General consensus on etiquette regarding recruiting IDs from specific identifiers?


For example, Lets say I have an observation that I think is some species, X or at least belongs in genus or family X. I upload it, and it seems to go under the radar for a while.

Should I go into the page for X, find the common identifiers, and tag them to try get an identification? Or should I just leave it and hope someone stumbles upon it eventually?

I don’t want to be annoying or rude, and I can see how it would get very spammy if everyone is constantly @recruiting a particular user.

Naturally there is no 100% correct answer to this question, as different people will have different thoughts for themselves, but I wanted to get a feel for how often and in what situations i should attempt to @recruit someone, and when i should leave well enough alone.


Identification Etiquette on iNaturalist - Wiki

I’m sure everyone has their own feelings about it. Personally, I don’t mind being tagged - I’ll at least take a glance at it and see if it’s something I know, though I don’t always have time to reply to the ones I don’t recognize.

Checking the region the person does their IDing in can be helpful first, though. There’s a few categories where I’m in the top IDer list, but only because I always ID the two members of the genus that occur in california - can’t help much when people ask for help with species from Colombia.



Great question. I can’t claim I have the answer, and I see it in a way that I suspect is not very common. Before I joined iNat I was IDing things on my own by reading books. I had nobody to confirm that I identified something correctly. So if I now post something on iNat and nobody IDs it then I am no worse off than before as long as I do my own due diligence in trying to identify it. If someone does confirm any of my observations that is just cherries on the top and a wonderfull opportunity for learning.

That said, I would never think it was annoying or rude or spammy if someone constantly @recruited me. I would just do my best to help out.

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One possibility for a general statement (targeted toward newcomers) is item #8 here.

Will be interested to hear what tweaks to that statement folks might have to suggest.



I saw that #8 when you first posted the wiki/tutorial on etiquette… was going to respond to it…

I get fairly regularly tagged by an observer in another country, very different environs to what I have here at home. There are not a lot of taxa in common between the two places! When the tag comes, I am looking at the photo thinking, “now why have I been tagged on this”?

Then it dawns on me, it is at family (salticidae) and I am in the top 10 for salticidae. I know some NZ salticidae, and I’m one of the most active identifiers for NZ salticidae. I can see why I was tagged, that is ok… even if I can’t help because I only know (some) NEW ZEALAND salticidae!

Up to this point I’m “meh, I’ve tagged top 10s before too, all good”… but then I notice that I have been tagged along with everyone else in the top 10. And it’s been done as soon as the observation was loaded. And there appears to be no urgent need to get the ID. That’s when it bites a little.

I think tagging top 10ers should only be done if there is an urgency, or some reason to be reaching out for the “above and beyond” attention that not every observation on iNat is going to get. Maybe it’s needed urgently for a report that is due soon, or it resolves an ID confusion that will then sort out hundreds of observations without further imposition on the specialists… I have tagged for an ID on a moth that was floundering at genus for 6 months, because I was going to be referring to it during a presentation. And even then, it was tagging an identifier that I had had dialogue with on previous observations, and I was reasonably sure wouldn’t mind the nudge!

I stop short of blocking the observer in question, because from time to time there is something observed that is genuinely quite cool… I could block it if it ever got too much. I didn’t comment to the tutorial #8 because I fully appreciate this is just my reaction to the practise. I am certain others find it perfectly ok!

In fact, @tonyrebelo is one of my top 10 tags on a Kniphofia confusion, but it helped us sort out a dozen or so obs, not to mention many dozens to come I am sure! I would be interested to hear if my unsolicited tag was inconvenient!



As one who has tried extensively to recruit professional taxonomists to help with IDs, the following might be helpful advice if they are new to iNaturalist.

