Easy way to mark multiple-species observations

I am questioning the need/appropriateness of flagging records with multiple photos of individuals of the same species in a single observation as is apparently being suggested. Not cases with clearly different species.

All it will take is a few retentive hyper rules oriented people to start flagging such records to create a lot of disquiet.


Yeah, I think multiple individuals seen in the same area at the same time are not any kind of issue at all. Personally, I only care when it’s wildly different species all lumped together.


Personally, I’m not suggesting that we flag observations with multiple photos of individuals of the same species. I’m focused on the very common scenario where a newer iNat user creates an observation with separate photos of a squirrel, a mushroom and a rose. If the community feels the right text for a DQA field is not “Images are of the same individual(s)” then I’m very happy for iNat to use a better description of the issue.

The much narrower issue about whether five photos of various warblers in a tree are all the same species is not the same. That issue is probably handled quite manageably through the current ID and comment tools.


This should not be an issue at all, nor should it even generate a comment. As long as the species identified by the observer / identifier is present in the photo, it is irrelevant if there are other, even more numerous individuals of other species also shown.


Great! Are you in support of the proposal to add a DQA field that addresses the squirrel/mushroom/rose issue?


I have no objection to it so long as it is very clearly for that use case only. Not for different individuals of the same species, not for there is another species on the photo as well and I want the record to be for that instead etc.


I like your thinking here. We should consider the wording a little more I think, since Multiple species could also be interpreted as applying to a single photograph, which is not the problem being addressed here. So for a DQA, maybe something like

Same species in each photo    :+1:   :-1:

When there is a single (or no) photo, this should be greyed out and all votes cleared. This wording also addresses @cmcheatle’s concern about photos containing different (and/or multiple) individuals of the same species/place/date, which is discouraged but not strictly enforced on the site.

I think we also need to think about follow-up. Consider the diligent new iNatter who gets 5 downvotes and quickly fixes the problem, splitting their multiple species into separate observations. They only get one upvote to counter the 5 downvotes on their original observation. What’s the chance that enough of the downvoters will then come back to change their votes?

My suggestion: When number of photos on an observation decreases, the DQA is automatically cleared and reset by the system. If it turns out to have been only a partial fix, people can downvote the DQA again until the fix is complete.

Or as a workaround, I suppose the observer can just delete their original observation and re-post it with a single species.


Location can be exceptionally important - in the cases of plants as an example, and also can be absolutely acceptable at larger ranges (that’s what the accuracy buffer is for). If I see bird species x in my local park, and then see another one 100 meters down the trail, it serves no purpose to enter multiple records indicating that. Tomorrow the birds could be 5 meters away, or 200 meters away. What is relevant is that they are in that park.

Abundance is a critical datapoint, the refusal of the site to implement a standard way of tracking it is one of my 2 biggest, most consistent points of frustration with the site. But I’m not sure recording multiple records for every individual is the best approach. To begin with it puts the iNat data out of step with most other platforms which track numbers of individuals seen within the context of a single record. Thus iNat data becomes harder to share or integrate. It also leads to needless flooding of the site with records to identify etc.

As an example (we’ll see how long it takes me to get flagged or comments they are duplicates etc). To strictly follow the rules I just did this :


Surely it is better to put in one record that says I saw 6 of them, or even more accurately that says I actually saw 25, but was able to photograph 6


Oh, I didn’t mean that, I probably just misunderstood your “people who add multiple photos of the same species into a single record from their outings” comment as “if they take 20 pics on the same walk at different times, they upload them all into one observation”. If you meant “don’t create one observation per organism of the same species on a photo”, then yeah, that’s probably overkill in most cases, unless each one is very significant for some reason (different banded birds maybe?).

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Yes, or different levels of molting, life stage, sex, color, etc…


That should be solved if/when photo level annotations replace or are added to observation level annotations.


Molting, wing color, and thousands of other observation fields and data types aren’t annotations, and many observations are added to projects based on this type of information, but not annotated.

It’ll be interesting to see how a future photo annotation feature is implemented, whenever that is, and it would be helpful to know if that feature is intended to change the current definition of what an observation is, or if it would only be used for indicating in a photo which individual is the female, for example, or which part of the photo is depicting the fruit.

Anyway, it’s difficult to discuss topics ancillary to a feature that doesn’t exist…

I still would prefer a more inclusive option:


all photos show the single chosen species

The followup - since the original has no ID - force new obs for each species? Good practice in the beginning when everything about iNat is confusing. And encouraging for new people if - instead of the multiples being ignored, they get the multiple engagement and IDs.

If iNat blocks the option to ID multiples
4 – Comments and ID box greyed out. Replaced with a kind and helpful toast, with a link to a tutorial showing how to - split into species, make new obs, delete the problem child.

Very much hope for an elegant solution before the bio-blitz next April, as this year’s has left some dormant confusion. @tonyrebelo


Yes, yes and yes. A DQA field labelled something like “Same species in each photo” or “Same species in all photos” limits the confusion over how “Same individual(s)” might be interpreted. (It’s a pity that “species” is ambiguous as to singular or plural, but I think other options such as “taxon” are more confusing.)

Totally agree that this DQA field should only be available for observations with multiple photos. And any edit that removes an image should reset this DQA field. As @jdmore says, the small proportion of observations that are still problematic can just be DQA’ed again.


I just copied/pasted “Images are of the same individual(s)” from someone else input.
But I meant “Images are of the same species”.

Observations showing different individuals of the same species should be allowed, provided that the location is approximately the same, otherwise separate observations would have more added value. Multi-individual observations may show variations, and reduce the flow of observations.

I can’t advise about the precise syntax/wording (not native English speaker).

In the first place, we need to fix and agree on the specification (that the DQA label will summarize):
Each photo [or sound record] in the observation must show [something of] an individual of [likely] the same species.

Remark 1:
This species may not be uniquely defined. An observation with 2 pictures, each showing a butterfly on a flower, will not be flagged if either the butterflies or the flowers are of the same species.

The question whether to ID the butterfly or the flower is different. But if identifiers start to ID the butterfly in the 1st picture, of a different species from the butterfly in the 2nd picture, then the flag should be set. If we ID the flowers (that happen to be of the same species), then the flag is not set.

Remark 2:
An observation showing different Fabaceae species in different pictures can be IDed as “Fabaceae”, but we should encourage a split. In this case the flag is set. Therefore, the DQA field label must mean species, not taxon.


Multiple-species observation unlikely to be solved without a new DQA field:

Yes, this would need careful translation for other languages supported by the site.

Yes and yes!

I’m not completely onboard with this last point.

A lot of times, I come to dissent when there have already been multiple IDs on just the first pic.

Sometimes, it’s even gotten all the way to RG without people noticing that all the photos have no organisms in common, and rather than move it out, my ID just becomes a maverick.

Blocking further new IDs from being made would lock other Identifiers out from moving the observation to the higher level taxon, and rely solely on the previous identifiers to withdraw their IDs, which might not happen*.

*That’s not an edge case: think duress users like students who agree with each other’s IDs and then then leave the platform and never return.


If it was combined with the idea below or if the checkbox made it casual grade then I don’t think stopping new ids world be a problem.

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But being casual grade doesn’t stop it from appearing in the list of observations for that taxon or remove it from the taxon’s photo gallery, so it is still a problem.