"Duress" and "Contest" users

I’m not really sure how the teachers having all their students set up an account and then having to meet an observation quota is actually teaching them anything at all. I’m sure they’re almost all very familiar with installing an app, taking photos, and posting them online… which is all many of them seem to be doing with iNat.

I recall exercises in school science classes at different ages, where we went outside to observe nature and try to identify organisms. Back in the stone age before smart phones were everywhere… the 80s and 90s! There were lessons on differentiating taxa, collecting specimens, doing sketches, bringing stuff back to the classroom to examine under a microscope, etc.

If thirty kids all go out and take a photo of the same dandelion in the sidewalk at the same time and then all upload it to iNat, what is the educational benefit to them? How does that benefit iNat in any way?

If the issue is that the kids don’t feel engaged unless they’re all out taking photos, that’s fine. They don’t even need to install the iNat app for that. Why not have the kids send their photos to the teacher, who can then go through them and see which kids followed the assignment and pick out some quality unique ones to submit to iNat. The teacher can walk the kids through how to use the app and the website on the smartboard, tv… whatever they can all see. Any kids who actually have a genuine interest in creating an account and using it themselves can do it on their own accord.

It does seem like the current problem stems from students pushing their assignment work off on the iNat community to handle their identification work, and the teachers pushing their supervision and grading work off onto other iNat users as well.


I try to identify or respond to ‘bad’ observations if I see they are posted from a school or young person even if they posted it as a joke human picture. They get to see that there actually are people engaged in the app. We all start somewhere. Either they will stick around and figure it out or will be gone quickly. I think the solution is to work on tools for identifiers to go through id’s quickly and maybe in a batch mode


The suggestion was for 50 obs before you can create a project. It would only affect the teacher in this instance. The main reason for me in this would be to create a level of engagement with the teacher before they start dragging in duress users. I know I had that engagement at the time I started, and I didn’t start encouraging and showing others how to use iNat until I had.


Respectfully, I disagree with this take very much - I think it’s a lack of awareness that there’s work being done or a community who takes that burden on, rather than intentional shirking.

I agree that when all the kids take an observation of the same organism, that’s totally useless for everyone. That’s why I like the idea of requiring educators to set clearer guidelines that each student should find something unique to post, separate from their classmates. But @danaleeling’s circumstances are a great example of information that could be incredibly useful and would be lost to the datasets if students just used Seek (which probably would also fail to ID well).

But I’m pretty certain that in most cases the kids aren’t being required to ID, just to observe. Likewise, the teachers won’t be seeing the posting of observations as part of their grading or supervision burden. The supervision burden from their perspective is much more likely to be watching the kids as they run around taking observations and making sure no one is roughhousing, sneaking off, vandalizing, etc. The work that people do IDing on iNat isn’t reducing their grading burden because they’ll still be personally assessing that students have posted observations etc. and using this as part of a broader curriculum unit that problem includes written work/assessments. That’s why I think the best intervention point is helping everyone, teacher and student, understand that there is a real scientific impact to careless IDs and observations so the teachers involved realize that using iNaturalist adds additional supervision needs beyond the obvious ones and is creating work for volunteers, many of whom seem to lose patience quickly.

I think a lot of this stems from the extreme push to incorporate more tech in the classroom - there are so many mini-grants right now for tech devices, and a lot of teachers see kids constantly absorbed on their smartphones and think “maybe I can harness that energy and attention if there’s an app related to my unit.”

At first glance, there’s little to suggest that IDs would be “work” for others - rather, I think the layperson’s assumption is “there are people/nerds out there who will enjoy seeing and IDing these things, if they want to, and if they don’t want to they won’t.” I like @kimssight’s approach for this, although I recognize that increases the level of required engagement. But any reminders that there are real people involved and potential negative effects can offset careless behavior. As @paloma mentioned, it’s a more effective intervention to create changes on the iNat side than to just appeal/hope for different behavior.


I agree that the “pushing off of work” on to other iNat users that I was referring to is not necessarily intentional. A lot of it does stem from starting to use the platform without really understanding it though. There have been cases where teachers assigned kids to make 20 observations or get 20 research grade observations to whole classrooms, where there was seemingly no follow up to review those observations. Kids were taking photos of fruit at the supermarket, taxidermy animals at museums, photos of signs with animals on them at nature centers, their classmates (then labeling them as apes or donkeys), etc. Some of those observations can stay up for days until other iNat users go in and flag them and explain why it’s not allowed. I think the kids are supposed to be at least 13 to create an iNat account as well, but it seems like many aren’t. There are plenty of kids younger than that are actually mature enough to use the site properly, but they’re more likely to start using it on their own because they’re actually interested in nature.

I just fail to see the educational benefit of assigning kids to just take the pictures and hit submit. They can observe with their eyes and take photos to review and work on their identification skills, without having to submit every photo they take to the iNat platform.


Ideally teacher-sponsored projects should be a project category. Can a project be defined to include all obs made by listed participants for the next month? And could identifiers have an option to exclude obs from such projects?

