Excessive observing?

I agree with the excessiveness of posting the same photo 9 times for each individual. There are annotations that can be added to an observations to note numbers observed, and I think it’s best to use these even when there is only 2 of the species in a photo.

I’m a new convert to iNaturalist (but have some data management and project experience) and find this the most interesting current open thread to understand some of the core iNat concepts and community needs :-)

My own question to understanding iNat as a new user is to see what to contribute to the community - and not just for my own gain. My personal opinion is that this is a community tool for citizen scientists first, but if data can benefit some professional scientific research then great, but if I need extreme detailed records to meet a current project, then iNat is probably not the correct tool for the project and other more scientific suitable sources are needed.

Observation “usefulness” is a very subjective topic, especially after reading all the messages in this thread. My personal goal is to document organisms in my study areas to the best of my ability - and not necessarily to provide extreme scientifically correct density, frequency or age related info, but rather get a sense of place and time only. If we can document individual organisms within an area with suitable frequency and detailed location info that is organism specific I’ll be happy - so documenting every time I drive past a specific tree (since it’s there unchanged and hasn’t moved) or documenting each time I see the resident rhino on male zebra on his dung midden might not be useful (but the location of the midden should be noted once, and the species). Also reporting the same individual if known multiple times in the same location in a short period doesn’t help with density/frequency/location studies, but reporting that you’ve seen a specific species in an area frequently could be useful to get a basic understanding of abundance - but to get scientifically correct density info specific distance, time, frequency and other parameters are needed that is not within the capabilities of iNaturalist design…

Observer bias is probably the most difficult scientific hurdle with iNaturalist data (or any average citizen science data sources), and this thread makes it clear that it probably will never be an extremely detailed single source for density studies or specific scientific purposes, but as a general occurrence/location mapping and “what is/might be common or rare in my area” tool for the general public this is the best solution that I could find.

In summary - how I personally track info depends on the species and perceived abundance, If it’s rare I might report every sighting, but common animals don’t get reported every time, just enough to indicate relative abundance and sigting frequency. The first sighting get’s added obviously, but subsequent entries are “filtered” by my local knowledge for frequency and location - e.g. some species roam huge areas and are easier identifiable at individual level and observation ranges might be adjusted vs new observations added (the same elephant or consistent herd seen months apart in the same reserve), whereas if I see a tortoise 3km/miles apart in short succession it’s probably a new entity and new observation, or the first and last sighting of a migratory species in an area could indicate seasonal distribution…

Keep the thoughts and discussions flowing - and add observations as to your own personal use of this tool, within the community guidelines :-)


Some good posts here. I am more of an imagery identification person than a biologist, so I’d like to offer some two cents. A lot of data is “neutral” in its usefulness. Some data is completely useless to one person and is extremely useful to another person. For whoever brought up the ant hill example: perhaps someone wants a very accurate algorithm that can identify ants on anthills because of a specific project that uses a high magnification camera to see ants. This would be functionally useless to someone trying to capture the general fauna of an area, since one observation of ants in the area would be sufficient. Perhaps someone who is an ant researcher, however, is trying to use a tool to come up with a better way to estimate population density within a colony and photographic evidence is one of those tools.

Like hshulz said, we cannot accurately judge density from mere observations because there is not enough reporting standardization from what people are reporting. However, it is a clue and it can help us get in the ballpark.

Quantum - I don’t know the backend of iNaturalist but I don’t think the data coming into it is typically going to be useful for importation into ArcGIS. However, if you had a specific project and everyone had known reporting thresholds and standards, it could be a better approach.

As a test I exported every Opuntia observation in my vicinity as a csv file. I imported the latitude, longitude and names as waypoints in “my maps” If I can convert them to kml that would be great. I don’t know which mapping program I will use but it can be done. The csv file totally crashed Gaia GPS though. too many waypoints.
I would simply take the waypoints in my research area(deleting any I don’t need) and visit each one and replace them with area shapes and numbers representing the population.

A link to the map or an image of the map (with an explanation) could be put into any of my observations.

The main purpose for me would be to prevent over harvesting wildcrafted foods. I would probably include non-harvestable observations as well, because why not.

that’s a good point. if i were looking for a certain species not yet on my life list, i’d want to check out the map to see where people have observed that species a lot so i have a greater chance of seeing it.

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For some of my observations, they’re in the same nature preserve, but there are three distinct habitats in the one park. If I find an insect at two out of three during a certain part of the year, I’ll log each instance of those I encounter in a day. It’s interesting to me to see how insects move around during the season.

After reading through here, it’s clear to me I need to describe the conditions better/at all in case someone is studying my organism.