I’m trying to teach myself to ID fungi so I haven’t been asking my local mycologist for IDs. I’ve been adding my obs to Mushrooms of Texas.
I’m a relatively new user an have been clicking on the CV suggestions partly to save typing and partly as a spell check, even though I know what the plant is most of the time.
Another reason, though, is that whatever source iNat is using for scientific names (IPNI?) is coming up with names that aren’t the the ones used by my local (northeastern US) ID guides. If you try to type in what CV considers a synonym it changes it. I get that they have to choose a reference source and stick to it and I know how to check for synonyms but it could be a real cause of confusion for somebody who’s newer to this. (Anemonoides/Anemone for example) At any rate, I tried to type in the name myself and it wouldn’t let me.
I don’t know many local experts outside work, where it would be odd to ask for assistance on a social platform, and I feel weird using @mentions to call in experts on iNat too, as they are all so busy.
What sometimes helps is to go to the profiles of a taxon’s top identifier(s) and see which projects they have joined or administer, and then add a difficult observation to that project. It’s then their choice to weigh in on it or not.
There is an older thread on this topic.
general consensus on etiquette regarding recruiting ids from specific identifiers
In my experience, the acceptance of @mentions is very dependent on the individuals involved. I know several researchers who use iNat regularly and are very active identifiers on the site. They generally don’t mind tags for unique or difficult-to-ID species in their fields. However, nobody has time time to be tagged on multiple common observations, which is where things break down. I am aware of one poster who will often tag 2 or 3 people for insect IDs within a day or so of posting. In my view, that shows a lack of patience and is an imposition.
I think the best practice is one expert at a time, I know a person who tgs multiple ppl at once, they say it’s impossible to id it to species, then the person tags more people. After that you don’t want to give ny information, there’re many who can do the same and your word has no weight for observer.
I ask experts at work for help with identifications both in person and by e-mailing them links to iNaturalist observations I’d like their opinion on. I try not to over do it.
@cavann, You are spot on regarding the purpose of iNat. I’m a biologist, and I’ve been using iNat data to help with my own research. Any scientist that uses GBIF data without going through and verifying IDs themselves may need to rethink their approach. I know that sounds harsh, but aggregated data like GBIF is chock full of errors (and no small proportion of those errors are due to errors made by professionals and museum staff). A database that I use often, called VertNet, includes ONLY data from scientific museum collections. I’d say a good 25-35% of the data is incorrect (and all that data is curated by professional biologists). Understaffing of our museums contributes to this, but at least with iNat, we can help with the curation because we can see the specimens. Based on the taxa that I work with, I’m positive that the quality of data feeding into GBIF from iNat is better than the quality from museum databases (this may not hold true for other taxa).
then there is the GBIF duplication problem as discussed on this thread
Oh, it’s definitely my personal hang-up. I didn’t mean to imply it was unprofessional in general.
@star3, keep in mind that iNaturalist identifiers are all helping because they want to. It’s not the same as calling up a museum curator in her office, where you don’t know how she feels about helping the public. And some appeals for help are more appealing than others. If someone shows me a Smilax and says “This one has been driving me crazy and I went back 3 times to look at it again but all I have is a field guide…” I am happy to help them out. If they just tag my name on a bunch of observations it seems lazy.
I do tag people on iNat. But, maybe once or twice a week (and then that would be 2 different people), and only for something unusual or curious, that I feel is worth asking for do you have a moment? Thank you.
I know. That’s why I said “I feel weird using @mentions”:
Because I personally don’t know what is going on with that person, and because it is solely a volunteer activity. I try to use them very sparingly to ask for assistance.
I use them more often in response to observation comments, though, just so they know which person in an observation’s comment thread I am replying to.
I didn’t mean using mentions. I was talking about the mycologists who don’t like iNat. I meant emailing the one I know pretty well.
I sometimes use mentions but try not to make a habit of it. If I do, I usually tag someone I know IRL or someone who has IDed something similar for me in the past.
I wasn’t suggesting a course of action for you.
You have connections that work for you.
I was contrasting the methods available to me, as I don’t know any mycologists (or other specialists) outside of iNat or tangentially via my employer (and even there we work in very different departments so it would feel strange to me personally to look up a biologist who I have never spoken to before and ask for identification assistance).
This topic is one that I would also like some clarification on. I have enough knowledge to make very coarse IDs about most things I usually observe. For instance, kingdom IDs (very easy) for observations I don’t have a lot of knowledge about. And these are certainly better than nothing. In pretty much every case, I don’t have enough knowledge to get down to, most times, the family or genus level. So, in these cases, do I just take whatever the AI throws at me (in terms of family or genus), in order to garner more traffic around my observation? It is very unclear to me as to why the AI suggestions would exist if they only cause problems. And, it seems to me that the only people that would really ever rely on them are people who don’t have any IDing experience, like myself. But, the fallacy is that someone with little ID experience will not be able to verify whether the AI suggestion is decent. So, what to do?
