How many of the same species do I post if I see it on a regular basis?

I’ve been a member for almost a year, and have used iNat mainly as a tool for identification for personal reasons, although I’ve recently started looking into projects. I have many regular areas where I go (as I’m sure most people do!), and therefore see many of the same species over and over. I have generally posted an ID just once for a species in a location, unless it’s a different life stage, sex, season, etc. I see that there are users who have hundreds of ID’s for one species, although I haven’t gone through to see if they are all the same location.
I’m just curious about what most of you do and why? What is the reason/purpose for posting the same species multiple times? Thanks for any insight!


The short answer to this is “as much as you want to!”

Some folks will post every time they see something, others once a week, others just the first time they see it. You can read some of these perspectives in a related thread: “How Often do you Submit Observations of Robins?


Oh, and welcome to the forum!


I have been posting multiple observations of individual organisms to show the geographical (spatial and altitudinal) range and date range (note the histograms on individual organisms). I started recording insects in my back yard last July. When do insects show up? Disappear? The more observations, the more information. I started looking at Rhododendron albiflorum on Mount Hood, OR recently, so started making observations of their altitudinal range (low and high), and where they were most abundant. That’s my reasons for making multiple observations.


Exactly. I have posted 190 observations of House Sparrows, and there are people who have made way more.


The official line is that the same individual organism shouldn’t be posted more than once a day - though some fungi fans were wishing this were not the case, as the fungi they had spotted had developed a lot in one day.

I’d like to direct you to the observations of wildhamandpetersham, Paul Cook, who is providing a detailed record in space and time of his local area, and is thus the UK’s most prolific poster.

Personally, I record plants once per location, and animals and fungi every session I see them, because they are less likely to remain in the same location. How small an area you define as a location is another difficult question!


Users can definitely post the same individual more than once in a day. The general guideline:

An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.

refers to photos taken in quick succession where nothing has really changed in the meantime. As you say different stages of development that might occur on the same day are totally fine to separate into different observations. Egg and then juvenile; flowers open during sunrise and closed at noon; mushroom emerging in the morning and developed in the evening.

More discussion about this guideline can be found here:

iNat is my nature journal. For example for plants, I find it interesting to see how individuals are developing/growing, or, in my urban locale, being managed over time. So I might observe the same individual weed in a sidewalk crack multiple times. : )


A post was merged into an existing topic: What is an observation?

Ah, I’d mis-remembered this post: - you’re quite right, it isn’t the official line, just one identifier’s suggestion. Sorry for the confusion!


For me these are two different things, taking photos and uploading, because I use an old digital camara and have to upload the photos to the computer, where I usually process them. Then I decide what to upload to iNat. First of all, I don’t go out of my way to take a photo of a common boring species, like cabbage white (Pieris rapae). I will though, most likely take a photo of any mantis I see. So even though I see a mantis less often than a cabbage white, I probably have more photos of the former (have to check). From the photos taken I will now upload one of each species of that day, before it was only some good ones. I think if I upload one of each species it is at least a bit less biased than before.
I do take photos of common species, if they are “doing” something: feeding, mating etc. or if I can get a nice close-up.
As you might imagine, I hardly ever take photos of plants.

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I’m very new here, but I’ve been documenting the same species seen in many different places because the distribution of both natives and invasives is interesting to me. I live in a decent sized city and frequently visit disturbed areas, unmown areas, abandoned areas etc. I like to see what plants are taking over and the general area they grow in, as well as what insects I can find on them. It’s actually been surprising to see how many of the plants are natives; they are very common and I imagine are more important than they get credit for due to being so common.


I will often post many of the same species in a given area, because I’m interested in showing the population density and distribution on a very detailed scale. I hope at some point to overlay my data with, say, soil type maps, or moisture distribution, to see those correlations.

Also, if I’m observing the same area for a long time, the more observations I make the easier it is to see fluctuations or declines in populations.


Not meant to be argumentative, just trying to understand the logic.
If the observation of the same species is from the same location each time… would it not be easier to see all of your updates under that one observation as opposed to all separate observations?

I understand iNat’s definition, just wonder the reasoning and if there isn’t a gray area as per my comment above.

You can see them in one location by searching for your obs of that species at that place.

I understand that. What I don’t understand is why it is preferred to list each as a separate observation, in the situation when it is the same species at a same location.

It’s just how the site is set up and has been for a long time. It’s set up so an observation is an individual organism at an individual time. Then we can use that data to track when things bloom, etc. what you are suggesting is setting up long term plots to monitor an individual or population. That’s a sort of study that a lot of people do with plants (or possibly a radio collared animal etc) but it just doesn’t work with inat data infrastructure. And if you try to force it anyway it messes up the phenology data.

People have requested a way to link multiple observations of the same individual formally and I think it would be a nice feature.


Just wanted to say that it’s totally possible to collect and export these types of data for whatever purposes with observation fields.

There are several posts about posting the same individual over time or other ways of linking observations:


It seems to me that if you have multiple sightings of the same organism at different times compiled into one observation, you lose a lot of valuable info. For one thing, the date listed will be incorrect for most of the sightings.

If I’m watching a plant, I’ll want to be able to pinpoint exactly when the first leaves appeared, when the blooming started, when the fruits became ripe… especially if I want to compare the consistency of that event through multiple years. Even on a smaller scale, knowing that a flower was fully opened by 5:20 PM but was still in bud at 4:00 the same day can be important.

And with animals, being able to correlate the sighting to specific times allows you to learn a lot about their behavior. I could have 5 photos of the same bobcat drinking from the same pond on consecutive days - if I combined them, we know a bobcat likes to drink from that pond, but not much else. Individually, with their own time and date stamps for each sighting, we know when the bobcat becomes active for the evening, that its routine involves getting a drink every day before it goes hunting, etc.

But really, it all depends on the observer and what they’re trying to do. Some people just want a list of species they’ve seen in their lives, and that’s fine - for them, one observation per species is plenty. Other people have other goals, and modify their collection habits to reflect that. Personally, I think the more data the better, and it can be sorted as needed.


That makes sense.

I was thinking along the lines that you have the observation and then each time you add an additional photo or data, having the ability to list that additional info to the original, so you have an ongoing way to keep it easily organized. Like each observation had it’s own spreadsheet, that you added to.

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Great discussion which, for me as a relatively new iNat observer, gives much to consider.

At the moment my objective is to concentrate on recording the range of the biodiversity at each season/every year in our subregion of Ireland - so probably no serial repeats per year for me for the moment. I am also running a Project on Fallopian japonica (invasive plant aka. Japanese Knotweed) for Ballinskelligs Environmental Action Group so we can consider remedial action and get our local municipality and local landowners to deal with the problems on their properties - in this case I think we’ll have multiple observations in time and space.

So really, my behaviour as an observer will vary with multiple/different objectives, as and when necessary - and it’s exactly this flexibility that attracted me to iNat in the first place.