IDentifying best practices for poor photos or ones that ideally need microscopy?

I wonder if there’s a generally accepted approach, I have looked, but perhaps I’ve missed it.

I see a lot of poor quality photos for ID’ing - for example, a Boletale mushroom picture posted only from above. Sometimes, this is accompanied by a species level ID - whilst in some cases I may think or agree a specific species is quite likely from the pic, I wouldn’t comfortably want to add that as an ID with that pic alone. Currently, I tend to skip such entries or maybe add a comment. It would feel a bit dismissive to re-ID it to genus/family level. But perhaps that would be best. What would you say is the right approach?

Second question is vaguely related - where a species ID accompanies an observation, but that ID can’t really be accurately confirmed on a macro level, would one also re-ID that to genus level? Or would a ‘best fit’ be fine as a ‘community ID’ approach.
As a very fungi-specific example, Chlorociboria aeruginascens is often used as an ID for the green elf cups, however the macroscopically similar aeruginosa also exists - microscopy is best to distinguish and ofc most entries do not involve spore sizes…


You can prepare a copypasta - to explain why you have pushed the ID back to genus - needs … I do see taxon specialists who use that.


You will likely get different answers to this from different people. Some identifiers will want to push everything back that can’t be ID’d based on the media on the observation, while others take a more lenient “most likely species is good enough” approach. It also depends on where in the ID process the observation is. I think “best guesses” as first IDs are fine as it gets it to the attention of taxon experts, but not so much as IDs that will push things to research grade. In those cases, I prefer to add a genus level ID (not necessarily disagreeing though) with a comment explaining why it may not be possible to ID to species. If it already made it to RG and there’s a good chance it may be wrong, I may add a disagreeing ID e.g. to help clean up out-of-range records on GBIF.


I honestly don’t feel too bad about bumping bad fungi pics up to genus/family what have you - I’ll do my best to ID them but some are well and truly impossible. But if I can’t, and I’m sure its just impossible to ID, I’ll bump it up and leave a note.

For species that you know can’t be IDed without micro or DNA, absolutely bump it up to genus IMHO. I go as far as to DQA ‘good as it can be’ in a lot of those cases, at least on the ones I’m sure of - I do this a lot for red Russula, though Chlorociboria is another really good example. If you pay enough attention you can usually figure out who is actually involved in DNA sequencing projects, I’ll skip DQAing the observations for folks who I know send their stuff off for sequencing since they will eventually have more info back on their specimans.


Yes, I agree with others, and think that it’s fair to explicitly disagree to a higher level if you are certain that it isn’t possible to ID more specifically than that from the photos and then potentially tick “as good as can be”. If in doubt though, I would not tick “as good as can be” in the DQA.

I think it’s generally good practice to leave a comment about this, though sometimes one may not have the time. If you’re going through a specific species and disagreeing to a higher level for many of the same IDs, I agree that it’s best to add a pre-written comment explaining the ID and maybe adding links to sources, etc. I know some people write journal posts for common ID issues, and just paste in links to the journal posts.


Thanks all. That all really helps me pick a more clear approach. I generally comment a lot anyway! Had literally never scrolled far enough to notice the DQA, but that’s good to have as an option too (and good to note r.e. not doing so for those I know may get more info!).


For the vast majority of fungi, they’re not going to get DNA tested - this may change in the future as access to sequencing continues to become more common - but its still happening. Skim through this project and you can get an idea of what users are involved, at least in North America

EDIT: Just saw you’re in Europe. I’m sure there’s a local project for you, but I do know there’s a European mycoblitz coming up that’s going to have sequencing opportunities, if you’re interested


Thanks - I’m UK and stick to that, but generally know the main folks who do send things for sequencing (especially with the current European Mycoblitz event). Easy enough to check profiles too but will be cautious regardless.


I want to say thank you for identifying fungi in the UK! You fungus identifiers are a rare and precious breed.

Please do bump things back up to the most precise level that is actually doable. You might get a few complaints, but in my experience most people are completely fine with this, and they are generally used to it because many identifiers do this. It is important for the site’s credibility tbh.

With regard to using the DQA to mark IDs ‘as good as it can be’, I wrote this article for UK hoverfly identifiers, but you might find some of the pointers useful.


I’m probably the outlier that would rarely bump an ID up without knowing it’s not the taxa IDed. I have lengthy experience in the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” business. If the observer made the ID, I don’t think I’d ever bump it up without seeing some indicator that it’s something else. Another IDer working from just what’s in iNat, maybe, but it would probably be a case where an uncommon taxa was being chosen.