To make this work well:

  1. iNat will need to make it extremely easy for non-tech-savvy teachers to create projects for their students (something like a “duplicate” button for projects with fields to fill in).
  2. observers who appear to be duress users should be asked if they are part of a class project and, if so, how can we contact the teacher to help the class use iNat more effectively.
  3. volunteers (ideally other teachers) should follow up by contacting the teacher and asking him/her to create teacher-sponsored projects for his/her students.

Molanic, you are speaking for a lot of people when you say that. However, the benefits are real. When I wrote to a teacher asking her to give her students a list of nearby wild places, she wrote back that she had done so, but some students did not have good transportation.

She also wrote:

At the beginning of this class many cannot list even 3 native California flowers (poppies excepted). iNaturalist has been a wonderful way to bring these phone addicted, city-raised kids into nature.

The reason I could reach out to this teacher was because she had created projects for her students’ obs. See https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/arth193a-01-earth-life-art-spring-2019


For some reason, bringing the smartphone into the observation and identification process fundamentally changes the dynamic among students today. In some deep way their reality is mediated through their technologies. Although my ethnobotany class has engaged in identification walks throughout the term, the students were far more engaged the day I had them use smartphone based identification apps. My students later did presentations on their observations. A follow-up evaluation of the activity found that the students felt the activity enhanced their learning and use of iNaturalist should be expanded in future terms. Rather than set up a project I chose to follow all of my students. The students are citizen scientists and my role will be essentially that of a supportive mentor and guide even beyond the end of the term.


I read every word in your links, although it was getting hard through the tears in my eyes. What great students you have!


Actually I think many of us can identify with this, as is evident in the discussion of “you know you’re seriously into iNat when.” It’s that feeling that the observation “got away” unless you can “capture” it on your phone. We maybe can do a better job of communicating that just observing is a learning activity too, and will make the next photo shoot better.


under the duress student users, i understand the idea of student to contributing inat user but, in that initial period, it’s still a class assignment? so there’s some teacher responsibility. i thought i’d chime in (very late, apologies) because there’s a difference in a bunch of students posting the same deadnettle (terre haute) and the students posting classmate photos where the classmate is showing a hand sign that’s hate speech (this has happened 4-5 times since april).

i don’t really care about the bunch of deadnettle as an identifier - deal with it or not as your preference there. the hate signs are an issue like these are happening during the school day so hey teacher? take care of your students.

i guess my point here is a) are there guidelines for teachers that could note this and b) is there a suggested flag? i personally don’t care to engage with a lulzy kid, nor am i sure everyone knows that’s a hate sign. the teachers haven’t rejected their responsibility but they are putting kids on a website with other people expecting robins or a nice fern and i don’t think many have thought that through.

(this is not an easy thing!)

1 Like

Under flags there is a category marked offensive / inappropriate you can use.

I’ve found a couple of these as well, it is a struggle to deal with, as the sign you are referring to means one thing if you are a 13 year old boy, and means something totally different to others due to it being co-opted by groups to be offensive.


I’ve described it to my husband as facebook for people for prefer plants and animals to people. But he knows I’m joking (mostly).


Can someone contact the admin of https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tugas-zoologi-vertebrata? The students are posting almost exclusively captive animals, and even the wild ones are often missing information to be RG. It seems like maybe no one explained to them how iNat works.

It seems that someone already did. Now there are few obs that are “wild”

Oy… Virtually all of the observations appear to be from a zoo. Was that the intention of the project perhaps? I can’t believe all the participants could get it wrong to that degree.

I wonder if the instructor actually made the assignment dealing with zoo animals and just thought iNaturalist would be a handy platform to record it.

1 Like

I started in iNat by “cataloguing” a botanical gardens, essentially a zoo for plants… I am now far more involved with the environment than I was at the start, and I doubt I would have “got here” without that project. In fact, this weekend I am presenting on “bugs” at our National Arboretum for the Botanical Gardens of Australia and New Zealand (BGANZ) openday. These “captive” places are where the majority of people engage with “nature”, and if you are going to cultivate a love and passion for the wild stuff, you need to take the opportunities to reach these people while it presents. These “participants” didn’t necessarily “get it wrong”, so much as they have “made a start”. Reach out and change hearts and minds while the opportunity exists.


I’m not sure if I remember a different dedicated thread for posting issues like these…
A lot of dead insects are being posted recently from Webster, New York state: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?lat=43.2036988296&lng=-77.4694874142&locale=en&order_by=observed_on&place_id=any&preferred_place_id=6883&radius=50&subview=grid&taxon_id=47120
One student said on his or her observation that it’s for an AP Biology project, the location for the observation isn’t quite accurate, and fixing it isn’t a big priority. Based on that I’m guessing the locations aren’t accurate for many of these, and because the observations aren’t being collected in an iNat project I don’t know how to find the account of the person who organized it to contact them.

Probably this one: http://www.websterschools.org/schroeder