Fastest way to split observations of more than one individual

I’ve recently realized that my habit of combining multiple photos of individual plants in a variable population is technically against iNat policy:

This makes me very sad because I think it is useful to document variation in characters within a single population, and I think this is clearest and most convenient in a single observation page. But I don’t want to use the site in a way that deviates from others’ standards and expectations.

Now I have to split up a large number of population-level observations into many, many more individual level observations.

I wouldn’t put in the time to do this, except that I’ve noticed that another user of this site is beginning to systematically disagree with identifications on the grounds that they contain too many individuals. I would like my observations to remain ‘research grade’ or at least ‘verifiable’.

What’s the fastest way to split up my observations? I’ve been doing:

  1. “duplicate observation”
  2. un-check all photos in the observation that aren’t of a single individual
  3. re-identify the observation
  4. copy and paste the missing notes and tags from the old observation
  5. repeat this for every individual in the original observation
  6. delete the original population-level observation

Is there a faster way? Particularly a way that retains previous community observations? This project will eat up most of my time on iNaturalist with my current workflow.

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If all of the individuals visible are of the same taxon, I am curious what this user’s disagreeing ID taxon is, and what their justification is for it? I think a more appropriate response (if any) on their part would be to ask you which individual you wish to have identified, not to disagree with an ID that is clearly correct for all individuals visible in the observation. To me that would border on intentional misidentification, which is a potentially suspendable activity.


I think they are technically correct, but I wouldn’t worry about splitting up old observations. Even if you did, it wouldn’t change the considerable number of other observations (by myself included) that are of that nature. We still have observations in the system from absentee and duress users that show different taxa between photos, let alone individuals of the same taxa.

I would take it as a cue to change from this point on, unless you get asked to “fix” on an actual observation, and even then I would only do it if it was someone that was using the data or affected by it, not so much just because someone suggested the split just for the splits’ sake.

How is the “tone” of their suggestion for improvement? Does it come across as constructive, or does it seem unnseccesarily pedantic? Is it “fix it ,or else” or “nice obs, but could be better if…”?


Yep! To my mind, that’s a far bigger issue than different individuals of the same taxa being in a single observation.

I’m with the others here, as long as they are from the same day, and reasonably close geographically (I’m not really interested in a debate on what is ‘reasonable’) then leave them.

When almost all users of the site ‘technically’ break the rules, it tells me more that there is an issue with the rule than anything else.

If anything the ‘rule’ creates more problems (proportional over-representation of the species you are documenting in the dataset, needlessly flooding the needs id pool in particular in plants which already suffer from low review rates etc), there is a reason most every other similar site does not use this approach.

Different species for sure have to be in separate records, but I dont think you have those.


An improved way to do this was on the 2019 agenda but my suspicion is that updates to the notification system might be taking priority, but for now the steps you list seem right. The other thing is ensuring your locations match the individuals, but I assume your accuracy radius is large enough to include all of them? And, no need to delete the first observation (unless you want to delete the original IDs and comment thread) – I would just unselect the other photos and use it as an observation for the first photo.


This is pretty much my thoughts as well. Note that if a particular specimen is fairly unique, such as a unicolor flower that is normally bicolored, I would probably separate it out as it’s own observation.


Thanks - and especially thanks for the reminder to check the location accuracy radius.

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They typically point out a single individual that, if pictured alone, would be more difficult than the others pictured (or maybe impossible) to identify to species-level, and then offer a genus or higher
identification. Sometimes with disagreement, sometimes not. For example, a single plant with an about-to-open unopened flower in a sea of otherwise identical plants with newly-opened flowers.

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Ok, I guess they are not really intentionally misidentifying anything in that scenario, just being a bother. And I suppose replying that you had a different individual in mind probably wouldn’t have much effect? At least they only have one vote…

I have definitely become more aware of sticking to a single individual when possible, but I am not going back and looking for my observations (maybe 5% or so) where different adjacent individuals were included in different photos. If and when a new tool becomes available for splitting those, maybe I will.

As for a single photo with multiple individuals (typical example for me here), I suppose I could pick one individual and add a cropped image of it, if someone insisted.


If someone insisted, I think I would probably just block them. :)


I think that is a clear case of not needing cropping! So much more to be told from the frame than just the individual flower! I would be with Clay there and insist right on back that they seriously consider how pedantic they are being. In nice words of course :) I totally get it for the logic of it, but there is the theoretical model and the practical implementation. I would never insist on something anyway, I would be inclined to suggest. If they wanted to debate over it, I’m up for that, but I never expect anyone to follow my advice, I am only offering it in case it is something they haven’t considered yet. Ultimately we are all trying to add value to or improve observations, so it has to be weighed up as to whether the suggestion would realistically do so.

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Yeah unless the individuals are far from each other or particularly different I’d just turn off community id for that observation and ignore that person. Doesn’t seem worth the time breaking all those up. Yes that is technically a rule but I don’t think it’s enforced except in excessive cases.


Requiring cropping of photos to comply with the one individual per record, or even asking someone to do it is silly.

Does someone seriously think I should crop a picture like this to show one bird []

The entire point of it is to demonstrate the abundance.


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