Elevating Genus-level IDs to research grade

Here’s a question about observations that can only be identified to Genus from photographs. When I’m confident that the person who identified (or confirmed) a Genus or sub-Genus level ID is an expert and thus the observation cannot be identified further, I should be checking the box that elevates it to RG, correct? For example, I have many bees that are identified to Genus (say western Nomada spp.), and experts have seen and confirmed the Genus but not suggested anything further. It’s correct for me to assume that if I know who the identifier is, and I am sure that if finer identification were possible they would have done so, I should check the box and elevate that observation to RG?

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It’s better to ask them, or to just mark can’t be refined when you know no one can. Many identifiers only post an initial ID provisionally and later they or others refine it, and in other cases they initially haven’t decided or don’t know whether it can be refined further. Many genus IDs can also be refined to subgenus or species complex (not only to species).

I also usually wait until at least 3 identifiers have IDed a genus obs. before making it RG, or sometimes wait until specific identifiers have checked, because one downside of making them RG is anyone who only filters by Needs ID will never see the obs.

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As Brian said, it’s good to ask. After a while, I think it’s fairly obvious which groups can’t be identified beyond subfamily, tribe, genus, or subgenus from photographs. Many Hymenoptera, plenty of spiders require dissection, eggs and larvae (including antlion pits and leaf mines), blurry or distant pictures or bad angles that don’t show diagnostic features. It’s not too hard to find them by filtering in ‘Identify’ for RG above species if you change your mind later.

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I’ll also add, yes that on the other hand too if people do filter for RG it’s not always a big deal to make obs. RG, and other people can always make a counteracting DQA vote too if they choose. The community taxon can still change (and I think be affected by “can’t be refined further”) even after it’s checked. It’s actually very confusing how it works, as is community ID vs display ID. One other thing is that no expert or other identifier knows all the bee or wasp species, there are too many, and this is probably true for many speciose and cryptic groups in general. Vs, often observers expect or wish experts to know them all.

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If expert ids a genus it can mean anything, more often it’s them not knowing local taxa well enough or at all, so as said many times, always check, and overall it doesn’t worth adding ids you saw from someone else, I see many wrong ids from seemingly experts.

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I only do this if I’m certain that it is the case that it can’t be identified further. It’s just that sometimes things that I know are correct to Genus and can’t be identified further remain non-RG so I’m tempted to check the box with the thought that “if so-and-so can’t ID it then it can’t be identified”

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If you know that an individual can’t be identified further then I don’t see any problem in ticking the box by you. If you are wrong (anybody can make mistakes or not know something, and this is why one ID can’t make observation RG I think) then someone can ID your observation to the lower level. You should only note that when you make an observation RG then it doesn’t appear in results of search for observations “needing ID” and probability that someone will see your observation is much lower.

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i tend to mark the box a lot for the complexes that I know cannot go to species - mostly at this point i know the users in my area too and they know as well, from the comments either current or past, but just haven’t bothered yet themselves to check the box. Also I think it can be voted against - so if someone disagrees they could check ‘yes it could be ID’d further’. Some of them didnt even know it was possible until I mentioned - and now they check the box themselves if no one does after a few ID’s are on it at genus or species complex level.

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Personally, I would avoid doing this.

Even among experts there is substantial differences in levels of familiarity and identification skills regarding specific species, and a different expert may have additional knowledge or a unique technique for identification that others don’t. In addition, the state of knowledge moves on, so what may not be readily identifiable to species right now may be so later.

Pushing an ID to research grade is satisfying, but, to my mind at least, it’s better not to artificially elevate things.

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As was said, some groups simply are not going to get below certain levels (unless it’s a series of really good photos, maybe). I use that a lot for groups that I ID, especially for poor quality photos.

A research grade flag on a correctly ID’d Genus doesn’t artificially increase anything, the ID is correct. It does however get it out of the way of identifiers working that taxon. See groups like Zadontomerus, Dialictus, Nomada, Pyrobombus, ect.

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Yeah, and expert then come and id Nomada to species, making needs id a RG is elevation of status, if there’s a possibility that observer can get a further id it can be crucial to not have observations out of id pool.

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I wouldn’t do it unless you personally have a positive reason for why that particular image can’t be identified. Leave the identifiers to do it tehmselves if that’s what they think.

