How do folks indicate numbers of organisms or areas they occupy?

What do folks do when seeking to indicate that there are significant numbers of organisms over an area or feature (such as along a specific trail or watercourse, in or edging a lake, in a meadow, etc.) I don’t want to flood INaturalist with observations, but would like to convey more information than photos taken at a single spot. Use notes? Decide on some reasonable distance between observations? Upload additional photos with different GPS locations in EXIF? (Not sure this would work, and think INaturalist probably doesn’t want it.)
Thanks for feedback.

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I think one way you could convey a significant numbers of organisms is to use observation fields such as “number of individuals / observations / specimens, etc”. Just keep track of the number seen and add that number to the field. It doesn’t require you to take so many photos or make so many observations.


I think posting multiple observations of a single species in an area is fine up to a point (where that point is is tough to assess), but up to 5 and in some cases more observations should be ok.

I know some people note approximate numbers in the description field of an observation as well.

Posting multiple observations from the same GPS point is ok as long as the accuracy circle is set appropriately to include the area the observation was made in.


When I’m taking a walk, I generally will observe an unusual species whenever I find it (of course) but I’ll stop every couple hundred feet and photograph all the common species I can see from where I’m standing. This shows a bit more of the distribution of the species, and also provides me with a handy map of which trails I’ve already explored :)

Some species that aren’t super common, I’ll photograph every plant and put every individual as a separate observation just to make myself a personal map of it.

I think whatever technique YOU find the most useful or interesting is perfectly fine. There’s no limit on how many observations you’re allowed to make, and as long as you take the time to make sure they’re decent-quality photos, I doubt anyone would be annoyed. There are a couple of folks on iNat who post nothing but pictures of every single individual of a particular species they can find, and I think that’s actually pretty awesome.


I use the observation field “Quantity” :


There’s no such thing as flood of observations, observe as many as you wish, if you know those are different individuals, then post them separately.


Personally, I prefer not to post multiple observations with the same date, species, location and annotation info. I tend to group my pictures and note in the description that there were multiple individuals, especially with common plants.

I don’t have exact GPS coordinates for any of my stuff, so everything is placed manually on the map. On longer hikes, I like to batch my pictures into several locations/accuracy circles along the trail. I may photograph multiple members of the same species but post all the pictures that fall into the same accuracy circle in one observation rather than say a dozen separate ones. I often add a note that multiple individuals were observed in close proximity to each other and to let me know if anyone thinks they should be split up.

For some species where there is a lot of phenotypic variation between individuals or I know there are at least two similar species growing in the area, I post every individual separately so they can be ID’d separately. I also tend to post animals separately if I know they were separate individuals so they can be annotated where applicable, e.g. male/female/juvenile. (If it is something like a swarm of insects or flock of birds, I may post one observation per annotation category.)

On the other hand, if I’m observing the same individual but over a longer time span (e.g. subsequent days/different growing seasons), I usually post those all separately with a note that this individual is the same as observed previously and link them together e.g. using the similar observation field. Linking them I think is helpful as these observations may look like a group of separate individuals on the map, especially with things that have their exact location obscured, when in fact there may just be one tree of that species in that area. (I wished there was a way to force obscured locations into the same spot for these rather than creating a cloud of dots around their true location.)


There can be value in including separate observations and good photos of different individuals. This is especially true for long-lived species with identifiable individuals (e.g. seahorses, box turtles) as this can be used to study longevity and estimate things like population size.


Yes, I use notes to indicate a species is “abundant”, “common”, or “frequent” in a given area. I use observation fields for other things but not population size. Although I’m a quantitative type of guy :-) the urge to quantify population size is just not there for me.

I often take multiple photos of different individuals of the same species on the same day. This is especially important if it’s a new species (for me). I post the best observation I have and hold the others in reserve. Eventually I post all of them, usually in the winter months when there’s more time to scrutinize the data.

I usually post at most one observation per species per day. If the species is new (for me), I will post multiple observations so that identifiers have sufficient information to make an ID. Yesterday I posted three observations of a new species, one fruiting and two flowering. I don’t know if that helped identifiers but it helps me see the variation in the new species. Every now again I’m pleasantly surprised to find that there are multiple species among the observations I thought were all the same species.

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