Confirming identification independent of posted photographs

As I understand the premise behind iNaturalist, submitted photos or sounds are evaluated by “peer review” to arrive at an agreed identification. I have come across circumstances where the photo submitted by someone else did not have enough detail for others to confirm the identification and it didn’t reach “Research Grade” but for which I was present when the photo was taken and could confirm the identification independent from the photo evidence. Is there any reason I shouldn’t simply add my agreement to the original identification along with an explanation, even if the photo isn’t clear?


Well, if the object is on the photo and you’re sure it is it, I don’t see much against you confirming, if anyone has a better photo it would be cool to link it too.

If you personally observed and confirmed the identity, then that should be fine. However, don’t do it if you did not personally see it, even if you 100% trust the observer knows enough to get it right.

For example, even though I got beat to it, I would be OK confirming this : since I was standing next to Liam when he photographed it and know it is right.

Even though I have no doubt it is right, I should not confirm this as I was not there:


I would suggest there is another side to this question, when photographic evidence is not anywhere near sufficient to confirm to species (or even genus or family). In those cases, the observation should not be confirmed to Research Grade. The whole backbone of iNat is that Research Grade identifications are based on verifiable media.

If you were there and certain of the ID but the photo is not sufficient, I would suggest switching it to a casual record if you would like to keep it for iNat personal lists.

I agree in that both of the photos posted in the previous comment are identifiable to species, based on the photo alone.


While I understand where you are coming from, it does not actually in any way refer to the media uploaded in the help file where it is explained when to agree with an ID.

What it says is ’ An identification confirms that you can confidently identify it yourself compared to any possible lookalikes. Please do not simply “Agree” with an ID that someone else has made without confirming that you understand how to identify that taxon. If you agree with the ID without actually knowing the taxon, it may reach Research Grade erroneously.’

Personally I would interpret ‘you can confidently identify it yourself’ as covering both firsthand direct observation of the sighting as well as via the media provided.


I think if you’re going to confirm the ID and the photo itself doesn’t have enough information, it’s a good idea to explain why you’re confirming it. At least, “I was there and I identified it in the field.” Better: explain that you were there and you saw the behavior that allowed the identification, or heard the sound (describe it) or saw the tail pattern that is obscured in the photo.


In the case that sparked the question, I was present and clearly saw the characteristics that lead to the identification that accompanied the posting to iNaturalist. At the time circumstances prevented better photos. My concern was that the taxa’s local distribution isn’t well documented and this provided data to that end. Since I had full confidence in the identification from personal observation, I agreed with it as posted. I felt the information would likely otherwise be lost. My dilemma was, as @fogartyf points out, the system is suppose to be based on photographic and sound recording evidence.

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I don’t think this is much of an issue, either way. I agree that the photos shared are identifiable even by a third party, so moot point there.

My guess is that this situation (multiple observers on iNat but poor photos) is relatively scarce, and the community identification process can handle it regardless of whether or not @pdsmith51 decides to concur with the ID.

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This is definitely a weird edge case. If the photo was just some blurry bushes with no bird visible, then clearly voting no on the DQA about evidence of organism is the way to move it out of RG and let other real-life observers agree. It’s a bit more of a gray area in the hypothetical where it’s clearly a bird in the photo but can’t be identified much beyond “passeriformes sp.”

Thanks everyone for your input.


Supporting information can be left in the description or comments.

Of course, others may choose not to accept that supporting information without a photo or audio, but that seems pretty rare.


@sedgequeen puts it well. If the identifying features aren’t visible in the photo, explain what you saw. This is a lot like the original observer adding notes that complement the photos. I sometimes describe features I can see with a hand lens that don’t show in my cell phone photos. This may require a small assumption of good faith on the part of another reviewer, but it shows that I did know what to look for and was convincd I saw it, which can sometimes be worth more than a photo.


If I as the viewer who was not there cannot confirm the identification based on the photograph, then I will bump the identification back up to the taxon I am comfortable with based on the photograph even if it disagrees with you. That’s the “peer review” part. If the observer has added data beyond the photograph, then I will use that as well to help make the determination. That’s why I agree with @sedgequeen @star3 @janetwright that you should add the characteristics you used to make the identification that are not visible in the photo. Imagine a researcher attempting to use this data to update range maps to support or refute climate change effects on species distributions.


I would never make an ID of any kind based on evidence not present. If I can see or hear characteristics that confirm identity or refutes one, then I’ll make an ID.

What do mean by “bump up”? If it’s the green choice, that make sense to me.

To pick the orange choice, you have to see something counter to the previous ID. Not being sure is just that, the green choice.

And that is the data this researcher wants to use. Make your best IDs. Any researcher using the data will be making their own decisions about how to weigh the value to their project.


The take away I’m getting from this discussion is that if I personally witnessed the specimen that was photographed or recorded and agreed with the posted ID, I can “agree” even if the photo doesn’t show all the relevant characteristics, but that I should add in the details that lead me to agree. This, in fact, is what I did. The “peer review” system will adequately deal with it in any case.

As an an aside, I find the green and orange tabs choices for “Potential Disagreements” very useful, as mentioned by @tallastro.


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