Deceased observers - and a deceased symbol on their icon

I’ve been in contact with our legal team here to discuss this. If someone can send me the URL of an account whose owner we know has passed away, that would be helpful. Please email

1 Like

Posting this comment to let others know I emailed Tony a deceased user example.

1 Like

Thanks guys, I’ve gotten a few submissions so no need to send any more.

1 Like

This might deviate slightly from the original topic, but I think a useful feature is to automatically activate community ID for any deceased users (in case they have ‘opted out of community ID’). I think a lot of data may be lost if the user can no longer manage their account and their observations are consistently getting updated with IDs, but they don’t reach RG because they have ‘opted out of community ID’. I think this should also be the case with inactive users (something like a few years of inactivity).


i dunno, while i wouldn’t care for my observations (which are mostly community ID enabled anyway), that makes me kind of uncomfortable to do for others. If they didn’t want community ID, it seems weird to turn it back on after they are dead and have no say in the matter. I kind of don’t like that it’s possible to turn it off as a blanket rule, but that’s a bit off topic anyway. remember you can still vote them ‘off the map’ if they are wrong.


When you are trying to fill a water tank, you don’t have to catch every drop that falls from the sky! I think we get way too focused on trying to make every observation count. I’m not saying we shouldn’t explore ways to improve… just that I think we need to be realistic!


Thank you for expressing it so succinctly. All this concern about “lost” data goes away if you consider the data in question as nonexistent/unavailable to begin with. And whether the data is available in the first place, should remain the decision of the volunteer observer.


You might be right … on the other hand iNaturalist is supposed to be citizen science project. And any contribution to science is necessarily supposed to be lasting and well documented. … I am actually shocked that people (or their heirs) are able to delete accounts and all observations on iNaturalist. And i am asking myself whether or not it is worth spending time on identifying other peoples observations, if there is a chance that these observations are deleted later.


Two things here: (1) The person who gets your IDs gets a positive reinforcement for contributing, and I’d guess that makes it less likely they’d delete them later. (2) Identifying other people’s observations is a major learning tool for the identifier, so it’s worthwhile for you as well as for the observer. So keep it up!


It is a rare occurence, but the impacts far exceed the action, so we are discussing the issue to help the developers see all sides of the problem. I wouldn’t let it affect your own participation…

I raised in the google groups, a possible viewpoint regarding where iNat sits in the scheme of things. I analogised to museums/herbaria being permanent long term repositories, and the personal collections that naturalists make themselves, and then pass on to museums and herbaria either through establishing relationships with, or through legacy wills. A collector could have someone help with the ID on a moth in their collection, and the IDer might even supply information regarding the lifecycle or whatever, much as what happens in iNat now… and if that moth gets ‘lost’ or removed from that collection (for whatever reason), there is no public outcry! The collection still belongs to the collector. When a collection becomes significant enough, and relationships establish between the collector and the institutions, then procedures are put in place to ensure the longevity of the collection, and it becomes known to the researchers that have an interest in that field, who can then make private arrangements for viewing maerial when required! Once it is absorbed into the museum or herbaria etc, it becomes much easier to access for scientific use, and the IDs and labelling are often reviewed and/or augmented as well as being data based along with the other collections in their possession.

My purpose was to get people thinking about “where does iNat sit” on this spectrum of rigorously scientific collections at museums etc, and the sharing of access to a personal collection by a private citizen. Many iNatters are collecting data on behalf of organisations and using iNat as a tool to manage that data, and so they are going to see iNat as a scientific platform where the deleting of data is a worrisome thing. Others are sharing photos they took on a nature hike, and not being allowed to delete their photos/observations would be considered a worrisome thing.

So I think it is important to consider that we all come to the community from different positions.

One other point, is that iNat observations are dynamic and changeable things. Additional photos can be added, photos can be removed (when it becomes apparent that they are too blurry etc), and IDs can change as new information changes the way we see the taxa, let alone adds to our knowledge and understanding in our own learning. iNat was designed to allow the relatively unknowledgeable and inexperienced to participate almost as equals with those that literally wrote the book on given taxa! It’s kind of hard to imagine the data “belonging” to anyone really, when it is such an ephemeral thing…


I don’t know if Tony Rebelo meant a Christian cross or not, but an “X” would do the same thing. It is also referred to as a cross (as in ‘I crossed out that image’).

I meant the “dagger symbol” as is typically used for deceased.
I did not know that it had special name (obelus) until after I posted the request.

1 Like

Again, that symbol has Christian origins… I had thought the same thing until I Google the dagger and double dagger symbols…

I’m not an expert on typography, and only know what I read on the net, but it appeared to me that, in the article @tonyrebelo included above, the symbol was indeed used by scribes working on bibles, but that its origins are with the Greeks, some two or 300 years earlier (depending upon how and what one counts). The Greeks certainly aren’t the origins of civilization for the whole world, but since the whole world doesn’t share an original written language (as far as we know), we’re stuck with choosing something that at least can be represented by our electronic typefaces lol.

Or we could choose something completely different, as long as it is part of the current basic typescripts.

I had a look in Trebuchet. Some possibilities are:
Ω Omega, last letter of the Greek alphabet, also an upsidedown horseshoe
∫ Integration symbol from math, being integrated back into the universe
◊ A diamond, possibly a symbol of wealth, but it’s irrelevant by then unless you’re an ancient Egyptian
∞ An infinity symbol, which, like in the integral, has the advantage of being in the universal language of math, although it could be confused with an 8 (an Arabic symbol) if you lie on your side when you use iNat

I had better stop now. I feel a spell of intense silliness coming on, which means it’s probably time to log off.


Any symbol will be associated with some religion, either directly or by implication with some aspect of the culture or civilisation that invented it. If we are going to be so sensitive, we had better give up the alphabet, and writing, and printing. Just because Nazi Germany first used jet engines does not mean that we should ban all use of jet engines …



I always thought a skull and crossbone was a bit crude or at least insensitive… Plus, the symbol has many different connotations not related to death. It also represents danger, toxicity, and piracy. (yargh)

Even if rooted in Greek and Biblical utility, the obelus’ resemblance to a Christian cross is largely superficial, and it is at least well-established in biology. For example, on WoRMs, all extinct taxa are denoted by the obelus, as are all of the extinct creatures in several National Geographic books I own.


I agree with this. I wouldn’t even have known what the dagger meant.


I looked up a bunch of symbols associated with “deceased”, and saw the solid black circle. Ideal I though… until I noticed it is also called a “bullet”… eek…


can we try to avoid breaking Godwin’s Law in this forum?

As mentioned earlier let’s just have it say ‘deceased’ or something? (translated into the user’s language). Why do we need a symbol? No matter what we choose for a symbol some people aren’t going to understand it. if i saw the dagger i wouldn’t assume ’ that user is deceased’, at all.