How much to pay identifiers?

I am creating a budget and I would like to pay a few experts to spend a small amount of time over a field season to help keep identifications up to date for a specific project and provide different views. If you were going to ask someone to spend an hour a week over the field season to help with identifications of posted observations, what is a fair price, in north america? I dont view this so much as a job, more of an honorarium to show appreciation for someone’s time.



I think most, if not all, experts are willing to help for free. It’s interesting, and relevant to their work (hopefully), so they will be interested in helping.

On iNaturalist, I almost think paying someone to identify your observations may be considered inappropriate.


For commercial work, my colleagues and I charge $100 per hour for plant identification. We’re fast, so it’s not a bad deal. Also, most of the people we contract with hire mostly engineers and consider this cheap. However, contracts like that come along only occasionally. We do a lot of pro bono botany. (pro bono = for the good = free)


I think it would totally depend on the person and their situation. An hour a week isn’t much and is the sort of thing where a volunteer makes sense. If someone who is struggling financially were IDing though, it would be nice to help them out if you can. Depending on the volume of observations and how easy they are to ID, an hour might not be even remotely enough to keep up. If someone were doing a lot more work than a hour per week and they could use the financial help, it’s certainly worth considering compensating them somehow. Ultimately, I would ask the person that may be helping if they need compensation and how much is reasonable for them.


I use a US government website to estimate compensation for contracts:

I looked for “naturalist” and “species identification” but it returns zero results :face_with_monocle:

If I filter by “environmental” and no security clearance needed, the range is $62-110/hr USD in US. So what @sedgequeen said. You can review the vendors below to check what’s comparable to your situation. It’s an interesting question.


We do the same, AU$99 per hour. I don’t charge if jobs are for NGOs or members of the public, or take so little time it’s hard to measure.


Ok time to quit my full time job of taking care of my crushing ptsd-anxiety-miasma, and go further into botany, YEET


The trick is, to get more than a day or two of such pay. (Sometimes we did. Mostly not.)


i think money complicates things for something like this. if the point is to show appreciation, i would suggest an appropriate non-cash gift or something like that.


I figured ;)

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At the very least I would suggest doubling or tripling the normal going rate on iNaturalist for identifiers.


It would depend on how you are going to manage this.
If you are requesting specific experts to do the IDs on iNaturalist (rather than your collecting specimens and dropping them off in the herbarium/museum), then their appropriate institutional standard rates should apply. [we needed to do this for the biogaps project:[]=projects ]

However, you may need to specify different rates for data already research grade where only verification is required, and unidentified observations (and wrongly identified observations). And experts may well expect to be remunerated for IDs that were not possible to species, but only to genus/tribe/family - where the ID was attempted but observations lacked features necessary for finer ID.

And it will depend on who the expert is and their knowledge of the local flora/fauna, and the taxa concerned. A local expert will give IDs at a glance (i.e. 20-100 per hour), whereas for a poorly explored area, or a taxonomist working outside of their normal areas, or for more pernickity groups, it may well take one hour or more per identification (if fine-scale ID is actually possible).
It stands to follow that it will depend on how detailed IDs you want. If you are happy with -say- 80% of observations to species, 15% to genus and 5% unidentified then it will be a lot faster and cheaper than if you would require an ID to 99% observations to species level.

My experience is that experts happy to make an (tentative) ID on a specimen, are reticent on iNaturalist because the IDs are available for scrutiny. Reputational damage on misidentified observations is a real concern. A solution is for experts to make the “safe” ID and to note options and probabilities in comments - project curators or researchers can then afterwards decide to add the finer ID based on the comments, or leave it at tribe, genus, section level.


I’m really confused about this story/post. Who gets paid for identifying on iNat?

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You may end up getting fewer species level ids if you pay for them, because you could be entitled to seek redress if you are given a misidentification. So an expert may voluntarily identify a photo if they are 95 percent sure and rely on someone else to verify, whereas if you are paying them for certainty they will only give you their 100 percent certain ids.


People are free to pay others to id on iNat, it’s not in iNat system, but that’s not illegal.

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200% of $0 = $0.
300% of $0 = $0.
it’s a joke.


When I’ve id’ed or annotated sets of things that I knew were helping a specific project, I’ve just felt like, “OK I’m like a proxy grad student or intern/undergrad assistant here, doing a chunk of the setup for the investigator.”

If I wanted to pay someone at that level myself, I would look at the “typical” stipend for a biology grad student in my general location and do a per-hour estimate.

But, like for undergrads who help with research and typically get experience/understanding rather than pay, I’m personally already happy with my own compensation here. ;)


And a good one! Too bad that it had to be explained.

@culland I tend to agree with @zdanko - most folks on iNat would be happy with the going rate and perhaps a mention in the paper. Some other thoughts to consider. How long is your field season? Where I live it is around 5 months (or less for some taxa), but if yours is 7 or 8 it’s a bigger commitment. As well, the taxon is important. As @tonyrebelo said, some identifications take an hour. Some can be identified easily. With Noctuid moths, I can identify Mythimna unipuncta very quickly, but with Euxoa spp it could be very long or even incomplete.


Thank you to all that provided an answer to the question, much appreciated.

I appreciate that many of the expressed sentiments are well meaning. I have run an iNaturalist project for a couple years. This coming year we hope to put in a concerted effort to get more people involved and if successful that will mean more records in iNaturalist. When considering a new project its important to look at potential issues. One of these is that currently for this taxanomic group and geographic area, there isn’t enough identifiers and adding more records will make this worse. Adding more identifiers not only spreads the work load, it provides different lenses through which to look at the data. Folks helping new observers with identifications is critical for project success, imo.

Given I am looking for funding anyways it makes sense to consider an honorarium for any identifiers I reach out to give us a hand. It’s reasonable to pay the graphic artist for promotional materials, but not the skilled amateur’s and professionals to do ID’s? I appreciate that many of us do ID’s for free, and this drives iNaturalist forward, but we do that on our terms, for our interests, for the amount of time we have available to volunteer. Asking someone to look specifically at a projects observations that they would not normally follow is different, imo. I may not get funding, I may not get enough to pay the amounts suggested in this thread, but I think its important to include this as part of funding requests, at least in my situation.


A thought - perhaps a donation to iNat would be sufficient? If things work out.

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