Color code the pins for subspecies when looking at maps of species

It would be cool to be able to discern overlap / exclusivity of subspecies ranges when looking at the map for a species.

This could be accomplished by color-coding the pins on the map by subspecies the way they are color coded by taxonomic group when “exploring”.

It could increase accuracy and ease of identification.

I would be cautious of using ranges in iNat to make geographic based ssp IDs. Circular referencing. Where there is a clear boundary/barrier, and other evidence to support the geographic boundary, then sure.

it would be cool to be able to analyse for such boundaries, and explore what might be the causes of them, but i think that niche use can be achieved by exporting and using other analytical tools.

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I think they just mean actual observations IDed to subspecies.


Yes, that would be a bad feedback loop.

I intended it only for “Research Grade” observations ID’d to subspecies:

Research Grade Observations at the level of the species could be one color and research grade observations of a subspecies would get a color specific to the subspecies.

“Needs ID” at the species or subspecies level could all be the same color as the species, its own unique color, filtered out… or the same color as its species/subspecies but indicated by a different shape.

This wouldn’t involve drawing any boundaries, but would show the general distribution of observations in the map at a glance via the pins.

There is definitely a lot of untapped potential with the maps and I understand the idea of exporting and analyzing using an external tool. I see this as a simple way of assisting in the core observation / ID process for users who want to use range to assist their decision but are not familiar with other analytical tools - or may be away from them: in the field / on their phone / etc.

Same could be done at the Genus level (different colors on the genus map for research grade observations of different species). Pin color might start to get a little crazy with too many groupings.

I would still suggest this will promote circular reasoning. A lot of subspecies IDs are already made primarily on range in iNat, and explicitly delineating ranges of subspecies of the maps would probably just promote more of that behavior.



this is the concern for the feedback loop…

For ssp with interfacing ranges, using the coloured pins and their extents on the map to support future IDs, even based on accurate IDs on the existing RG obs, is a definite feedback loop. Particularly if the edges of the range were to shift over time as global warming and human impacts on environment cause the boundary between the two to shift, it will likely not reflect in the maps if people are IDing based on the maps!

For ssp where there is a definite boundary, such as (large) body of water or mountain range, then the chances of strays appearing out of range are smaller, and the impacts in terms of the genetics between the two ssp is likely to be minimal (assuming they came from the same gene pool before their geographic split). On that basis I would only identify based on geographical range if there was a clearly well defined reason for the geographical split. Keeping them at genus level IDs is by far preferred over guessing on ssp based on a feedback loop.

We have this in NZ with fantails, there is a north island subspecies and a south island subspecies. I wouldn’t ID to ssp based on a map, but there are characters that if visible I would. There is a very real chance that the ranges could alter over time, even with the Cook Straight as the barrier. Anything even remotely close to that boundary I tend to ID at genus.

On the other hand we have a couple species of ground spider in NZ, one in the north island and the other in the south island, they look identical (it is internal genitalic differences that differentiate them), and they don’t disperse via ballooning. They can wind up in human possessions while moving between the islands, so there is the chance of a stray turning up, but the impact of a few turning up is minimal given that they are a spider that eats spiders. They are more likely to become prey than a mate, and the likelihood of the persistance of that gene incursion is minimal. Those I am happy to ID based on geography! Having said that, I am constantly on the look out for strays that turn up from the other island, and if I ever encountered any I would very much reconsider my position on them.

I don’t like this idea for the purposes of helping to identify (to ssp based on historical geographic ranges), but I do like it for comparing ranges of two taxa. It could be used to look at patterns such as “do hawk sightings decrease where spur winged plover observations increase? Does that pattern continue when you look at it over time?” and so on.

All this being said, it is not up to us to decide what iNat choose to implement! They may well have other good reasons for implementing this feature request that over-ride these concerns. I’m just clarifying why I personally see problems with the idea.


Yes, it might not be possible to keep unique colors for every taxon on the map. Even at the species level, we have things like

Might have to be a combination of color and symbology for such cases.

I think the range data is already used in the process to some extent.

Maybe something more general would provide a cool and interesting way to browse the data:

A map tool for mapping an arbitrary collection of color-coded species on the same map.

The user would select a list of species and then map their observations simultaneously.

Could be good for trip planning and exploring research ideas.

Is there a way to do that without exporting the data now?

yeah, though you have to add the taxon IDs manually to the URL,42076


Cool. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I think that’s an interesting way to interact with the data. A user interface for that could be a useful tool.

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Just as an example, this is how (bird sounds platform) displays subspecies distribution (grey circles mean ‘no ssp defined’):

Western Yellow Wagtail:
Dark-eyed Junco: