How to pay attention for old observation to identify it?

I created an observation, but added photos only after a week. Now nobody pays attention to this observation to identify it, so it doesn’t have research grade. How to pay attention to old observation?

Hi @dmitryshtol, no worries, it can often take weeks, or even years, to get an identification. If it is very urgent for some reason, you can always tag another user in the comments section so that they can take a look.


If you don’t already: identifying other people’s observations.

Someone whose observation you identify may come and confirm yours, the fewer observations there are in “needs id” the more likely people are to see yours, you may encourage other people to start identifying, it’s fun, I can’t really complain about people not identifying my observations if I never identify anyone else’s.


If there are any relevant projects you could add it to that can help.


So true. As others know well, with a plant record, it can take a long time before someone comes along and adds or agrees to an ID. I’ve had plant records that I completely forgot about get IDed a year or two (or more) later. In some cases, I’ve subsequently helped out by adding that same ID to very similar plant records by others from the same area. However, not being a botanist, I’m pretty careful to not get overconfident in doing that.


You can also @ tag some of the top identifiers for the taxon or regional experts. As long as you don’t do this too often, people are usually happy to help with older, interesting or urgent observations


There are also people like me, who pick a geographic locality and go through pages and pages of observations for that locality, with the goal of getting all the way through. If I see that there are hundreds of pages of needs ID for that locality, I often set my filters to show me the oldest ones first.


I second the comments about being patient, and about using the @ - messaging feature (sparingly) when you really are unsure.

When using @ - messaging, always read the user’s profile first. Maybe someone is an expert on grasses, but all their observations are in California, and you’re trying to ID something in Michigan, in which case they might not be able to help you much at all. Most users with a lot of ID’s put a description in their profile about what they consider themselves good at. Ask users to their strengths; if it looks to be outside someone’s expertise, maybe go down the list to a user with a lower ID count but who is more focused on your region. You can fidget with the settings on iNaturalist to show leaderboards based on regions…use these features to your advantage. I like to use broad groupings like the “northeastern united states and canada” and such, because they cover large regions that are more-or-less similar ecologically, but I avoid including users from across the continental divide or from really far away, to where the species found can be less overlapping, or the species themselves can have a different appearance or different characteristics.

I also think that you will get the best results if you do the following:

  • Take multiple photos and take the best photos you can.
  • Look at what the AI suggests. You may still not know enough to select the AI’s recommendation, but noting verbally: “The AI suggests X…this looks like it could be correct. Do others agree or disagree?” or alternatively “The AI suggested X, Y, and Z, but none of these look correct.” is much better than just leaving it at nothing. Check range maps against the AI’s suggestions, and note verbally what you came up with. For example: “The AI suggests X, and this looks right, but according to BONAP this would be very far out of range.” or “BONAP reports X and Y both possible in this county, and I don’t know how to tell them apart.” are both good starting points for a discussion leading to an ID.
  • Note habitat and consider writing down a few verbal descriptions of habitat, especially noting anything that might not be visible from the photo. For example, I note whether the site is well-drained or poorly-drained if I know that, anything about the soil type and texture, light levels, and other plants growing nearby.
  • With animals, note aspects of behavior that might not be captured in a still photo, like tail-flicking in birds, or what an animal was doing.

Basically, show that you’re putting in more effort, and then do your best to make it easy for someone else to ID the observation.

If you then @ - message someone, it’ll be easier for them to make a definitive ID, and it’ll take less time (I always stare longer at observations where the evidence is poor, such as a blurry photograph or one missing clear information on habitat) and this is considerate to the user. Also, giving more evidence increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to explain HOW they are doing the ID, which can help you to do it next time.

For instance, I might see an oak and say, “The large number of scraggly, descending small branches, and the large, central trunk look right for pin oak. The small acorns with a cap covering very little of them is also spot-on for pin oak. Also the flat, poorly-drained habitat is typical for where you would find it growing.” (and hopefully the user can then use these clues to identify it in the future) But if you just take a photo of a single leaf, I might feel pretty sure it’s a pin oak (sometimes…other times I am reluctant to make an ID) but it might be hard for me to communicate enough to the user to help them to ID the same species in the future.

So think not only of helping the other users but helping yourself to use ID. More photos, better photos, and other verbal clues about habitat help all of this!


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