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

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.

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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.


I think that is a hugely important point for this wonderfully diverse community of iNatters to keep in mind!


Maybe I’ve been doing this wrong, but if I add an immature observation, I come back and add progression photos as the specimens mature. Should I not do this?

Unfortunately, yes, according to iNaturalist guidelines as they are currently written, each different day that you document the individual needs to be done as a separate record.

What I do is add the new images as a different observation, but paste a link in the description to the old observation to establish the connection.


I have been wondering the same thing. So I’m glad that you asked this question, thank you. There are some great answers which are helping to clarify things for me but also giving me ideas on what can be useful for the scientists and researchers using this information.


@graysquirrel @donnamiller Cassi made a reply above that has several links to methods to “connect” related observations. I’ll repeat here the link to the method I use, as it is quite versatile and flexible in how and what it can be used for:
In particular, where there are several observations for the same organism, this method allows you to quickly access a search result that shows all of the group.


I sometimes take a photo of a sedge in the field, then bring a specimen home with me. Then I take pictures of the important traits (like the achenes and perigynia) at home. There could be a difference of several hours by the time I get home and take those secondary photos. But I do combine everything into one observation.

The way I do it works for me because I get a location and photos of the sedge in the natural environment. & the other photos are often essential for ID purposes. I usually am not equipped to take photos of the achene and smaller plant parts in the field.

My question is: Do I need to stop doing this?


No, that’s normal practice to include those home photos in the same observation as the field photos.

It would only need to be split into separate observations if you did something like plant it in your home garden to observe growing over time.


yeah i do this too. it’s a good way to capture the plant in its living growing form AND to get better photos of smaller things easier to find indoors. It’s not a problem as bouteloua said unless you grow it for a while or something. i do that occasionally too but i don’t add it to iNat usually.


I’m a biochemist and new to iNat. But science is science and with with the deep data gathering possibilities that iNat provides, in my view all data is useful as long as it’s date/location stamped regardless of repetition. As individuals, we may get bored by looking at the same thing, but the more there is, the more statistically confident we can become of important trends in nature. We have the opportunity of becoming “observation robots” where AI (or those who know how to use it effectively to ask the right questions) becomes the analyst. Times they are a changing fast and the more data helps machine learning get better. I just retired and am rather enjoying being an observation robot :-D


Ellison101, I’d say No to putting different sightings in a single observation, unless you know for sure it’s the exact same individual.

For example, I might post photos of a specific native tree in my yard throughout the seasons so others can see all phases of the species. I know for sure it’s the same organism because trees don’t move, so all its photos could all go in one observation. I can’t say the same thing for the armadillos under my deck, so each one I see is posted in its own observation.

If I were to include pictures of different trees of the same species under the same observation, I run the risk of confusing people if one is misidentified. Also, a person looking at an observation has no real way to know which individual is which; that can be confusing. Also, putting multiple organisms in one observation reduces the chance that a misidentified photo will be spotted. That could really mess up the AI.

That said, I don’t know if that approach fits the iNat model, because an observation has one date. It could really confuse people to see a leafless tree in an observation “made” in June.