Stay with an ID at a level you feel confident with.
AI is happy to suggest things that are flat out wrong.
The AI suggestions make a good shortcut to typing out a long name.
A few suggested IDs can definitely be useful for deciding - is it A or B (if you have that knowledge), or to remind me of that name that has slipped my mind.
My way of AI use. I know lichens, but the rest - so so or nil. I have biological background, so in many cases (not always!) I have an idea to which class or even order the organism goes. I look at the first two suggestions on AI and check them on Google search: description, distribution, ecology, seasonality,etc., etc. If one of the suggestions fits very well with everything I have, I use it. In most caes it is correct, but not always. If AI offers a medley of distantly related species, I disregard it and use the lowest taxonomical level I feel comfortable at. Often it is order, sometimes class, especially with sea invertebrates and such. But @dianastuder gave a perfect advise: use the lowest taxonomical levet at which you are comfortable. Even if it is as high as phyllum.
I’m the furthest thing from an expert on iNaturalist tools, so take this with as much salt as you like. I’m new here and still trying to figure out the best way to deal with this, but I’ve found these sorts of conversations helpful so here’s my 2 cents’ worth.
If I don’t start typing immediately the system usually kicks out some ID in short order, but I’ve had a few obvious errors (taxa that don’t exist in the location where the photo was taken being the most common issue) that quickly taught me to never take it without some other supporting evidence. The AI-suggested ID is a starting point and the rest of the process is a learning experience. For taxa I’m experienced with I count myself as a valid expert and go straight to species. Taxa I’m comfortable figuring out I’ll usually go to species after digging through some guides, keys or or web pages - I’ve started adding notes if I’m not confident (should probably go back to a couple of older posts). For example, I have a passing understanding of butterfly ID that I picked up learning to identify the butterflies I encountered near a previous home. I don’t know a lot about moths, but the structures are more or less the same so I can work through a key. I have a moth photo submitted that is in the same group (litter moths) identified by the AI but, after digging around and figuring out what’s found where and some other details (and comparing photos from others on iNaturalist) submitted it as a species in a different genus than suggested by the AI. I am expecting one of three responses - agreement, agreement with genus but not species, agreement at some higher but not genus taxonomic level. That assumes that I get any response at all, of course, and I get that littler moths are probably an acquired taste with a limited following. On the other hand, I may be way off base or have a useless image that lacks some key feature, I suppose.
I have a bunch of photos (and recorded bird songs) about which I’m less certain and haven’t landed on how best to do them in a manner that’s most likely to get some sort of instructive response. Some of these I will inevitably end up posting to genus, family or order. My experience with bumble bees (the taxon that got me to join iNaturalist as a learning experience) has persuaded me that if you want responses, the way you post matters, at least for some taxa. Still haven’t figured out how, exactly (obviously - I have not yet had a response to any bumble bee submission).
Some of this stuff relates to a very helpful response I received from @janetwright in another thread: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/what-if-nobody-ids-your-observation/13315/39?u=pmeisenheimer .
I’m a new user, having heard of iNat from a friend. I learned plants in a nearby state, so was hoping the app would help when I’m out and about and something looks almost but not quite like something I know. I expected that the suggestions would offer identification advice, like you get in Newcomb’s or other good guides, but was disappointed that the blurb is just a geographic summary that is redundant with the map of observations below it. Some of the suggestions are astonishingly wrong (e.g., I added a cultivated picture of an alpaca yesterday, and, when I went in to add its name, both giraffe and domestic dog were in the suggestions! I’ve also seen some puzzling plant identifications, but less amusing than that.). But the lack of ID advice (e.g., “Look for green bark with vertical stripes” or “Look for sharp points on the the lobes”) means that, well, I guess I do have to carry the heavy books if I want to learn.
I’m curious regarding the decision to have just geographic description rather than more specific ID advice in an app that seems to be about IDing stuff?
Hi @acertsuga, welcome to the iNat Forum! Are you referring to the little blurbs like this?
iNaturalist just pulls the About blurbs from the first paragraph on the associated Wikipedia article, which is freely editable by anyone. Sometimes I expand these articles with useful tips about distinguishing the species from similar ones - there’s more discussion about this here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/inaturalist-and-wikipedia/2680
It’s definitely commonly requested that iNat have more identification tips built in / compiled from comments somehow. For now, those tips are pretty much restricted to people providing them in comments, writing about them in journal posts or guides, or linking to content elsewhere (like Wikipedia). In the 2019 team retreat, the staff discussed this, noting in their summary:
See some previous discussions for more: