ID-athon May 2021! (and Mentorship Program)

ID-athon May 2021! (and Mentorship Program)
74 signed up, 25 signed up for mentors.

Announcing the 2nd ID-athon! After the success of the first event and project here back in January-February, we’re doing it again, with improvements and additions based on feedback from the first time around!

The biggest difference is that this time, we have a mentorship system built in. We have eight great mentors, including myself, ready to teach various subjects at every level – from your first unknowns, to the most difficult sedges, and many things in-between.

If you’re already familiar with the event, or want to skip straight to signing up, here’s the link!

We will continue to monitor this post until the start of the event. Thereafter please ask questions on the relevant project journal posts

Also important: after the sign-up period, all updates will be posted to the ID-athon project journal. Join it if you want to follow our updates, including rankings and informative content. (Yes, the project is a little bare right now, it will look better soon…)

What is the ID-a-thon?

An ID-a-thon is a set of competitions based on the process of identifying on iNaturalist.

All participants will be working together to identify ALL the unknowns from a given region (at this point the location has not been determined – the location restriction is only applicable to the unknowns part, there is no geographic restriction in the other categories)
There are also optional competitive categories, each with a different goal. Competing = identifying observations. The categories are designed so that everyone, at every level of skill and experience, can have fun and a chance to win prizes.

You may sign up for as many categories as you wish; or you could sign up for none and simply help us with the Unknowns. An explanation of each category can be found below.

Competitors in each category are ranked; speaking generally, the more IDs you do, the better your score. Winners get prizes! Fun! And everyone gains and spreads knowledge! Even better!

Your identifications are counted automatically using the magic of the API. The project only exists to be a place to receive updates… and look at your fellow competitors’ cute pets.

One small caveat: only IDs made to observations which were uploaded before Februray 28, 2021 count, so as to focus on older observations.

Who can join?


Any number of people may participate. Last time we had 80 participants – let’s see how many we can get for round two!

Competitors will be in three "classes” as determined by number of IDs made before the sign-up period. These classes are Beginner (0-400), Identifier, and Power-Identifer (80k+).

There is no requirement or limit on identification experience. Those of you who are beginners are not only welcome, but encouraged to join! Power-identifiers will be able to compete on an equitable playing field. Beginners have an exclusive category, and beginners will each be matched with a mentor who can help guide your learning. More on the new mentorship program further on!
For everyone else (the regular “identifier” class), it’s business as usual – the default setting, as it were. We made this system in response to requests from the participants of the first event. We hope it works to make the event more fun for everyone.

When is the event running?

May 22nd to May 30th, inclusive. According to UTC+0 (the international date line).

The admins live in the United States, so updates will usually be posted when most of the world has already entered the following day.

What do I get from participating?

This event is purely for fun. Its goal is to onboard and encourage new identifiers as well as celebrate and encourage those of you who already identify on a regular basis.

You’ll be part of a little community all learning together. :)

There are also prizes, but they are all silly and have no monetary value. The prizes from the last event were rated 4 ½ stars out of five, so they’re probably going to be pretty good.

The categories are as follows:

Improvement: During the competition, try to beat your own daily average – the more you ID relative to your average, the higher your score! (to avoid this being too easy for beginners, the minimum to get a score is 20 IDs/day).

Mystery: It’s a mystery! You’ll get three hints. This is technically three categories at once, so one hint each. At the end of the competition, the categories will be revealed and you’ll find out if you guessed correctly – or spent the whole time identifying something for no prize at all! (except the prize of knowledge…)

Consistency: Try to identify every day of the event. If you miss one or two, that’s OK, but the more days you make an ID the better your prize!

Old Observations: Identify observations which were added more than five years before the start of the competition.

Beginners’ Challenge: An exclusive event for the Beginner class. You’ll get prizes for various achievements, such as reaching your hundredth ID during the event, or making a high percentage of Improving IDs.

Blue Has Too Many Notifications Challenge: An exclusive event for power-identifiers of all kinds. This was originally suggested as a joke, but if enough of you really want to do it, we will oblige. Blue has made about 100k coarse IDs. Of those, fewer than 35k have had any follow-up or improving IDs. Your challenge is to identify observations Blue has previously identified coarsely, bringing them to Order or lower. We will provide you with a special link to do so.

Additional/exact rules and details will be posted in the project journal.

Mentorship Program

Each person in the Beginner class will be assigned a mentor, but you get to choose which person you are most interested in through the sign-up form.

However, the mentors are here for all of you. We encourage everyone who wants to learn some new skills to sign up for one. You can choose one (or several) of the topics available. For example, @neylon would like to teach about bees, @sedgequeen would like to teach about plants of the Pacific Northwest, @henryy1355 would like to teach about fungi… and that’s only a small sample!

