Coordinating Identification of Unknowns

This idea is spawned from some discussion in a prior thread.

Some identifiers like to focus on labeling the records that do not have any id’s yet, and some of those like to do so in a more focused way. If you could use assistance in getting a particular subset of Unknown records labeled with higher priority, consider this a place to ask for help. Interested volunteer(s) could reply here.

For example, are you comfortable as a plant identifier in part of South America, and you know there is a large pile of unlabeled plants you could id, but you don’t want to sift past a bunch of insects too? You could request here for a helper to pre-label the insects in some region/date range so that they will not turn up in your “unknown plant” pile. Or conversely, you could request that someone coarsely pre-label the unknown plants themselves (such as Plantae, or Angiospermae, Tracheophyta or whatever breakdown would be helpful).

As another example, if you are a researcher of Fungi in Asia, could you use an informal “intern” to help by finding the Fungi in the Unknowns to increase your pool of records? You might be able to find manpower here.

Ideally, teaming up with “identification partners” will be a win-win situation, where the volunteers get satisfaction, entertainment or learning out of it, just by helping you get specific.

Besides people making specific requests, Unknown identifers who already got specific with subsets on their own could also announce those now-refined pools here- as I did in that linked discussion post.

(Relatedly, if there is similar interest in say, “annotation partners” for some field, that could spawn a separate thread.)


sign me up! I can do either end. Looking for Euphorbia in the United States and Canada, and willing to find anything you want worldwide provided you can explain what to look for.
only caveat, I’m on semi-break from iNat due to personal situation, but I’ll be back by August.


I would appreciate someone who can tackle the unknown plants in east Texas and Louisiana (and maybe Arkansas). Someone who wouldn’t just ID as “plant” but as flowering, conifer, fern, moss, etc. I don’t know much about the ones that aren’t flowering plants. I’d like to just focus on those and not have to go through all the plants. And I’m sure others who have more expertise in the other groups would appreciate it as well.


I will do that for Louisiana (to start with).


If there’s a subset dominated by arthropods I’d be glad to help sotring it out, plus as I said in the main topic, everyone adding winged insects ids instead of just insects is doing a great job!



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Anyone mind if I change the topic title to “Unknowns Identifier Coordination Thread”? Right now it reads (at least to me) that it’s about anonymous identifiers, not identifying observations that lack IDs.


I agree. I’d be tempted to change it even further, to something like “Coordinating Identification of Unknowns”


I’m in! I’m a bit random in my knowledge, but will help where I can :)


I’ll start with plants in Texas :)


Thank you :heart:

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I’m a user that is newish to insects (and iNat). Thanks to all of you for seeing some of my observations and helping me learn. And I have learned! I follow some folks and every morning see what is happening in my area so I can learn my insects. Reading books, on Bugguide, etc. And I am studying body parts for keying out. I will - once I get a bit better - consider being an identifier with things I know well.

However, I see iNat repeatedly asking for $$ to support the working mechanism. And I know identifiers tend to be volunteers (thank YOU!). Perhaps we can mesh this…

Since I have iNat partly to work on projects in my town that are tracking all our biota- I aspire to be accurate. MY goal is land protection and our town “conservation” folks won’t value land if they don’t know more about what is on it. So I want to get my species right!

PERHAPS one way to bring in more money to iNat and to reward identifiers who are wonderfully helpful and educational (at least for me), you should charge for certain levels of identification? Some goes to iNat working mechanisms, some goes to identifiers? I recognize that this program is to encourage all folks to explore the world and the program is generally free, and I have been grateful! I am a monthly contributor because I appreciate it, but I wonder if identifiers might be rewarded somewhat, and/or if users might opt to pay for a “project mode” or “researcher mode” or something. I am not trying to be elitist but using iNat alot, supporting iNat alot, I am thinking of ways to do both!

iNat staff discussed this before (especially in Questagame saga, e.g. mentioned here), it won’t happen and I’m pretty sure community of identifiers is not into it either, there’re other way to get money with your work, with grants and similar sources. iNat asks for money 2 times a year, not really too often.


However, I see iNat repeatedly asking for $$ to support the working mechanism.

I think (hope) that Ask message is seasonal. They did it for a little while back at year-end, if I recall right.

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I’m not going to ID ones marked casual BTW

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I have not been going through the observations marked “casual”–just the “needs ID” ones. I fully understand why you don’t want to identify casual observations. However, I’m not comfortable marking observations of other people as “casual,” partly because I’ve been wrong in some instances (thinking that a plant was cultivated just because it was in a container or looked like it was in someone’s backyard), and also because of previous topics where people have strong feelings that marking observations as “casual” is “hiding” them. (I am noticing that as I label the possibly casual ones as “flowering plants” some are getting identified to species by other identifiers who then mark them “casual,” which is another reason for my reluctance to mark them “casual” myself.) But for our purposes here on out, I will simply skip the observations that may possibly be cultivated instead of labelling them as “flowering plants,” etc. I hope that will work for you.


That would be nice in general and I wished iNat had more iconic plant taxa to go along with it (e.g. flowering plants, non-flowering seed plants, seedless vascular plants, non-vascular plants). There are 8 iconic taxa for animals, but only the one huge catch-all Plantae. But that’s probably a discussion for another thread.

Identifying mosses (Bryophyta), ferns (Polypodiopsida) and conifers (Pinopsida) is helpful. Other IDs that might be useful are Tracheophyta (vascular plants, excludes mosses and other bryophytes) and Angiospermae for anything with flowers. Adding phenology annotations such as flowering and fruiting might help to further narrow down the angiosperm pool to observations that are more easily identified, since most of the field guides depend on flowers for ID.

One thing I keep noticing when browsing through the unknowns in my area to find plants I can ID or narrow down is a lot of mushrooms. ID’ing those as “fungi” might be another way to help clean up the unknown pool. It seems those often get ignored - guilty of doing that myself - and a lot of them linger for years in the unknown pool.


After trying to skip possibly non-wild plants in Louisiana on another round, it seems to me there is just too much guesswork required on my part. There are so many plants that are near residential areas, schools, universities, manicured parks, etc. that could be either planted or wild from my vantage point in California. So I am now thinking that if you would like someone to go through and mark all the flowering plants as such I can continue doing that, but if it’s necessary to decide whether they are non-wild or not as well, I may not be the right person for your purposes.

Most of fungi (observed) also fall in Agaricomycetes, e.g. all capped shrooms.

Thanks! I’ll try to keep that in mind. I usually just ID as Fungi or possibly Basidiomycota if it looks like a proper mushroom.