  • Dont expect your IDs (even if you are the world expert) to count as special - your “vote” is equal to everyone else’s. Your best bet is to (for the first two observations anyway - but if you can copy-paste to more it will be appreciated) is to give reasons that will convince other users on the site to agree with your ID.
    As a consequence when you make an ID is is very likely that the ID on iNaturalist will not change to the correct name - other users will have to agree to your ID before the ID is amended. Allow a few days for this to happen.
  • Annotate your IDs by giving reasons: users on iNat are keen to learn and appreciate any ID tips. Copy-paste them onto many observations if it is a common or problematic mis-identification.
  • There is an online curator - use this: and add (type and click on the option) the taxon (and also the region) you wish to curate. You will find this an invaluable tool to your workflow and managing identifications in your group.
    • You may wish to adjust the options - to review all observations that you have not seen you will need to open the grey filter box and click on all three of casual-needs ID-research grade: the default is set only to those observations still needing an ID.
    • You can also - in the filter box - partition by rank to look at only those observations currently identified to those ranks: useful when sorting out the more difficult observations from those already identified to lower levels.
    • The visible window is a only a summary view: to activate the tool click on the first observation.
    • For identification you have four options: 1. Agree with an existing ID; 2. Add a revised ID; 3. Add a comment only; 4. Skip the observation (you may mark it as reviewed if you dont wish to further see it - otherwise it will remain available for further work when you have time).
    • You can also add annotations and review the data quality on other tabs in the right hand panel, if you wish.
    • Simply close the identification tool if you are done. When you next open it for the taxon-place it will pick up where you left off.
    • you can download the data after you have reviewed it (from the bottom right of the filter panel of the curation tool), but remember that the ID will require a community agreement to become current, and note that sensitive species will have their exact locations obscured to a 20X20km grid.
  • If the any taxa are not in the dictionary, ID to the lowest rank available and on the ID panel, click on the icon to open the taxon page (it will open in a new tab) for your ID: Click on the Curate Button on the taxon menu line, and select “Flag for Curation” - and request your taxa to be added: please cite a reference for the curators to validate the names. (if you find the curation entry box too small, use it as a heading, save it, open it and then add a comment.)


Make sure that your evidence (usually photos) provide enough details to arrive at an ID or to answer whatever other question you had.

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It is important to realize that numerous observations go “under the radar” for long periods of time without being ID’ed (months, sometimes years), although if the photos are good enough, and from enough angles, and if it is possible to ID that species without dissection or microscope work, then usually the organism does eventually get ID’ed. Be patient.

Don’t expect anything like all of your observations to get ID’ed rapidly. And I would say, try to be polite when you do attempt to recruit Identifiers. First off, make a decent effort to ID the organism in question by yourself. Only ask when you really need to ask, not all of the time. And when you think you do need to ask, do not just pick the top three identifiers, or top six, or whatever, and tag all of them in one go, with no note at all, especially if you don’t know any of them – that’s rude. We are not tissues that you can just grab a handful of.

I try usually to tag people one at a time and if I don’t already know them, I usually add a little note like, “Can you help me with this?” Or “Do you know what this is?”

But if it is someone you know well, someone who enjoys your asking them, then maybe you don’t need to do more than to tag them.

And say thank you, at least occasionally. Or drop the person a little message saying that it was great to get that whole series of observations identified.



In some fields there are no experts here in iNat. And in some fields only one (as far as I know), so that one person is crucial for the ID. Then, to me, tagging that one person is the only way to get an ID (that is reliable). I know that in those situations he/she gets tagged a lot; what is too much, is up to him/her to decide. I myself want to be most polite and cautious with those gems, and so also with tagging.

My tagging policy is that I tag stuff that is cool (in my subjective opinion), rare or needs expert view between a few species.

We have a need to be needed; that goes all the ways, with thanks, appreciations, ID ballgames. In the end we all will learn.



i think it’s a balance. To me, too much is annoying especially if it’s things i don’t know., but a little bit is fun. One big thing is that the top identifiers aren’t filtered by location. So I often get @'s to identify pines or ‘plantae’ in places like Florida, Colombia, and Mexico. While there are a bunch of neat plants there, i don’t have a clue as to what they are. If it’s occasional it’s interesting but if it’s frequent it is spammy. So i think either those should filter by location or else people should just check and send an @ to someone who is an active identifier in their ecoregion or at least within 1000 miles or so.



OMG, you nearly made me cry… that’s exactly how it makes one feel!

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I think the heading for the topic is a little mis-leading… I interpret it as referring to the tagging of others to get them to look at your observations and ID them. However, your advice on recruiting new expertise into iNat is spot on, and should maybe get moved to it’s own topic…



Overall the iNaturalist community is very helpful and gracious, so as long as you don’t do anything rude you should be fine. Just think about how you would feel if somebody else asked you for help. I tag other people for help occasionally and I don’t think I’ve ever received pushback for doing so. Some things I suggest:

  • Wait some time before tagging someone. With some taxa there are only one or two identifiers and maybe they don’t go on iNaturalist every day. It’s probably best to give people a chance to identify your observation organically before requesting them to do it.
    I don’t think there’s a specific amount of time you should wait, but usually when I do it I’ll sort my Needs ID observations by oldest first, and look for old observations that a) I’ve researched a bit (using BugGuide for example) and haven’t made much progress with identification, and b) haven’t received any attention from anyone else. At my rate this means they are observations from years or at least months ago.