We are full! Those of you on the wait list will be contacted… eventually. No later than July hopefully

Every mentor has written a short "About Me’’ form, introducing themselves and listing the topics they would like to teach. You can read those in detail on this Google Document. If that’s not viable, you can also look at the summarized version in the sign-up form.

Mentors will help you throughout the competition. Most of our mentors have expressed that they hope to continue teaching afterwards, if they find a student with whom they get along well. This is your chance to gain a teacher who can help you grow as an iNat identifier, whether you started identifying yesterday or have been doing so for years.

I’m interested! How do I join?

Sign up here. It’ll take a couple minutes, and a little longer if you want to sign up for a mentor.

You also want to join the project, as once the event begins that will be the place to find updates, resources, and rankings.

You can join the project even if you don’t plan on competing, just as you can compete without joining the project.

Please note: the deadline to sign up HAS PASSED. After that point we cannot accept any more participants, nor make any changes to your categories except to entirely remove someone from the competition. This is to prevent our programmer from going insane. Thank you for your understanding.


Hi everyone, I’m helping out as an assistant this time around, so I can answer any questions you might have, just reply to the post or this comment, and ask away!


Please choose India as the location to ID if possible. :)


I prefer to not have a specific location to ID because all people cannot ID from a certain place and different people know about species from different locations from around the world.


The location restriction is only relevant to the Unknowns. We do have to choose a specific place or else it’s much harder or impossible to measure progress. And we won’t be choosing any of the most popular countries – rather, a combination of several which generally get less attention.
We can’t choose which yet since the number of unknowms we can reasonably identify depends on the number of participants.


Joined! This is going to be epic!


I’ve signed up and am also willing to do some ID guidance for insects/bees if needed.


Awesome! Regarding guidance, the sign up for being a mentor passed (see this forum post for more info). But that’s not to say we won’t have mentors next time around!

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When will the event start?

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As stated in the info above, the event will run from May 22nd to the 30th.


Countdown to event:!&p0=%3A&ud=1&year=2021&month=5&day=22&hour=0&min=0&sec=0.


Answers to some of the questions I’ve received:

@nathantaylor and @liquidanbar we are not adding new mentors for the May event, but if you are interested in helping informally or having resources you have created be featured / linked to in a project journal post, message me.

The event will happen again. At a date to be determined by its convenience to me, my fellow admin Amy, our mentors and our assistants. Could be as soon as July. Maybe it’ll be in November. Who knows. It’s not an official event or anything, just something I’m doing for fun and with a great deal of help from a team of volunteers.

Answers to other questions have been added to the first post.


More answers:

If you want to change your categories, or sign up for a mentor when you have registered before, please sign up a second time. We will discard the first sign-up.

If you want a mentor, but not to participate, choose not to join any of the categories, you can still have a mentor.

Note: slots for more advanced mentorships are being taken fast! There is plenty of room left for those who want to learn fundamentals, though.


It has occurred to me that I don’t know who is interested in helping with the Unknowns but did not register for anything else using the form. There are only a handful of people who joined the project to get updates but who did not sign up for categories, so I’m going to assume that it’s maybe a 10% greater number of people than those who did sign up for a category.
I mostly only need to know for the purposes of estimating our unknowns-destoying goal, but we’ve got a workaround for that which ought to be fun… stretch goals


sorry but I do not quite understand the mystery category.

And when you say it has to be just unknown do needs ID observations count.

Unknown is a subset of Needs ID, reached by clicking the “Unknown” iconic taxon in Identify. If you mean non-unknown Needs ID, those will count for the other categories. The mystery category is, well, a mystery! For the last ID-a-thon it was a random silly category chosen by the project admins, which it will be this time too. Other than that I don’t understand it either, since it is a bit different now. Here is the info from the last ID-a-thon, though it is a bit outdated:

mystery%: a surprise category that will change every week. It will usually be something silly. The topic of the mystery category will be hinted at at the start of the week, usually in the latest Rankings post, and revealed at the end of the week when results are posted.

Some of the Mystery categories from last time were “Most withdrawn IDs”, " Most IDs of organisms observed on the day trh_blue’s cat was born" and “Most IDs at Kingdom level”.


Basically, the event organisers choose a category, and it’s a mystery. Therefore, there is no way to know how to compete in this category, so at the end of the event, when it is revealed what the mystery category was, whoever wins gets pretty lucky, as they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. The best way to compete in this is to just ID a range of different things.

Yes, of course, that’s what the unknown category is for. Identifying unknowns are almost always Needs ID, aside from cultivated plants, etc., which aren’t counted in the final score if they’re annotated correctly, I believe.

Edit: @fluffyinca provided a great explanation above as well.


Thank you @zdanko and @fluffyinca that was very helpful.

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Two rules updates:

  1. We are lifting the observation-date restriction
  2. Blue Has Too Many Notifications Challenge canceled due to a combination of not enough interest and its being difficult to calculate

I’ll be updating the top post and the sign up form now.