How to get more observations ID'd to RG

So I was wondering how I could ‘advertise’ my observations that require ID to get them to research grade, I find the species that I often upload (I have checklist of a few species I’m guaranteed to see when I’m out here, so I end up adding multiple observations of 1 species a week) and then one or two get ID’d and the rest appear to fall behind (at least I think that is what is happening) so I end up with lot’s of observations of a species but very few Research grade ones (except for species that have a specific members interest and they try to ID every observation that gets added of that species), even though I should have a high percentage of research grade, an example Diospyros lycioides I have 212 observations, only 50 odd are research grade despite the fact that it is an easy to ID plant and not confused with anything else in my area, another example is Kalanchoe thrysiflora which I have 78 observations yet only 8 are RG, it is also easy to distinguish and can’t be confused with any other, Aloe greatheadii I have 232 observations only 34 are RG, so it can be confused with A. transvaalensis but the later is only found in the most northern areas of the region I do most of my observing, and I only observe them when they flower (or when the greatheadii flower then I can distinguish) to avoid confusion in those areas, the rest of the place is only greatheadii, but regardless I do see lots of greatheadii ID’d in overlapping areas without much proof to say it is greatheadii and not transvaalensis, but not mine, so as it stands I have maybe a 30% RG rate, and I know that it is way too low and it is an incorrect showing of my observation quality, I know sometimes it’s muddy water as with some Celtis species and their hybrids, and I know there are bound to be ID mistakes made by me too, so it would help to clear those out too and put them by their correct species… So I know I should just ask a leading observer of said species for input, which is fine, but it’s a little bit different when you ask them to toil through 150 observations for you, which I wouldn’t expect anyone to do for me, let alone ask anyone… but it would be nice if there was a way to highlight certain species


Identifiers are volunteers, giving their time and effort.

You have 12K observations, which means you need say two and half times as many IDs, allowing for the ones that generate discussion. So. You need to up your own 7K IDs for others towards 30K.

For clarity - iNat encourages observers to add hundreds, even thousand of obs. But observers are not obliged to ID anything, not even their own obs. Observers wait hopefully for IDs. I am still working thru the Unknown backlog for CNC for the Cape Peninsula.

Try this - your first species - about 500 waiting in Gauteng for me - when you click it will be less without your own obs. And your local CNC needs you too?

I do @mention taxon specialists for help. But - must be clear pictures with enough info, and it should be something interesting where I am comfortable asking for their time and effort (since they may be squeezing iNat in around a day job and other commitments). Not the drudge and grunt work which I do myself.


Diana makes a good point about contributing your own IDs. I think doing that for your local area can help create a culture where active iNaturalists not only add observations, but also IDs. Obviously, that’s not a quick solution to your concerns, but I do think it helps.


I took a look at some of your recent observations and noticed a lot are at species. You may be very confident in these. In my experience, I have found that being overly specific without absolute certainty can limit IDs from others. I think when there is insufficient evidence for an ID, sometimes instead of telling you that, IDers just move along. That is just a response to their uncertainty.

Some ideas:

  • Try moving some of your IDs to genus for a while.
  • Find some information about the species and make sure you are including all relevant characters in your observations. You might find the species isn’t as straight forward as you thought.
  • @mention a top IDer in one of the relevant observations to get feedback and confirm the ID is correct.

Even excellent observations may languish without ID if they are in a genus that is difficult to distinguish species, taxonomic treatment is uncertain, or IDers with relevant knowledge aren’t active in your area on iNat.


Hi Diana,
Thanks for the response, I do enjoy IDing on iNat, time isn’t always on my side, and most of the time I have to go on iNat, I usually use to upload observations (which is time consuming to say the least)…That said I am very active as an IDer in my area (West Rand), I just checked and surprisingly I was first on the list of Identifiers… I also @mention some of the leading IDers on the specific taxon in question if I really struggle to ID it, but like I said I would never @mention someone to ID my entire list of observations on a species, even if they are primarily here as Identifiers… But I will keep on IDing where possible, if it helps me in this or not, it is still something I am fond of doing, especially if it’s in my area


Plants are slower to get IDs than some other taxa, for various reasons. One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of identifications is by taking the time to make sure that the images IDers are working with are adequate.

This is a handy tutorial . There are others.