  • Only tag 1-2 people at a time, and write a comment to make it more personal, explain why you’re asking, etc. Otherwise it can feel spammy.

  • Check that the person you’re tagging actually has experience that would be helpful.
    One time I had an insect (later turned out to be a weird rove beetle) observation and I had no idea what group of insects it was, and it hadn’t received attention from anyone else after a year. So I tagged the top insect identifier, but it turned out 95% of his insect IDs were dragonflies and he couldn’t help. It wasn’t a big deal, but I figure that was probably avoidable by looking at his profile first.
    Similarly, twice I have been tagged (along with like 5 other users) on a fly observation from South America. I do identify a lot of flies, but they’re almost all hoverflies, and in addition I don’t think any active identifiers on iNaturalist are very familiar with South American flies. I gently asked him not to tag so many people at once, and I don’t think I’ve had a problem since.

  • Thank the identifier for their help afterwards!

Last weekend I was able to get 2 of my observations that had been stagnant for 2 years to species IDs by tagging more experienced users, so I do think in general it is a helpful thing to do every once in a while. They were both taxa for which there are experts on iNaturalist, but not very many.



In general, I think you should just let it be. This is especially the case if you have already added an ID yourself that you are reasonably confident about. Of course it’s always nice to get community feedback, but it’s not like we’re all working towards a deadline, or anything like that. Many taxa are inherently difficult to identify (even with good quality photos), so it may be years before someone comes along who can reliably improve the community ID. You should expect that a significant proportion of your observations might never be resolved beyond a relatively high taxonomic level (although of course this will depend a lot on what taxa you typically observe the most).

I would say that the only time that recruitment is truly warranted is when there is clear disagreement about the community ID, and the only way to resolve it is by inviting opinions from some different users.

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I’m probably just repeating what others have said, but I’ll give my thoughts. On average, I don’t typically tag too many people, but I may if it is an observation that I am struggling with.

I find that a lot of “obscure” things are often overlooked (mosses, fungi, lichens etc.), and as a result can get easily buried in with all the observations. If I tag someone, it is usually for something obscure like that. Even an order or family (or genus if I’m lucky!) ID can be helpful in pursuing my own research into the observation. I always try to ID something on my own before tagging someone.

As Caleb said, I find the iNat community helpful. I am very appreciative of those who help me out, and I hope I am not being too much of a burden.



A couple of things. I try to minimize the number of @ requests - I recognize that most people are busy and would like to minimize the number of requests to them. I don’t get a lot of requests for ID’s, so for me it is manageable if I do get some.
As well, my name may be at the top of the leaderboard on a number of moths, but it does not mean I am an expert on them. One of my goals is to get some old ID’s (some two years old) into the database (180 pages of unidentified moths just seems too much). So often, if I come across a moth I don’t know well, but research it enough to confirm the ID, I will enter that name in the search line. I recently did that for Pseudohermonassa bicarnea. I actually don’t know where that puts me as a top identifier, but I am no expert when it comes to that species. If you were to tag me for an identification, I would do so with the comment that I may not be certain about the id.
I don’t know if others work that way, and I’m always willing to help, but my name at the top of a leaderboard does not always mean that I know what I’m doing!!

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Yeah I agree, generally if the number of identifications made by the people on the top of the leaderboard is less than 100 then I assume that it’s a hard group to identify and/or there isn’t anyone on iNaturalist who’s very familiar with the group.

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I welcome all @ tags for whatever psyllids / hoppers anyone is ever interested in identifying, no matter the volume of the request. These are insects that most people overlook / don’t care about anyway, and ignoring people’s requests for identification seems like a great way to discourage people from ever becoming interested in them. If someone is interested enough to inquire about a taxa or its identity, then I am more than willing to engage in whatever way I can, if I’m able.



I generally won’t recruit people to identify my contributions except in cases where I know a particular person has a specific interest in that taxon and would be interested in the record.
For other people’s records, I recruit when there is some disagreement on the ID and I know a particular identifier is particularly good with that taxon/group. I won’t often recruit people I haven’t “worked with” before in iNat.
I try to only recruit one or two people at most on any particular taxon and I tend to recruit people who are friends of mine (or at least “iNat friends”). And they reciprocate.



I’m not a major identifier by any means, but to me this is really key. Maybe it doesn’t bother others, but if someone tags me without adding any sort of context, it makes me feel like I’m not being treated as a real person (even though I know they don’t mean it that way). Even adding something like “what do you think?” makes a huge difference.