I do a lot of hoverflies, so someone might assume that if I’ve put something at genus it can’t go further. But there are lots of genera that I’m no good at, others that I only know in certain parts of the world. Sometimes if there’s a genus that I’m planning to learn soon I’ll go through the higher levels bumping any I see up to genus and marking them ‘unreviewed’ so that they’ll be in the right place when I am confident enough to return to the genus. Don’t assume :)

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I disagree with this assumption. It doesn’t get in the way of anything, and it potentially inhibits someone who knows more or something different, or new research, etc finding a way to ID it further based on the existing photo.

Every time this topic comes up I’m reminded of a similar thread a few years back revolving around some seabird bones. A bunch of folks swore up, down, left, right, center, and blue that it was impossible to ID beyond genus based on the evidence in the photo, including a number of experts, and there was a long debate about whether it should be moved to no further ID possible status.

After all that another expert came along and said, “Oh, that? It’s a XYZ, you can tell from this, this, this, and that,” and provided evidence to back it up.

I am very much against arbitrarily deciding that something is as far along the ID scale as it’s possible to get because that’s an assumption that closes doors to further knowledge and the input from others who may have additional or different knowledge at their disposal.

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I think that there are some taxa in which it is commonly assumed they can’t be IDed on the basis of photos (or photos on which there are no of commonly known diagnostic traits). For example, species of insects distinguishable on the basis of genitals only. In these cases I think that ticking a box is OK because if someone possesses a unique knowledge allowing them to ID taxa commonly known as “unidentifiable”, as I understand was the case in your example, they probably are aware of that and can look for RG observations to correct them; and also if new knowledge arises in the field of identiication it is possible for experts to go through old observations and check them. The problem is, as it was indicated before, that IDing to the genus level doesn’t necessarily mean that some expert with superpowers or new study are needed to ID further, even if identifier who IDed observation as a genus is an expert in the field.

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That’s why I don’t change it to RG. I am always hoping that new research or evidence will come to light that will allow for the species to be identified. You never know when an expert will come along and correctly identify the species. So I just leave it alone.

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Or just call it Taraxacum officinale with a comment that you’ll let other people argue about microspecies :grin:

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If you don’t think it’s getting in the way of anything, I’ll give an example: Subgenus Pyrobombus. Pull up the ID page for this one (Eastern US or Canada) and you’ll find it so full of vagans/sandersoni observations that are unidentifiable, that you can’t find the perfectly identifiable bimaculatus that have a disputing impatiens ID. Western Pyrobombus is actually worse. There’s a lot of Pyrobombus, but there’s several pairs in this Subgenus that aren’t identifiable from the quality of photos taken of them, yes I am aware that a knowledgeable or lucky photographer with decent equipment could get something, but we’re talking about most people take one shot of the back (not enough), in cases like this, once two or three ID’ers have weighed in, get it out of the way.
If new research comes in, then trust me, I’ll be the 1st in there to clean out some that, but right now the available information says that that picture from that angle is not identifiable.

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I and others frequently search through the RG observations of taxon’s we’re familiar with looking for mistakes. I have improved quite a number RG Genus or Subgenus observations.
However for Nomada let’s consider that there are 80+ species in NA, 48 of which are ID’d on iNat comprising 968 species ID’d observations. Out of 9324 total observations. Only 4 people have more than a 1000 ID’s in this Genus. Those guys are rather heavily outnumbered. Setting poor quality photos or observations with single photos to RG gets them out of the way so that the limited ID’ers can get to the observations with multiple good photos giving those a chance to hit species (but still be unlikely to hit RG). And if one of those experts wants to go through the RG stuff, they can do that to.

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Hey now, I love commenting “centralis or flavifrons” and leaving the original observer totally unsatisfied

Nomada is in serious need of subgenera or complexes, but that’s for another discussion

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You say it as current experts are all we have in the world, when new one comes they will likely start with needs id and who knows when will come to checking RG, not all of them know you can even have RG at genus level, and I mean many old users don’t know, new ones definitely won’t know it.
I would divide groups totally not idable from photos of specimen, like many shrooms, and those that need knowledge, I recently had sawfly ided from a poor dark shot, I wanted to delete it as for me it seemed it would never get even a genus id.

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