Comments vs Observation Field?

I’m rather confused on the intent of Comments vs Observation Field.

In the past, I’ve been in running discussions concerning the taxonomy of some taxon, always in the Comments field. And, I put specifics for my own Observations in the Comment field.

Recently I posted an observation, and a colleague posted additional info in the Observation field. I didn’t even know that could be done on someone else’s Observation (till I read the iNat guide) but it sure works.

That said, what is the general guide for what goes into a Comment field, and what goes into an Observation field? Yes, I read the iNat guide, and it still is vague to me.

There isn’t really a “right” answer. Observations Fields are most typically used to have some amount of standardization (which is necessary for most scientific analysis or certain search functions within iNat). Several iNat projects either require or suggest certain observation fields so they can easily glean information from observations in the project.

For example, I take pictures of pollinators, if I only comment what plants they are visiting, it would require observation-by-observation review for anyone to be able to use that information. However, if I use an observation field like “Interaction->Visited flower of”, then it becomes really easy for someone to glean that data from many observations at a time. The standardization also makes it searchable within iNat (e.g., see here for observations with that field and a value of Beach False Foxglove). Other observation fields are useful for personal reference (for example, I use “eBird List” to easily add hyperlinks to my checklists).

I suggest using observation fields that are meaningful to you or are required for projects you are interested in contributing to.


The two go hand-in-hand. Here is an example of a boilerplate comment that includes a link to a dynamic set of observations using an observation field:

This is Trillium ovatum forma maculosum, the only pedicellate-flowered trillium with mottled leaves. Here are other examples of this form:

Ah, good example. And now I see how Projects works. Thanks.

I see in one of the Observations (Observation Field) “mottled leaves” isn’t just a text field, it’s like someone added a fixed option. I guess that’s a question.

I don’t follow. Can you add a link to the observation? Thanks!

I tend to think of each observation as the start of a discussion: “I saw this here at this date and time and I think it’s taxon X. What do you think?”

Following that analogy, the IDs and comments are the continuation of that discussion. So they’re generally about the ID, but also could be about the photos/sounds, how it was found, whether it’s an exceptional find, etc.

Observation Fields are just ways to attach metadata to an observation that isn’t captured in the basic observation attributes (date, location, time, ID, etc).


When you create a new observation field, your options for validation are text (either freestyle or a predetermined dropdown list), numeric, date, time, datetime, taxon (links to an iNat taxon), and DNA.


“spotted leaves”. That’s what I thought you were talking about!

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