it!

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That all makes sense. I’m totally there with too much on my plate too, both at work and at home, but if you end up interested in the idea you could look into creating a separate thread about this.
And now even the message board is scolding me for monopolizing the conversation so I am gonna really try not to post any more in this thread :)


I think the first step would be to make more clear on what basis taxa should be auto obscured, as it’s not really clear in the Curator Guide at the moment. The team generally feels that the taxa should be obscured only if displaying public locations on iNat would be detrimental to the taxon; so, basically is there risk of poaching and/or over visitation. If the taxon is threatened by development or climate change, not automatically obscuring them might be a better option.

It would be best to get opinions of people on the ground who are familiar with a taxon to see what they think, although obviously opinions can and will differ. But my feeling is that a lot of taxa are being automatically obscured when they should not be. I should note this is also a topic which has been discussed many times, and I don’t want to get this discussion off-track.

Not a problem Clayton, luckily this is a pretty easy fix. Glad it worked out!


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