Hopefully none of this matters for critical outside use. All the people I know that use iNat data in their work use IDs to find records. They make their own determinations about the ID before using the observation.


There is a lot of research that uses broadscale iNat data as it is incorporated into GBIF without researchers checking IDs, just as those researchers wouldn’t check IDs from natural history museums or other sources that post to GBIF. I would ballpark that at >95% of the usage of iNat data in scientific research.

I do think that the language of the prompt (which has been written about extensively elsewhere, so I won’t rehash too much!) asks the IDer not about the true ID (which we of course can’t assess with absolute certainty), but the evidence in the media. “Is the evidence provided enough to confirm…?” So we can indeed assess the “absence of evidence” and this is what we’re asked to do. We’re not asked whether the initial ID is right or wrong per se.

If there’s a specific piece of evidence that isn’t present in the photos, you can also ask the observer about it. Sometimes they might remember (a call they heard, a flash of color) or sometimes they can still access the organism/specimen and provide/add the needed evidence


I think that if you cannot tell which species it is from the photographs + notes (if any) + geography, it’s always allowed and usually best to push the observation back to genus. This may be painful for the observer but it’s responsible in terms of possible future use of the observation. Providing an explanation is strongly recommended – it’s polite – but it’s not required. (I know I should do it and often do, but sometimes don’t.)

On the other hand, if the observation could be the species it’s labeled as and you know for sure that it can be found in the area where it’s photographed, leaving it as identified seems OK to me.


I think it’s necessary for people “in the know” to help downgrade observations that are ID’d to species level but realistically could be something else also. I know people that are strictly worried about “getting new species”, and their total count , and will add “new species” with the attitude of prove me wrong. I think that’s a little unscientific, and big picture it’s helpful to keep the research grade observations as accurate as possible, including downgrading to species groups or Genus level.
I started out guessing a lot also until I figured out the value of citizen science, and started trying to clean up old ones and going forward learning to get as good of photographs as possible, and what parts to photograph in detail.
I want my observations commented on by experts, and suggestions added. AI has gotten very accurate, and it almost feels like cheating that the computer helps find ID’s that for years took lots of research and keying out. For this to continue to get more and more accurate, we need more and more experts to help cleaning up all the guessing. Guessing is helpful at the initial post as stated above, but on research grade needs to be sure.


I’ve made some best attempts at fungi identification. As one of those people who wants to learn, any advice is useful for future identifications. How many photos should be taken? Angles necessary (stem, gills etc.)? What sort of notes should accompany an observation? Eg: I tried to ID an amethyst deceiver but don’t know whether I should also indicate its proximity to a beech tree. Just to say that if comments are given in a constructive way that teach people to improve their skills then it can be very positive.


Are you asking for advice for you to use in making observations of fungi? I know there’s been several conversations in the forum on how to make useful observations of fungi, so you can search for those.

All the angles. Stem, cap, gill attachment, base of the stem (some amanita & oudemansiella require a little excavation to get the entire mushroom)

Tree notes are useful. Type of substrate is too, is it growing out of soil or directly on leaf litter. Is it on deadwood? Is it coniferous or deciduous deadwood? etc. The more info the better.

And even with all that you may never get an ID because fungi are hard and the taxonomy is a mess.


Apologies. I didn’t realise that this advice was already out there. But I was more interested in how people can learn from comments rather than take it negatively, I think.

Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I definitely need to do better.

don’t feel bad if you don’t get all the extra info. Stuff like smell/taste of mushrooms can help refine things too (you can safely nibble & spit even toxic mushrooms, just don’t swallow them) but like… if you don’t get everything its not the end of the world. Just don’t be sad if you don’t get a lot of species-level IDs on your fungi, especially in North America - the taxonomy is such a mess of old fragmented descriptions and things with European names slapped on things that aren’t actually the same fungus. Some groups are well known and some groups (like Inocybe or Cortinarius) are just laughably messed up and unless its one of a few really iconic species are really hard to ID. Especially if you don’t have microscopy.

EDIT: Basically, fungi are the fruiting body of a larger organism, which is kind of why its so difficult - it’d be like trying to identity the difference between two species in rubus based only on the fruit, without knowing any other details of the plant. Some of them are distinct, and some are really not distinct at all.


I do wonder if this is going to turn out to be the case with the shaggy mane, which as of now seems to have been observed on every continent.

But then, given that every disjunct population is necessarily a distinct genetic lineage, we come to the ongoing question of how different is actually different.