Hi Whitney
I have tried that before, in fact if an observation was bumped to genus I would leave it until it was properly ID’d but in most cases that never happened, so most of my Obs now are at species level because I have taken the time where I could and gone over everything that was still stuck at Genus level with a field guide (or the internet) and dug in to ID it to species level myself (which is a great way to learn to be honest, I am thankful that I chose that path) or asked an expert in the field for advice/assistance… Which, for the most part, is where my post originated, because I have observations that I have gotten down to species level yet they don’t get to research grade because I need another user to agree and no-one ever does haha (or sometimes they do, but only as a comment and not as ID, so it doesn’t achieve RG status anyway)… I know my IDs aren’t flawless though, as they are sometimes rushed and corners are cut, so they do need to be reviewed by someone in the know, to confirm or reject, because even I notice simple mistakes when I go over some of them… So I understand when you say the IDs aren’t as straightforward as they seem (hence I mentioned the Celtis species which are only ID to species by checking leaf margins and veins on the leaf and a few other nitty things, so I have made a point of checking before I take photos of them, because I only want the Celtis africana as they are indigenous here (the others are mostly found in and around town, not really in the ridges around here) but anyway, I have learned a lot about the local species, especially on how to ID them, I still make mistakes which is inevitable but my issue is not with ppl agreeing to my ID, it’s about getting ppl to add input to my observation so I know if it’s not research grade, then at least I know why, or if it is research grade then it is always rewarding to see that green next to you observation… furthermore there are experts in the area (many of them do help me and I am truly grateful for all their help, but the taxon in my top 25 species don’t need experts to ID, if there are difficulties in distinguishing the species then I can always ask them and they usually assist me very nicely ) but I can’t expect them to go through my observations and ID everything that isn’t RG yet… So I am just concerned with the older observations that seem to be forgotten about, that I have already ID’d to species and only need it to be reviewed another person and agreed, or changed if necessary, in fact my newer observations do get reviewed satisfactorily, it’s just the earliest say 5000 that were not really ID’d (maybe 10% were RG) that is bringing my RG ratio down

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Two things I like to keep in mind: Not everything has to be at RG, and there is a way to get RG at genus level for those that are impossible to ID to species. When I was new on iNat, I was excited to get my first RG confirmations, but I know full well that not everything I post is easily identified to species. Sometimes I just don’t have the necessary features (e.g. microscopy on liverworts) or it may be a genus that has cryptic species or there are two sister species that are hard to tell apart and I didn’t get the distinguishing features since it wasn’t the season for that (e.g. no flowers). If I know there is such an issue, I’m hoping someone will confirm at least at genus level. After that, I’ve marked certain observations as “can’t be improved” to get them to RG at genus.


Bravo!! So you can see that there will lots more hopeful observers waiting in the wings with you. What I haven’t fathomed is the trick of enticing nervous new identifiers - to the level where they are confident - we need help from Unknown to that’s A Bird! all the way down to first obs of an undescribed species.

For the older obs, one day, you will be inundated with a swathe of notifications. When someone (maybe new) with different ID skills and mindset to me, methodically works thru ALL of That species to confirm or reject.

Green and Research Grade looks good. But. Ultimately it only shows that 2 (random) people agree! There is no ‘quality control’ till someone who can, bumps it up or down to a better ID.


This question comes up often on the forum, because everyone appreciates and desires feedback from the community. That’s why we use this website. I just ran the numbers and 49% of my plants and 47% of my arthropods are RG. I’m sure birds are much higher.

Giving back with IDs of your own can help, but it also depends what and where you upload. The majority of my observations are in New Mexico. When I visited Texas and California, I saw IDs within hours across the animal kingdom.

Take the family Plantaginaceae as a specific example. I am second in the world for IDs of this family and 52.5% of my 78 verifiable observations are RG. Obviously, I’m confident in my IDs, but who else is willing to confirm them?


208K - no, thank you. That is a horrifying target.
Okay - less than a hundred on the Peninsula. Back later.

PS in among all the ribwort plantains was this - the ‘will be 7th obs’ on iNat!

Cleared my patch. I challenge the rest of you to help out @egordon88
Tweak the URL to your location, pick out the medicinal ribwort plantain, dump the cultivated in casual.
208K Plantaginaceae

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some tips for getting IDs generally


I echo @annkatrinrose and suggest that observations do not need to be research grade. In the event a researcher wants to use your observations in their data set, best practice is for them to verify the ID themselves, whether or not the observation already says research grade. If the observation has one genus or species level ID (yours) then it is findable in a site search by anyone needing to see it and use it for research.


This! There are a tons of spiders that just cannot be Id’ed to species level without a microscope, but can be pinned down to a genus. Marking that they cannot be improved any more is a great way to get these to research grade, even though they’ll never be narrowed down to species.


Hi kyle,
Firstly keep up the good work in the West Rand (although would love to see more longhorn beetle observations from the area :grinning:).
Would agree with those that say that 'Not everything has to be RG", and that sometimes genus level is the best we can get to.
In my opinion, we do not have enough Identifiers (or persons confident/competent enough to agree) in our little corner of the world, thus going down to species level will always have it’s own challenges.


Absolutely, but this requires at least two observers to agree at the genus level. We need to organize pairs and trios of identifiers to sweep through all the Needs ID observations of these sort of species and collectively move them to Research Grade.


I enjoyed working in tandem with you and @lotteryd
Tick tick tick, watching the numbers roll down.


We should do more of that, but I’m finding it hard to find the time right now, since it’s the height of the field season.


I’d like to reaffirm that RGs aren’t necessary - I’d rather fewer RGs that are higher quality, than many poor ones; I’ve come across a number of RGs that are incredibly wrong, or without enough detail to adequately ID, some with 5-6 people confirming them.


I would say that’s true of observations in general. Although I seem to be at odds with the iNat ethos in that regard.