How to Link TWO observations?

I have seen a lot of mention of observation associations and interactions. I am interested in getting the plant information of what the butterfly has landed on. I have done it two ways so far but it is asking for the observer to take an extra step.

  1. add one observation of a butterfly and use an ‘observation field’ like “plant settled on”. The concern here is that the plant name may be incorrect and will never be graded to research grade.
  2. add two observations (can be same photo) and make one observation for the butterfly and one observation for the plant. Add a ‘observation field’ like “plant/butterfly association” and ask the observer to copy and paste the respective iNat urls to each.
    Any other options? Am I missing something basic here? I really apologize but I got overwhelmed researching the forum for 'association/interaction" options.

Actually option two does not help when downloading reports. all I will get is the url of the plant but not the plant name? I can’t be clicking on 1000s of urls to go the the observation and find the associated plant name
Thank you!


The ability to link observations is a good idea, and would be useful in a variety of contexts.

At present the way it’s usually done is to add a comment with a link to the other observation, but that has a lot of drawbacks.

You might consider putting a bit of thought into what you think is a good way to link observations and put it in as a feature request.


From another thread:


Being devil’s advocate, there are a lot of things that would be useful to a few people that would be extra work for a lot of people. Before iNaturalist, if one wanted to study plant/butterfly associations, they needed to spend hundreds of hours in the field, traveling around the state or country or world (at great expense). Now, one only has to sit in the comfort of your home with a cup of coffee seeking those associations by scrolling through an amazing collection of observations. Yes, it would be even easier if the associations that you were seeking were already done for you and obtainable with just a single click. But that requires the extra coding, extra complexity added to an already complex interface, and volunteers to manually add those associations. In the end, there will still be LOTS of associations that volunteers don’t manually add, so there would still be lots of manual curation that you’d need to do yourself.


Ooh, I didn’t know that there was a field for that – I’ve been adding the URLs for associated observations to the notes on each one, but adding to observation fields as well might make them easier to find for people searching via annotations. Thanks for the tip!


I’ve got a related workflow documented here:


Unfortunately, you can only use the associated observation observation field once per observation, so if you have more than two associated observations, it is probably best to set up links in a comment.

Also, most people are not going to notice the observation field anyway, so if you use that tactic, it can be helpful to mention it in the notes.


Here’s a thread that describes how to use “Similar Observation Set” which I often use when I come across the same organism over time to observe it grow. I also use it when both taxa are in the same photo for instance fungi in dead a pine tree or a spider with prey. I make two observations. One for each and link them with the observation field.

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You can list multiple observations in the value of a single observation field by separating them with commas spaces. This observation provides an example.


I didn’t know that, thanks!

Thank you so much for alerting us to this field!

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You can duplicate the observation. Several observations can be linked to the same photo, e.g. :

On the photo, you have all the links to the observations and the names of the organisms observed.


So…other than using a field to link one observation with another - I thought I would just share what I ended up doing. Note that I am interested in the butterfly and the plant the butterfly is ‘settled’ on. I will use observations fields however to get people to enter ‘feeding, resting, laying eggs’ etc. Just search for Observation Fields starting with DSF for some examples.

With regards to linking the plant observation and butterfly observation, I have devised a method whereby, as long as the observer 1) first takes the butterfly observation, then 2) takes another observation of the plant immediately afterwards (within say 60 seconds), I can then extract all butterfly observations, all plant observation for a given time and for a given area and merge them into a spreadsheet, it is then a simple exercise of scanning the spreadsheet for two observations that a) are from the same observer, AND b) are within 60 seconds of each other, AND c) one is of a butterfly and one is a plant. Presto - we have a link. The two observations are in essence the same and we now have the butterfly and plant as separate iNat observation which means both could be research grade. By adding the plants as an observation field, it will never be research grade. Feel free to reach out to me privately if you want to know more :-) but I think this will work, as long as I provide the training beforehand. Also, it can be same photo, duplicated.

Do not duplicate the photo, but duplicate the observations with the same photo.

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THANK YOU! that seems a great idea. However, I went to an existing butterfly observation, chose edit-> duplicate and named the plant, instead of the butterfly - but it is showing as a ‘Casual’ observation? yet it has media, location and date??? Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) from Stanly Ln, Napa, CA, US on October 05, 2022 at 11:50 AM by deedesie · iNaturalist
Why is it Casual? Here is the original: Monarch (Danaus plexippus) from Stanly Ln, Napa, CA, US on October 05, 2022 at 11:50 AM by deedesie · iNaturalist

ok this is interesting and might work. thanks t_e_d! i would need to extract all observations and filter on the photo url. if the photo had multiple observations associated with it - i have a ‘association’. I like it!

ok but as per my earlier comment - your spider is Casual grade too? looks like when duplicating an observation it makes it casual only???

Because it was automatically marked captive/cultivated by iNaturalist. This happens when there are a majority of cultivated observations of a particular species in a certain area.

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Not sure? How does a plant become captive? I believe it is because it is a “duplicate”. The original butterfly observation is research grade, and all I did was duplicate the observation and renamed it by the plant name - see the two urls higher up. This seemed to force it as casual.

In iNatese ‘Not Wild’ is Captive / Cultivated (animal or plant) - and that becomes Casual (= Not Wild).

Your Buddleja has an i for Introduced - if you mouseover the i you get the popup info.
If you scroll down to Data Quality Assessment, you can again mouseover to see that ‘Not Wild’ is automated from iNat, since the plant is introduced.

Your butterfly is Wild.

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