How do you decide whether something is "interesting" enough to observe?

I tend to photograph a bit of everything but sometimes I will pass on the most common organisms if I already have some record(s) of it in the area, mostly to save time.
However, what looks common at first glance may turn out being a rare species upon closer examination. I had the case this year, I took a few quick pictures of some bugs I thought were the quite common Tritomegas bicolor and later found out they were actually the very rare Tritomegas rotundipennis.
So it’s worth it to take a lot of photos! You can still decide later if you want to upload or not.


… I mostly agree with what was said. However, there are two groups of things which may annoy me (sometimes).

  1. moth traps combined with desinterest

If there are moths uploaded in numbers, probably from light traps, and the observer doesn’t seem to care about “observing” or identifying. You can easily see it, as the pictures show dozens of identical species (same date, same location), are not always centered on the moth, not always in focus, never cropped, general taxon ID is used across all photos, for example “Lepidoptera” for wasps, spiders, flies and empty photos (!). Those observers do not show any learning, i.e., after weeks and months they still do exactly the same. They might not answer any questions and generally do not ID someone else’s observation, or adjust their own ID if corrected by someone else… (I am not sure why they do this in the first place…)

  1. squashed insects or road kill, combined with body fluids / internal organs

I know it is, strictly speaking, an observation, because species and location is definitely correct, sometimes even the date… But it’s just not very nice to look at it, and therefore, I would personally hesitate to upload too many of these …

Both cases above are not so common, that’s good! I must say that I enjoy the most, if I see observers improve their knowledge over the years, improve the quality of their pictures and go visit new interesting geographical areas!


In my experience, people don’t really care as much for the really common stuff, or maybe are bored by them. But I still upload as I see fit, especially if there’s a really large density of whatever the common thing is. I feel like it’s nice for the number of observations to reflect how common the species is, rather than there being a ton of observations for something that isn’t actually seen that much but just catches people’s eyes a lot more.

But that’s just how I feel about it. Doesn’t matter if other people do it that way or if other people don’t like doing it that way because everybody can use the site as they’d like and that’s something that makes the site really neat and inclusive.


I think this is my major gripe. The lack of interest. A shot taken with a smartphone (nothing wrong with the tool, I use it myself), blurry, obviously no attempt was made at getting a better view of the subject, NOT CROPPED to what really counts (which would help with identification even if only wanting to find out what it is that tickled the observer’s curiosity or provide us with a hint – how often was I trying to see what the plant at the centre of the shot is, only to discover in the end that there is a blurry spider right at the margin). Or, we are presented with clear views of people and children, nice and sharp in the background, and can even see what food there is/was on their plates – the insect however is just a blurry streak. And all rigorously marked UNKNOWN. No answer when you leave a comment or message.


Your obs are YOUR choice. What interests you. What catches your eye. Been there and done that? My weekly hikes are on a few routes repeated across the year. Always … something new, or a better picture of that …


Usually, I first ask myself, “Can this get to research Grade?” Hence, I never upload photos of tiny unidentifiable birds flying, or a tiny juvenile spider in the corner, crayfish towers, or bird scat. Whatever I’m observing doesn’t have to be my particular interest (birds), it just has to be an identifiable photo of an identifiable subject.
Also, I tend to ignore things I can observe whenever I want to, such as the walnut tree in my yard (wild). It isn’t particularly interesting, I’ve made one observation of it, and that’s enough for me! I don’t like to make more than one observation of the exact same organism if it’s going to be the same view in the same spot.
I also like to ask myself, “Have I ever observed this species before?” If I have, it isn’t usually as high a priority as a species I have never observed before.


As you can tell, there are many answers! Basically, do whatever you want. My observations depend on a lot of things. Unlike the “simple woman” @Mercedes-Fletcher (quite a funny comment, btw. Kudos!), I don’t care if my observations go up. Some things I can’t be bothered recording - blowflies, Canada Geese and plants (sorry to all my botanical friends). Another factor for me is seasonal - we get about 6 months of cold weather here, and during that time non human life is either dormant or has migrated. My winter observations tend to be of the same few bird species that stick around, and traces in the snow.
I also prefer identification, so spend most of my iNat time doing that. I also just like being outside, feeling the seasonal changes. I go out every day, and if I make an observation, great. If not, I’ve still been outside!
Welcome to the Forum, by the way!


I always upload road kill/dead animals unless it is an unidentifyable smudge… lots of projects documenting causes of death of animals out there. Not pleasant, sure. But also gives us data, and perhaps even data of animals we wouldn’t see otherwise. When I lived in Dimock, PA (USA) we had no idea fishers still existed in the area until one was hit by a car. I’ve never seen a live wild porcupine or copperhead, either - only as roadkill. Of course, I haven’t seen an accessible dead one either since I started iNatting, but honestly I hope to go for a roadkill run on some country road and just document what has been struck.


This, too! I’ve posted some observations of what I thought were very common species I’d seen a million times, only to have someone point it was a completely different, much rarer, organism.

That’s how I first found out we had native, critically-endangered, snail species - I randomly decided to observe a “garden snail” I found out in the forest:
Now I photograph them every time I see them!


