As an example I have a number of photos of the same species (small bulb plants) in the same locality. The photos are not all the same plant but are of the same species within a few square meters. One has better flowers while another has better foliage. Should these be entered as separate observations or can I include them as part of the same observation?
Simply - you can do both.
One observation is for one individual, but it’s a common case when multiple indiviuals from same time and place posted in one observation, so it’s up to you.
In my opinion, several individuals of the same species should always be separate observations, as there may be something unique about the individual that is important to record on it’s own, and each observation should count as a record of an individual.
Again, it’s up to poster, I post things separately, but some may find it exhausting.
You should err on the side of one organism = one observation, wherever practical. Obviously there will be lots of cases where that just doesn’t work in practice (you can’t tell where one individual ends and the next begins in a tuft of moss, for instance) but just as a rule of thumb, that’s the best approach.
Remember that iNat is used for countless different reasons. You might just be adding those observations to get an opinion on the ID or to log a list of what species you have seen… but somebody else might be studying a particular genetic leaf deformity in that species of plant, say, and would appreciate being able to save specific individual plants exhibiting that phenomenon. Or maybe somebody is investigating whether a supposed species of plant should in fact be split into two species, and again would therefore find it helpful to be able to study and tag each plant individually.
Having said that, if you think that a wider photo of a whole group of the plants might help with ID (or add useful context), then by all means add that as an additional photo. I often do that. If I photograph three specimens of a plant in a small area, I would log them as three observations, but I might add a wider shot of the whole group as a second photo to all three observations.
I’m assuming, since you asked the question, you are happy to do it either way and just want to know which is most helpful. But for people who are finding it too laborious to log everything individually, it’s not unacceptable to combine them into one; that’s still far better than not logging it at all!
I agree with others that you can decide whether to post all in one observation or as separate observations as you wish. A couple other thoughts:
Posting as multiple observations is not just more work for the observer, but also for IDers. If this is an infrequent thing, it isn’t a big deal. However, if someone frequently post lots of observations of different individuals at the same time/place some IDers might get frustrated.
I would recommend only combining multiple individuals into one observation when you are very sure of the IDs of them all. If it turns out some individuals are different species, the observation should only be IDed to the lowest taxon that includes all the species depicted, which isn’t ideal. You might then have to go back and split the pictures into different observations later to get more specific IDs.
Hi PaddyBrown - welcome to the iNat forum! On iNaturalist,
An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.
so if you do know they are different individual plants, log them as separate observations.
I’d like to mention that for many groups of organisms, particularly insects, each individual will have unique aspects in it’s appearance that are important to record separately, in my opinion.
Also, don’t worry about putting more pressure on identifiers by uploading many observations… if they feel overwhelmed by the amount of observations they have no requirement to identify them.
As a high volume (easy stuff) IDer let me say that multiple observations of the same species aren’t much of an issue for me. Single observations with multiple organisms of the same species aren’t an issue either if a) they are really one species and b) I can see that they are one species. And no, a) and b) are not the same thing at all. I have often come across observations with 3 organisms in different life stages, where I can ID the adult to species, the larva to genus and the pupa not at all. I guess they are probably all the same species as the adult, but I don’t know for sure. What do I do with this? Shrug and move on. Since there aren’t many IDers capable of IDing that pupa, it may sit in ‘needs ID’ for years now. I know, I shouldn’t worry about it and I don’t very much, but knowing some of it could have been IDed still annoys me a bit, can’t help that.
Thanks everyone. This has been most helpful. If I were collecting these for an herbarium I would have noted them as one collection and mounted them on the same mounting board. This is not unacceptable as, in this case, I am sure of my ID but I am aware that this procedure has caused problems in the past. I am happy to post as multiple observations as I can see and agree with the number of arguments for doing so.
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