Duplicate Places

How does iNaturalist handle duplicate places? Is there a way to merge places?

I noticed that one city, Charlottesville VA, is listed as 3 different places on iNaturalist. They vary in accuracy as far as the name and area.

Places Named Charlottesville

Correct Name

Charlottesville, VA is not a county or town, so the names "Charlottesville County" and "Charlottesville Town" are incorrect. It is officially called "Charlottesville City" and is an independent city (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_city_(United_States)).

Correct Area

Only one of these places, Charlottesville County, have the proper area that is designated as Charlottesville City. The places Charlottesville City and Charlottesville Town do not have the proper area. City boundary: https://goo.gl/maps/X2Y3dLqyUiDmjfjp8.
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you could merge these, keeping the name and boundaries that are correct. but I would at least check with the projects that use these places before you merge.

That is what I was hoping to do. Unfortunately, I do not own these places. With the exception of Charlottesville City, it does not appear that I can edit the places (even though the curator’s guide states that I should be able to edit them).

@bouteloua ?

A question for Placemaster Scott (@loarie).

I was able to merge “Charlottesville City” and “Charlottesville County”, but it appears that I cannot edit “Charlottesville County” or “Charlottesville Town”.

It looks like other curators are trying to do some editing to Gainesville, FL and are having similar problems (Editing a place boundary forum post). Does anyone happen to have an answer as to why curators can edit some places, but not others?

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@mangum will this correct the issue?

I think because Charlottesville is a GADM level 2 place, it still makes sense to be of type County even though it’s not technically a county. It’s also a standard place, so no one except staff should have editing privileges.
Does that look right to you?

@jwidness I believe merging/deleting Charlottesville Town into Charlottesville County and renaming Charlottesville County to Charlottesville City would fix the problem. It would be great to have some progress on this problem, thank you.

Just a note, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem. These are just a few of many cities in Virginia that have the same problem. See:

  1. Virginia Beach City:
  1. Alexandria City:
  1. Chesapeake:
  1. Falls Church:
  1. Fredericksburg:

Oh, that’s very interesting. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that that Virginia has so many county-equivalent cities.
But now that it’s clear the problem is bigger than just fixing Charlottesville, I’m not sure the best course of action. I guess maybe we can try to ask @loarie again.

What would be the correct way to handle these duplicate places?


This one has no parent. It looks like a mistake:


This one has Canada as its parent, as it ought to, but has an ugly slug, I presume because the other place already existed:


The number of species found within each is subtly different, so I used the comparison tool, found one species that had a different count, and then looked around the borders to try to find one that had a wrong observation. Using this method I found https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/55008896 which is in 82171, but not in 82180. Looking at the observation itself, it’s clearly in Maine. The exclusion from 82180 even though it is within the boundaries of the place appears to be a consequence of parenting 82180 within Canada. Because the kml only roughly draws the border between the two countries, any observations that fall within the rough outline but actually overlap with Maine end up being included in 82171 but excluded from 82180.

As for the funny title, “Maritimes Provinces of Canada” instead of “Maritime Provinces of Canada”, it is likely deliberate so people who just search for “Maritimes” will find the place easily. I’d like to think that with stemming, Elasticsearch would sort that out anyway, but I don’t know …

I’m not sure how merging works and what the consequence of merging one into the other would do to the data when the parentage differs. Any thoughts as to how to proceed? It would be nice if the tidy slug in the URL that 82171 has could be kept, but parented within Canada as per 82180. Is this possible?

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