Etiquette for posting many observations of the same species

In my area Oxalis pes-caprae (Bermuda Butterup) is everywhere. The whole county turns yellow in the spring.

The O. pes-caprae is sprouting everywhere and starting to bloom. A few days ago I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and take a photo of every yard just to show how thoroughly this plant has invaded the area. There are many plant in each yard and I only took one photo per location. Is there a right way to present these observations and not have it just be a mess of the same thing? Should I even bother?


I was just about to ask a similar question and saw your post. In general I think any observations are technically valid if either the individual, observation time, or location is different - so I’m pretty sure it’s fine rules-wise to do that (anyone correct me if I’m wrong). Whether it’s useful is the same question I had - e.g. is it useful to individually log every fish in a school of fish? I’m not actually sure and I hope others weigh in.


it’s fine to add one from each yard, it just generates fine scale mapping of the population and yeah depending on what someone is looking for it could be useful. But conversely if you aren’t interested in spending the time doing it, it’s fine just to add one or two from the population


Should I create a project or some other “bucket” to contain the observations? I don’t really want a all the O. pes-caprae observations cluttering up my main observation collection. I have also considered making this study as one observation per block and covering a larger area.


Sounds like a great idea! The observations will appear in your general list of observations. irrespective of adding them to a project or not.
If you want them to be excluded from your regular observations, you might wish to open a second account, for special projects like these. Second account - i think its not against the rules in iNat (somebody correct me please in case there are restrictions). Try not to verify your observations yourself though ;).


In principle, yes. But it depends on what the “use” is: if you’re simply interested in presence, then there’s plenty redundancy in 10 observations of the same species at the same time at more or less the same location. But if you’re interested in the variation in the morphology among individuals of a species, observations of 10 individuals at the same place at the same point in time might be very useful, especially if you’re interested in seasonal differences, or if there’s potential variation in life stage among the group of individuals at the point in time.

And I’d add that, if nothing else, it feeds the AI machine. :)


@kenk just to clarify the guidelines. If you wish and have the patience to do so, you may enter each and every one of them as a separate record. And then you can go back again tomorrow and the next day and do it all over again if you want. You can go into a woodlot and submit every individual tree as a separate record if you want. Any user who tells you it is against the rules is wrong and should be corrected, they would be in the wrong not you.

Technically under the guidelines, if you want to submit photos of different individuals they must be in different records, each observation record must contain pics of one and only one individual. This does not mean you need to crop a flock of birds down to only show one in the photo etc. But in cases like photos of a single flower, observations are not supposed to have different individual depicted. This is much less tightly enforced.

As others have noted the question of what you can do is clearly supported by the guidelines, so if you wish to do it go ahead. I would encourage you to consider the just because I can do something should I do it element. Both in terms of the value it adds and the impact on other users (people doing id’s, research etc).


Having 2 accounts on the site is only permitted for cases like where someone administers a group or location account such as a provincial park, research group etc and also wants to maintain a personal account.

Adding 2 accounts to review and identify your own records is grounds for suspension from the site and clearly banned under the site terms of use.


I think an observation should be valuable for research. If an organism is morphologically different from the rest of the patch, or it has succeeded in breaking off from the rest of the patch, then it is important to document it.

Posting these plants from every yard in your neighborhood gives an idea of just how dense the population is. That could be useful to future researchers. Go for it!


I believe an observation should have value to the person adding it as long as it is done within the guidelines on the site. Value to research is a secondary concern. As I write this there are 83,510 iNat records for Mallards. It is very unlikely the 83,511th will have any ‘research value’. It does not mean that the person who does it should not add the record.


I’d like to emphasize the “just because you can do something should you do it” element that @cmcheatle mentioned. I provide identifications for the bug Zelus. It’s a very common insect and commonly documented (and commonly misidentified). If lots of folks started posting a Zelus every time they saw one at the same location, day after day, I would have no choice but to stop providing identifications because it would consume my entire life. I encourage folks to be considerate of the identifiers!


I appreciate your identifier perspective. In general I try not to clutter iNaturalist or my own observation page with endless repeats of the same species. That said, since a lot of my time is spent within a 100 mile radius of home I tend to see the same core group of plants and animals. I may hike the same route many times over the course of a year. I can’t articulate a specific guideline I use but I am selective about when I document a common species. The case/project I am considering would be specifically aimed at documenting the pervasiveness of O. pes-caprae in my area.


I think it’s a valid and interesting use of iNat. People can make observations quite generally on a lot of things, or they can focus on an area and go nuts looking at the micro details. And who knows what interesting conclusions could be made from such observations, right down to someone looking at them and noticing that they never have bees on them, or perhaps they always seem to only pop up in disturbed ground, or being able to gauge how often they get weeded out in residential gardens (or even how quickly they come back after certain methods of weeding!)

If you were concerned about the impact on the community of a large volume of observations, then you could consider making your first and last for each day a photo evidenced observation, with a note in each that you have uploaded a large number of photo-less observations between them showing the many locations where it has been encountered. It will only “bother” 2-4 identifiers to get the two photo obs to RG status, and anyone pulling down the observations and reviewing them might pick up on your note and then know to also pull down your photo-less obs. For the few identifiers (like myself) that review everything in an area, then seeing the comment will let us know we can set a filter on your account name, mark all as reviewed, clear the filter and carry on as normal. Assuming of course we want to skip them.

But I must say, unless it was thousands a day, I can’t see it being a problem for anyone. At worst, a good opportunity to learn how to filter and bulk-review a subset of the needs-ID pool! If you do have a lot of photo incl obs, then you will minimise the impact if you add IDs yourself as then only one other is needed to get them to RG.


Ugh, this species is such a noxious weed here in the Bay Area, and almost impossible to eradicate. Lots of fun to chew on, though.

@kenk, I think it’s fine to post observations of it from each yard, but please don’t create a second account to do so. Do you plan on surveying all of these yards regularly throughout the growing season, or is this a one-time thing?

It’s fine to upload unremarkable, commonly seen things, as long as it interests you and helps you engage with nature.


Just pointing out that you’ve uploaded hundreds of Capparis due to your interest in it :wink: …one day I’m going to go through all of them to check your IDs…

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I think there is a simpler way for recording the abundance of a species in an area, by adding that info in the comment section of the record.
Or marking the whole area on the map and commenting that that species is very abundant there throughout that space.


It mainly depends on yuor aims. It is just for fun, to raise awareness, for research?
There are papers focused on the study of the urban flora, both native and introduced. You can evaluate to follow the methodology they used. few examples:


Technically there is no way to count abundance in inat observations. Because the inat definition of an observation is an encounter with a single organism and a unique place and time. This means every individual observation must have a discrete single geographic location, a 2nd plant of the same species growing 5cm away from the one you just did a record for must be its own observation.

Of course you can add comments to a record or use observation fields (there are many variations on counting ones example use here ). Some folks will use that in conjunction with the accuracy buffer. So I do a 300m accuracy buffer, add one record and a count observation field of 10 to indicate that was the count within that circle. Others can and do complain though that doing so simply gives inaccurate locations for 9 of your records and should not be done. Technically they are right, under the guidelines I should have done 10 separate records with 10 exact locations and times. But few folks who have an interest in trying to maintain info on abundance are willing to go to that level.

Doing what I describe above is not technically permitted under site guidelines but is not really policed either.