Does anyone else get bothered by how many observations are marked as "unknown species"?

Agreed. I think the choices should be ‘start typing and select’ (as at present) or ‘click here for a selection of categories’ (i.e. the iconic taxa - but there would also have to be an ‘I really don’t have a clue’ for those extra-special observations which would go into life…)


I personally think something is better than nothing (that’s the whole reason coarse IDs are covered in both the Help page & Frequent Responses Page), but you do you. :smile:


You know, I think this is a feature I would vote for if you or @raymie want to suggest it.

As long as there is an option for “I really don’t have a clue”, as you suggested, maybe near the bottom…because I can absolutely imagine a brand new user adding something that is a stumper like a slime mold/fungus, biofilm, etc.


I would set that bar at - you have made 100 observations. Payback time.
Popup and a newbie video link for How to ID on iNat.

Please help to identify … with a link to Unknowns in your area of observations. Toggle to option for taxon of interest. Thank you!

Forcing new to nature people to add an ID might bring us an avalanche of random wrong IDs since I have no IDEA what that is?!


I would completely agree if the ID that was required was too specific, but I’m talking about something VERY general, like kingdom or class, maybe. I think most people know the difference between plants and birds LOL.


But then they get terribly confused between actual Plants, and fungi and seaweed where brown is a whole different kingdom to red or green. Is that seaweed red or brown?? - it is still not a plant.
The more you ID, the more you backtrack and realise it isn’t as cut and dried as you thought it was. Then, when you have it all neatly sorted in your mind … the taxonomists shuffle the deck. As you were. Start again.

I am still comfortable dumping stuff in Aves or Fungi or Anura or Insecta. Someone who can will take them further.


I don’t really think there is a problem. Most people, given a choice of the iconic taxa, will put seaweeds in plants, and if they’re wrong they’ll be corrected. If there’s an ‘I really don’t know’ option then some observations will still end up in life - but there’s no use in the ‘unknown/life’ dichotomy (i.e. we don’t need both). I think saying ‘I don’t know if this is plant, animal or fungus’ should be a positive choice.

I can see though that this would potentially be an issue for those whose workflow is to upload first and ID later.


In my opinion, those kind of situations would be much easier and quicker to correct, as a whole, than a slew of unknowns, where IDers have to ask what species is the focus (many times observers don’t even reply), or IDers have to stop and zoom in to even have an idea what they want IDed. Or you pick the “obvious” organism to ID for the unknown, and then they comment or disagree because they were focusing on a much less obvious option. Etc etc


True, but not if this is only a requirement in the beginning (for their first “#” observations), so new users can get a general understanding of how it works.


We need them, there’s a difference between iding as life cause you don’t know, or not iding at all for miriad of reasons, first is clear to the next ider who knows how to act and won’t expect you then filling in the id or similar uncertanties.


On the contrary, I would say that the only good reason for not IDing at all, is if you really don’t know at all - in which case =life. (or for workflow reasons). We only need ‘unknown’ at the moment because people are not made to choose an option. (As I say above, the options could be the iconic taxa, but they must include ‘I really don’t know’ (=life) - but that should be a positive choice.)


Ok, I’ve been thinking more about your comment, @dianastuder — I don’t see any reason why multiple kingdoms and/or classes can’t be ONE required option. For example, “Reptiles and/or Amphibians”. The pop-up (with required categories such as the ones below), would only appear for relatively new users who hit upload with a Blank ID. OR maybe the pop-up is implemented for everyone (who hits upload with a Blank ID), but experienced observers who routinely upload first and ID later can easily opt-out of the pop-up (in account settings).
Thoughts? @raymie


Unknown — Plants and/or (you guys fill in; I’m not a plant/fungi/seaweed person).
Unknown — Reptiles and/or Amphibians.
Unknown — Birds.
Etc etc
Unknown — I have no idea.

This would produce multiple Unknown categories, that would be MUCH easier to sort through, and to decipher the focus. It would help new users understand that they are allowed to add their own ID, and that it can be general. And if they choose a category with only 1 class or kingdom (in this example, Birds), then the observation is kept out of an Unknown status altogether.


Oh and as far as observers who routinely upload first and ID later (and therefore opted out of the pop-up in their settings), their observations upon Blank upload would automatically go into the “Unknown — I have no idea” category of unknowns, until addressed.

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Yep, if it’s a “I really don’t know” scenario, there’s no reason for me to paste in the boilerplate from the FAQ asking people to put in an ID.

It reminds me of the different between missing location & private location: One is a deliberate choice so I don’t ask them to add info, the other prompts me to tell the observer that data is missing.


Yeah, that’s why if I get tired of it i just stop IDing for the day, or skip them all
I’ve read through that thread a bit that you linked. I’m not against using iNat in classes at all! There are a lot of people who do it well and engage with their students - likely the majority for all I know. I just know in my state, in Spring, often when I go to ID there are the situations I outlined. I litterally just earlier this week sorted through about 20 pages from one high school of unknowns that looked like they did a school garden, and then the entire class of 30ish took photos of everything they planted and each uploaded it. Reality is, those teaching the classes cannot just say “use iNat” and then assume their class can figure it out.

I really don’t blame the students and I have nothing against youth. I was one of those working full time in a biotech lab at age 15 types, so I fully understand how many older scientists treat young ones, especially being female/queer and around cis white old men all the time. I still get smacked by such like a brick wall now, in my 30’s. I find field biology to be generally much more kind; and part of why I am trying to transition into it instead. (I wanted to do field work my entire life anyway, but was told I could not by those around me mostly for mysogenistic reasons. If I had iNat as a teen, who knows maybe I would have a contact that would have encouraged field work!)


Interesting. That is a small part of what I see when I trawl gazillion unknowns. Till someone folds and picks one of the above. But a What Are We Looking At note would be better up front.

And a general PS. I often see an Unknown with a note - bird. At first iNat is daunting, you ask for whatever and get a list and have to decide which one to pick. If you don’t speak iNatese, you don’t know to say bird as Aves. The list of botanists and zoologists don’t talk to each other so there are homonyms
and longer
every day - when I check Kingdom Disagreement for Africa (someone else can have the rest of the world)


I can’t speak for other languages, but that’s not been my experience. In both app & web, especially for higher taxons like Class, I see the common name above the Latin in the list. Ie., I’ve never seen Aves without seeing Birds above it:
So I’ve never seen a scenario where someone needed to know to type Aves vs. Bird.

But I do agree it is easy for new users to confuse the “What did you see?” and “Notes” fields.

And then there’s the placeholders…


Yes, I think in these cases it’s more likely that the user simply doesn’t know that they have to select bird from the drop down, not just type it.


Not really. What does annoy me is when observations are identified in obviously the wrong kingdom, like a shrub identified as “Bushtit” (a species of bird endemic to the west coast of North America), because the person didn’t notice that “bush” was not one of the choices.


I don’t get annoyed by the ‘unknowns’ unless it looks like someone who should know better. What does bother me is when I ID someone’s ‘unknown’ as a vascular plant and they reply “Its not a plant. It’s a tree. But thanks anyway.” That response or something similar happens more often than I would have expected.


Yep, sometimes I’ve wished more of the higher levels taxons were collages like Animalia.

Though, to be fair, it’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten a response of “it doesn’t look like that” on coarse IDs of plants, vascular plants, flowering plants, even-toed ungulates, typical spiders, etc.