Although an “interesting” record on INat is a worthwhile goal, not every submission will be unusual or rare. I usually consider whether my record is identifiable and potentially useful in some way. Does it provide enough info for an identifier to ID it? I don’t like to waste anyones time trying to interpret a crappy photo so I tend to be selective about which pics I submit and which I discard. As the submitter, I should devote more time and effort on my record than any identifier will.


I see a thing, I get a picture, I upload it, not much more to it than that. You’re probably also overlooking TONS of diversity hidden around you by thinking its all just “common” species too, honestly. I did that for a while as well till I started really poking around (in no small part thanks to inat and me being a slave to my ape brain who likes seeing the numbers go up) and realized that there is so much around me. I think i’ve found like… 500 species give or take? In my backyard and near my house, even in relatively developed, degraded, and fragmented central NJ


I upload every jumping spider I find, that being my main interest, unless maybe I saw 10 of the same species that are the same size and the same instar. then I just upload based on which photos are the best.

And for anything else, if I can get a decent photo of it, I may upload it if I feel like it that day. I’ve started uploading ants as well. Which was a good idea because apparently I found a super rare or maybe even undescribed species. Cool!


I would dissgree, vertebrate intestines are very interesting to look at, I once found a roaskill squirrel, its skin was torn off and huge arm muscles could be seen, I never thought about how huge those are before that, it makes sense for arboreal animal, but first experience is much better. I didn’t photograph it as it was too long ago ( or if I did, those photos are gone). Dead vertebrates were one of my early passions as without big lens as a kid it was the only way to see things close. I have more instances of “gors” stories, you can vote for filtering of dead request, but there’re also people who are ok with seeing and iding it.


Another reason to keep submitting common things is phenology (seasonal change) - especially if you take the extra second to check the annotation box about life stage, flowering, etc. There can never be too many phenological observations! Those charts (example:, click the “plant phenology” graph) are golden.


As others have said, do what you find enjoyable. I’ve definitely talked to scientists who say that observing “common” species is important, as it can provide a baseline for long term change, so rarities aren’t the only “important” observations.

Yeah, after reading some cool phenological research done using iNat data, I now more often observe the same plant species a few times on a hike if they are displaying different phenology.


This is such an excellent point I hadn’t thought about, thank you! I got into iNaturalist initially because of wanting to know what unknown organisms were, but somehow never applied that to the everyday plants and invertebrates around me. It’ll be nice to spend the time to really learn what the local species are.


I’ve been strolling through one and the same forest for a decade now and would like to add that (at least to me) it is interesting to see when in the year plants appear. This can differ quite a bit, and I find it interesting to compare years’ statistics as to when a certain plant in this specific place gets its flowers and fruits. So even if you see the plant everywhere it makes a different data point if its flowering in early March one year and not before the middle of April next year.


Especially important now with global warming changes. Blooming and fruiting patterns are getting very strange, and this disrupts the lifecycles of everything else that depends on them

Last year, for example, the apple trees at my work decided to all bloom in October instead of waiting until spring… it was pretty disturbing.


iNat data were used to try and model off-season Yucca blooming, check it out.


I have lots of thoughts on this topic (I actually kind of address it in my iNat profile!) but I wanted to tag onto this comment by you.

I live a few blocks from a lake (about 50 acres in size) in the land of lakes (Minnesota) and the city of lake (Minneapolis). But this lake has a problem. First, storm sewers from 920 acres of South Minneapolis empties without filtration directly into Lake Hiawatha. Last fall, the amount of trash removed from the lake by volunteers had reached 8,960 pounds. Second, the lakeshore on the east is public park but the land on the west is a public golf course. Having started life as a marsh, the golf course is struggling to stay dry and managing that water impacts the lake and plans going forward for management greatly impacts the lake.

I visit this lake often and had already been making a lot of observations there. When I realized the most vocal advocate for a healthy status of Lake Hiawatha had joined iNaturalist, I connected with him. After that, I made it a point to try to document as much life as possible there so we could get some good data on the wild life of the park. Currently, Friends of Lake Hiawatha are fighting for the life of the lake (seriously… the golf advocates presented a plan to drain the lake in some effort to keep the golf course functioning at its current size). In contacts with Park Board members and the public at large, we* were able to provide some nice data on species. 250 species of animals have been found in the park. and I’ve personally documented 98 species of plants and 12 species of fungi. (people mostly want to know what the animals are!).

My point (and I always take awhile to get to it…) is, documenting everything can serve some pretty useful functions when it comes to educating people and advocating for nature. Maybe most of us don’t have that situation facing us on a daily basis. But, as I say in my profile: for something to be remarkable it only has to be remarked upon. To make note of. The more we find the remarkable in nature - even in the most common and mundane - the more likely we are to want to preserve it. And the more we act as a model for others - friends, relatives, strangers we meet in the city park - about stopping and taking a look at stuff never noticed or thought about before.

*we - I don’t want to take credit for the advocacy of Friends of Lake Hiawatha and its founder who is tireless in his work. ‘We’, in this case, merely refers to all the community members who advocate for LH.