Ideas for a revamped Explore/Observations Search Page

Thanks jwidness.

I like the idea of having it on the taxon page but pisum’s tool works just fine for my needs. Added bonus was you got me introduced to the API’s. I never realized just how much good stuff there was around here on iNat.

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I think there is merit in trying to fill in distribution gaps and searching for species not previously documented, but to be able to filter specifically for such taxa to guide searches is perhaps a double-edged sword. It might inadvertently add inertia to identify things as the missing taxa and that’s not a good thing. At the risk of terribly oversimplifying all the biogeography represented on iNat, it is probably correct to say that by now almost all common, widespread, and easy to identify (= noticeable) species of plants and animals on all the continents have been recorded at least once on iNat. (I would be interested in counter-examples but let’s not start that thread here.) The flimsy and probably faulty corollary to that is that the taxa with no observations are more likely to be rare, local, and/or hard to identify…and they are for a reason. Highlighting rare and local taxa using a “no observations” filter might certainly be useful for targeting searches, but a huge number of taxa (e.g. tropical plants, insects, and smaller stuff) may be forever confined to the pergatory of “no observations” because they simply can’t be IDed with common human effort even when/if we can find them.

Nonetheless, I am certainly in favor of searching for gaps in distribution and taxa coverage where some level of human effort can have a mathematical chance of encountering and identifying the missing critters.

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It might inadvertently add inertia to identify things as the missing taxa and that’s not a good thing.

How so?

If anything I could imagine focusing on these species might be more likely to increase some people’s zeal to provide such identifications, perhaps even without the requisite knowledge. I honestly doubt this would be much of an issue, however, but if it were misidentifications on these grounds would indeed be quite unfortunate.

I’m curious to understand your reasoning behind the opposite assumption, though. Could you perhaps elaborate?

I believe @gcwarbler was saying the exact same thing as you - that people might be pushed to identify things as unobserved species without good reason.

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As I said, it’s a double-edged sword: Focusing attention on species with no observations will be a good thing to the extent that it focuses searches and identifies gaps in our coverage. But you correctly characterize the flip-side: The “zeal…without requisite knowledge” problem. This is subtle and hopefully an uncommon occurrence. As a long-time birder, I’m aware of the phenomenon of “finding something that’s supposed to be there”, i.e. seeing/photographing something with the expectation that it is the species that ought to be there or, more perniciously, which was the target of a focused search. This “expectation bias” also applies to identifications or confirmations of IDs for uploaded images. IF there is an enthusiasm to fill in missing species, coupled with a lack of appropriate objective analysis of the evidence, then misidentifications may result–and that would be particularly unfortunate for rare, local, and/or hard to identify species. I’ve seen this happen again and again with rarity chasing among birders (particularly listers)–myself included. It’s just a cautionary note, not an objection to the effort of focusing on those taxa with no observations. Does that make more sense?

p.s. This is getting off-topic for the thread. My apologies to the moderators.

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When looking at the map view would it be possible to add a toggle for satellite view?

Could you explain further? You mean a button that is more visible?

Is there a button currently? I couldn’t find one.


Ah, okay. Thanks!


Here is a spin-off thread discussing species with no observations:

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Got it.


About the comments about unobserved taxa. Currently we’ve been adding checklists (in Places) for bees and wasps which include unobserved taxa. Checklist species can be viewed in Identify (click Suggestions: search taxon and location, filter by “checklist”), and show up as shaded regions of maps on taxa pages. It would be interesting if the checklist could be viewed from the Explore page in some way, although I understand some also view Explore as a database of only what has been observed already so it’s complicated.

I’m not sure if this is the right place for this or if it should be a bug report or feature request instead. I tried searching for all observations in a German town spelled with an umlaut (ü in this case). When I do this with a German keyboard that contains these letters, it works fine, iNat finds the location without problems:

However, I’m back in the US now and don’t have access to a German keyboard. So I tried the standard workaround of replacing the umlaut (ue instead of ü) that works for most other online searches (Google etc). However, iNat does not recognize that and fails to find the location now:

Could this be fixed so that the standard Umlaut substitutions are recognized in place searches where there is no English name for the place? I’m assuming this might be an issue for special characters in other languages as well.

Edited to add that it is possible to find the place searching with u instead of ü or ue using the Place search. However, this is neither the standard way of replacing an Umlaut (and therefore less intuitive for native speakers) nor does this work on the Explore search page.


This could probably be a separate request, but adding an umlaut is not very difficult with an English keyboard. There are keyboard shortcuts (different for Mac vs. PC).

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There could be different places with same (similar) name, so having the name stable with one letter can be useful, other than shortcuts you can also google the name you need and copy it. Plus it’s probably going to be very difficult to implement as it would need a work on every existing language and some new code.

I would file that as a language related bug.
There have been earlier posts around other issues and other languages.
iNat is international and needs to work for place names in the local language(s)

Yes, but it does take knowing those shortcuts and not only do they differ between Mac and PC but also between programs. E.g. I know the ones for Word but they don’t work in any of my browsers. It also depends on whether you switch your computer’s settings to US International Keyboard or not. On the other hand, I can just simply substitute ae, oe, and ue for umlauts in Google search and other places and get the right search results on any computer without having to worry about keyboard settings or shortcuts. It would be convenient to be able to do that on iNat as well.

I wouldn’t say this is a big. Seems like a feature request.

This is addressing an anglicization of a local language. The original language is available.

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Replacing ‘ü’ with ‘u’ works well in the filter (typing ‘Busum’ will find Büsum), why you need to go to the place search?
I usually work with a German keyboard but at times with English ones as well. There, when writing emails in German I replace ‘ü’ with ‘ue’, but on internet searches, Google Maps or iNat I just replace one letter with another (as I would do for ç, š, Ł etc.). It makes sense for me that it would be much harder to have an algorithm that would recognize and convert two letters of one language into a single sign of another language

Edit: just found out that ‘ß’ can well be replaced with ‘ss’ (try ‘Neiße’/‘Neisse’) - so that mitigates my argument a bit