DQA for specimens removed from the wild

I’m wondering if there is any consensus on what to do for marking observations of organisms that were wild but have clearly been moved from their original location prior to taking the picture. (I’m not talking about transplanting plants or relocating animals, but more about collections and stuff held temporarily.)

I’m specifically thinking about this in the context of student/class projects where I’m seeing the following types of observations being posted. All of these would have been collected outdoors in the wild, but the location is marked as inside a building/lab with the date when the picture was taken, not when the collection was made. Often samples are spread out on newspaper or a bench top and many are perfectly identifiable since identifying them is presumably part of the class exercise.

  1. Live plants that have been picked and put into a container with water
  2. Plants that have been pressed (dead when picture was taken)
  3. Dried samples of moss, liverwort, lichen, mushrooms etc., spore prints etc.
  4. Live bugs in a jar
  5. Dead bugs (sometimes pinned)
  6. Live (?) fish and other aquatic organisms in/from a bucket
  7. Dead animals in jars (preserved)
  8. Skins and bones
  9. Microscope pictures of live stuff like algae, protists, microbes
  10. Microscope pictures of stuff that has been fixed and stained

What would you do with these? Do you treat them all the same, or different depending on the type of specimen? If you treat them differently, what’s your reasoning behind that?

The two recommendations/practices I see people mentioning the most are either 1) mark the observation as location/date inaccurate, or 2) mark the observation as captive. Any other ways for dealing with these?

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You can check lots of previous posts about jars and relocating organisms before photographing them, collections, etc.


I did search and found mostly unhelpful threads e.g. about what jars to use or museum specimens or transplanting things that do not apply and a lot of inconsistent answers suggesting to just do whatever it takes to get things into casual that were given before the policy that adding false DQA votes is against the community guidelines. I’m wondering what the “correct” DQA vote on these should be.


If the photo is something that obviously doesn’t come from that location (like seaweed on a lab bench and location marked as an inland university), then I see no issue with marking the location incorrect. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt – if it was something like a dandelion in a cup that they could have gotten off a nearby lawn, I usually leave it.


not a direct response to the question, but sometimes commenting that the location (and date) should be of when the organism was wild fixes the problem. it just doesn’t usually occur to people that aren’t familiar with inaturalist (such as students told to make an account for an assignment) but a lot of people will correct the data if asked (if the observation is recent and not just an abandoned account used for three days in class)


It’s tricky if the specimen was most likely taken in the school grounds on the day. If it’s from a field trip then the data as you’ve described it is inaccurate and should be marked as such. If there’s any way you can identify the educator in charge and contact them that’s ideal I guess - otherwise commenting on a few observations should get the message out there as @snake_smeuse has said.

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Let me assist you a bit, as @fffffffff is correct in that there are many threads:

And related topics/food for thought:


Well, yes, thanks for compiling them. I looked at them all and many are closed and only related tangentially. Out of the open threads, none of the scenarios in the captive vs. wild one match what I’m asking about (collected samples) and I didn’t want to hijack that one and change its topic. The one on museum specimens is maybe more applicable but had lots of contradictory answers. These are not museum specimens anyway but often only brought to the classroom temporarily.


Yes, I’ve been commenting but in a lot of these cases I doubt there will be a follow-up since it’s pretty obvious the account was created for class and not used since.


Right, but on some (though not all) of the closed ones you can get an idea of the prevailing thoughts, which is what you asked for.

But a new topic is always welcome, since the older ones (especially the closed, older ones) are not always easy to find, as you noted.

Yes, not easy to find, plus often so long it takes hours to read through them in search for specific info. I just don’t have the patience to hunt through every thread to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. I’ve sometimes had better luck using regular internet search engines than searching the iNat forum to find specific info but not in this case. And the change in community guidelines on DQA has been fairly recent so answers on the older threads did not take that into consideration.


Those or other topics definitely discussed how you decide on what is captive and what is not. We can’tt answer your questions, because it’s all is circumstantial and depends on factors like what time and date is added by user.

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I struggle with the insistence that a pinned beetle is ‘alive’ because - it was when I caught it. What I see is very dead, and pinned. But the usual response to your query is DQA inaccurate.

I specified that above: “location is marked as inside a building/lab with the date when the picture was taken, not when the collection was made.”

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Then most likely it wasn’t even collected by a user, and just a part of school/university ollection, that they had as a test to id, but post to iNat, sometimes it’s a valid observation and you just need to tell the user to change the data, but with school kids, go straight to DQA.

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They are collected by the students. Here’s an example: Let’s say the mycology class goes on a field trip taking a van out to a field site in a neighboring county. The students collect a bunch of mushrooms, come back to the lab and stick them in the drying oven. One week later, they key out their dried 'shrooms in lab and some of them take pictures and post them, now with the date and location from the lab, not the field site they were at the week before to collect. Once I find these, which DQA is the most appropriate? Are these now “captive” mushrooms? Or “inaccurate date/location”?

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Both fit, I know @tiwane said that captive is the right way, I personally go with the wrong date and time.


I would say inaccurate date/location, since they’re not really pets or garden pets in the sense of being “captive” that way.


Here’s my breakdown of it:

  • Organism momentarily “captive” in hand or jar, but appears to be near where it was likely found – mark wild.
  • Organism photographed in school lab, and time/place indicates the lab - captive
  • Organism photographed in lab, but time/place indicating a collection site, not the photo site - wild
  • Microscope shots of algae and the location is marked as the campus pond? wild. Marked as inside the science building? Captive, unless there’s additional comments adding context like “I scraped this off the window pane where it was growing”.

Most of your examples above could be either “wild” or “captive” depending on the context of the observations, but practically speaking, pretty much everything posted by students in a lab will end up being captive.


It seems like there isn’t a standard rule for these. I think the following approach minimizes confusion for the (probably new) user:

  1. For things that were at least plausibly sampled from “the wild”, mark the date and location inaccurate in the DQA and include this boilerplate text:

"Thank you for uploading this observation to iNaturalist!

Dates and locations on iNaturalist are meant to indicate where the organism was collected or sampled, but it looks like this photo was taken in a classroom. If you happen to know when and where the sample was collected, please edit the date and location of this observation accordingly. When you’re done, leave a comment here so I can mark those things “accurate”. Thanks!"

  1. Additionally, for classroom-style observations that are clearly of a cultivated plant or long-captive animal: mark “captive/cultivated” in the DQA.