Excessive observing?

what level of observation might be the limits of reasonable usefulness?

  1. every species in a 100 square meter area
  2. every individual in a 100 square meter area
  3. every ant hill in a backyard.
  4. every ant in a hill

what is actually useful, not necessarily in these specific examples, but in general principles?


Depends entirely on your goals. If you are doing research on morphological variation in red imported fire ant colonies throughout the US, then a photo of every ant in a hill may be warranted. JK, that type of research shouldn’t be conducted fully on iNaturalist, at least not with ant species that form thousands-strong colonies. 1), that’s a lot of data that iNaturalist now has to take care of and 2), there are certainly better image storage platforms for such projects. However, the real question should be “is this data useful to me or someone else?” If you can’t fathom why documenting every ant in an ant colony would be useful, then don’t do it. But if you are indeed documenting morphological variation in, say, twig ant colonies, and you want to make it into a citizen science project, then iNaturalist could be used for that.


Every species is great. The problem is when you put every individual of one species it can put unnecessary strain on one taxon’s identifiers. When I get one observer who uploads a lot of one species from area, it becomes a question of how many of these are duplicates. Also what often happens when one species is uploaded to excess, the first few individuals have decent photos but the photos get progressively worse. A hundred low quality photos of a very common species is tedious to get through. I see this a lot with school projects.


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Maybe excessive but it’s allowable. Calling out an individual iNatter is not so allowable.


I think that 1 and 3 are fine. Every individual in a largish area? Can get boring fast, but OK. Every individual in a group? That’s a good way to frustrate identifiers. (I do remember the person posting a flock of turkeys 9 times, for each of the 9 turkeys in it – allowable, but as an identifier I say, “Please don’t!”) However, posting the group twice, so you can annotate it for the males and for the females, is fine.


Nothing is wrong with “being that guy” who is observing things he’s seeing. Nothing about this violates any guidelines and is a perfectly acceptable way to use the site, even if it’s not everybody’s preference. Like somebody else said, publicly shaming another user isn’t an acceptable way to use the site or the forum. I really suggest editing or removing your comment.


My personal limit is that I try to limit myself to one observation of a species on each of my walks, and I attempt to not take a picture of the same individual plant in a month (remembering is difficult sometimes). More recently I have been trying to limit my observations to species I am not confident about or otherwise in an area I have not been to - I don’t need to take more Virginia Creeper photos unless they are particularly pretty or away from where I usually walk.


Is it? Is every track in a trackway really a separate encounter with the organism that made them?


In my opinion, it’s not. All of those tracks were made by the same individual, so they should be posted as one observation.


A lot of things are allowable in life that still make life more difficult than it needs to be for those around us. Also posting for “every single individual hoof print along a track” sounds like he is posting multiple observations for the same individual. Which users are asked to not do, those tracks sound like they should all be in the same observation.


In response to the ant bit, as someone whose main observation area is ants, I usually try to do 1 observation per colony (unless it is one of those species that form very big colonies and it becomes more of how extended the colony is, e.g. Linepithema humile), the question then becomes where each different colony is, so if it is the same species I try to make sure it is some distance away and not exactly next to it.


What is “useful” to post on iNat is a subjective thing. Maybe it’s useful only to you for whatever reason and no one else. I typically don’t post organisms that are common and that I can see almost any day, unless it’s an unusual individual. If it helps fill in a hole on a distribution map, I usually do post it. If it’s new to me but already well documented from a location, I’ll probably post it anyway. Sometimes a record can serve as a good placeholder for a date and location, so in that way it can be useful to you. In general, I’m fairly conservative about what I post so I add rather few records on any given day when I’m out in the field. And if the photo is poor, I don’t submit it unless it’s a real rarity. But if it happens to be a really good photo, regardless of its “value” as a record, I do submit it.

Bottom line, it’s really your call.


I went through them (only needs ID, though that was majority of them) and I will say this: Not once did somebody ask if they were from the same organism or the same string of tracks. Some probably were but assuming all of them are is outlandish and inappropriate.

To document every single piece of evidence: Fine. To do a separate take observation for each track all in a line and clearly from the same individual: Not fine but also not the biggest deal ever. I didn’t see anything indicating this user is deliberately posting duplicates. I’m thinking it’s a misunderstanding if anything. We are all here to learn.

It’s noteworthy too that staff doesn’t want duplicates flagged. It’s accepted that it just happens. Deliberately doing it might be a different story, but I can’t assume that’s the case, nor should anybody. I think that statement suggesting they are duplicates from the same individual was an assumption, honestly. Namedropping an individual, tagging the observations and publicly criticizing them is inappropriate without doubt.


As an active observer & identifier, I think observations are useful as long as good quality media and data are provided.

Posting numerous poor quality observations of a common species that are commonly observed in the area, isn’t particularly a good idea, for example.

By good quality media, I mean that the media shows features of the species well.
For example, for plants: leaf, underside of a leaf, flower, whole plant, etc should be visible (could be multiple photos)- and not like a single ultra close up photo or a single blurred photo of the whole plant.

Of course there are times when it is physically impossible to get good quality media. When that happens, I think it’s a good idea to choose what to post and what not to post, more carefully.

A good data would be something that explains the size of the organism and its habitat etc.


would it be possible for someone to link a variety of good examples of well done observations?

Also, I have always wanted to make population maps of various medicinal herbs but I don’t think evey single plant needs to be on iNaturalist. I would like to map every plant or group of plants, but maybe have that data somewhere else. If I even find a good way to do that.
I feel like it might be a useful feature to have a personal map that doesn’t clutter up the main map but can be accessed by people looking for more detailed information about specific areas or things.

I did not see the pre-edited comment so I cannot comment on that. However, I will say that I agree with your comment. That level of duplication in observations for one particular area is huge waste of identifier’s time, a massive waste of storage, makes using iNat data a pain in the butt for anyone trying to use it for research, and probably makes it very hard for users to find other observations in that area of the map.


Useful for whom?

I’ve been involved in projects where every species and individual organism (within reason… microorganisms are usually left out) in a small area (usually a couple of meters) is identified, and others where a random sample of organisms is taken from an area a few square kilometers or more in size.

I have friends who have been involved in projects where trying to identify every organism in a single drop of water is important.

If you’re involved in a myrmecology project there may be a good reason to record every ant in specific colony or sub-nest within the colony.

There is no specific limit to ‘usefulness’ of observational density, it’s always going to be depended on the need, desires, and interests of the observer and the research being done.


For data that is intended as your own personal record, one possibility might be to create observations without media. Observations without photos or audio are automatically “casual” (because they lack evidence that would allow the ID to be verified), so they won’t be displayed in searches for verifiable observations and you won’t be taking up IDer’s time.

However, this may depend on the number of data points you intend to be mapping. If you hope to add thousands and thousands of such media-less observations, it might make more sense to find some other service that allows users to create custom maps and then you could add a link to the maps in your observations for a particular species or place.

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The multiple moose posts may be a waste of time, but it is mainly a waste of his time. There is no obligation to put an agreement on all 1278. I would just let him get on with it and look forward to the insight into moose ecology that his data analysis will produce.