Identifying own observations

I’m new here and trying to figure out what qualifies as an identification. If I identify my own observation, why doesn’t it show up in my Identifications? I’ve often put a lot of time trying to ID the species in my photos.

I saw another (locked) thread that asked if people were more identifiers or observers. Can’t we be both on our own observations?

If one could get credit for identifying an observation one uploads, that could add incentive for uploaders to try to figure out what they’ve observed. I realize there are degrees of identifying, but an algorithm could decide and give partial credit. If someone uploaded with an ID to the species level, then it was confirmed by others, then it could count as the observer’s identification.

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Identifications count when you identify for other people (it is clearly stated: IDs made for the others). But on the leaderboard identifications count if you have IDed your own observation and someone has corroborated your ID. I suppose, this may count also for the general count of IDs in the profile. Bit tricky and numbers are bugged generally.


Thanks for the info, and thanks @faerout for posing the question! I’d been trying to identify 2x what I’d posted (and failing…) but to give as much as I get, I only need to do 1x – so long as I’m good about identifying all my own observations!

Do you know if all taxonomic levels and standards count, or only species that make RG?

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I am also new here and my understanding, after trying really hard to identify my own observations, is that it’s better to not identify at all if you’re not confident or go higher up the taxonomic levels to avoid having lots if erroneous IDs of us newbies who don’t know what we’re doing! I made several mistakes in the beginning as I was trying too hard and was told this by a seasoned identifier.

I also don’t think there’s an expectation at all that we ID as many as we post. You’ll see there’s lots of people who mostly post observations and others who mostly identify.


I think that’s a good interpretation. I’ve been here for about a year and post pretty prolifically, partly as a way to teach/test my knowledge and partly to document the local wildlife – so I feel like it’s important to me to try to contribute IDs as I learn!

I’d add one other point: It’s good to add some sort of ID to your posts whenever you can! This matters bc it routes your observation to experts in that particular group (and it helps you learn what you know and track your progress)


As far as I can tell it’s everything you do for others, including in Casual, for instance. So nobody should stop themselves from helping out at any level, “it’s all good”!


I am not any kind of expert so I mostly identify observations that are labeled “Unknown”. Many experts would never see those observations when they set up their search filters. So, as I can tell a plant from a bird from a lizard, I feel it is useful to go through and sort the “unknowns” into broader categories in the hope that will help someone with more expertise find the record.


“Do you know if all taxonomic levels and standards count, or only species that make RG?”
I’m actually glad it doesn’t work like that. People would be spending all their time in sections where the genus is figured out for you, and just tagging on a species. Allowing all to count incentivises getting those unknowns to the kingdom section, and the kingdoms to order, etc.


Since there seem to be some people who agree to IDs without much thought, reducing the number of observers’ incorrect IDs should help reduce the risk of incorrect IDs reaching research grade. In that respect there is a lot to be said for setting the ID at a level you are confident with. However, I think that not including a suggestion will reduce the chances of it being identified at all. I would have thought that most observers would be able to give some form of identification with confidence even if it is just at the kingdom level which would be more helpful and efficient than leaving it as “unknown”.

Personally I only search unknowns occasionally. Most of the time I only look at them when they appear in the default list of observations needing an ID and it doesn’t take long for them to be buried deep under new observations.

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For me personally, it starts with my own experience in nature. I see something interesting, I take a picture of it. Later, at home and with access to field guides and time, I try to identify as I process my photos. It’s just too much to try to do at the moment of observation. So I enjoy practicing my photo editing, looking at life carefully, learning how to identify species, picking up some interesting tidbits about them, and then sharing with the community. I’m far, far away from being good at identifying anything other than my own photos, though I might try to ID others’ once in a while. I’m still combing through the thousands of photos on my hard drive.

I’m also interested in this question for the benefit of the community and general learning. My main job is in education, so I sometimes think of how the site can function to increase participation, learning, and sharing. More and more gamification and progress notes (stats, graphs, etc.) could add a lot.

Question is, is it better for (mostly) observers like me to spend a lot of time trying to ID our own photos—or spend that time uploaded more photos faster with only general identification (e.g. order, class, phylum, kingdom level) to call on the experts to make the call?

That question is for the community as well as the personal level. I do “waste” a lot of time thumbing through guides and surfing the 'net to ID, but I also learn a lot in the process. Definitely more than just getting the call from others more knowledgeable than me on a species, but, hmmm, what’s the best practice?


I would echo an answer often given for many types of questions: just do what seems to work for you.

I’ve developed a rhythm this summer with uploading and identifying (my own observations).

I make a nature outing where I take lots of photos.

When I get home, I start to sort them out. I’m a bit methodical with this process and it can take me from a few hours to a few days to do this. If I’m sure on the id, I make it during the upload. If I’m confident in some higher taxon id, I make that.

But if I don’t know at all or I’m not sure, I first check iNat’s computer vision suggestion. If it looks pretty good, I mostly go with the highest taxon suggestion. (family or genus rather than a species level). If I’m not sure, I will go pretty high.

I don’t do more than a few minutes of research at this point. I have too many photos to upload and I don’t want to be distracted from getting that done.

Once done with uploading, I drag the folder of photos marked by date and location into a pending file. Then I let the observations sit awhile. Usually, within a day or two, I have another batch I’m uploading. (and I do other things that naturalist stuff!)

After a week or so (longer in the middle of the summer), I find a moment to start reviewing all the observations in the oldest pending folder. If I trust the identifiers who got one to research grade, I’ll just consider it correct. For observations not at RG or with suggestions from people I don’t know (or may want to double check) I will start to research (and learn) how to determine down to species level (if possible). I might spend close to an hour on a particular observation using various internet sources* and field guides. If I think I can identify it to species, (with explanations of why), I do that. If not, I move on to the next. I learn a lot during this process.

For some reason, I like delaying my research. I think one uses different parts of one’s brain for different sorts of tasks. Being in and observing nature is one type of mindset. Sorting through dozens of photos trying to decide which is best and matching photos of the same organism from different cameras utilizes another type of mindset. And researching and picking out sometimes minute details from the photos to determine X vs Y species is yet another mindset. I can’t really switch from one to another quickly and seamlessly.

But my nearby friend who uses iNat has a completely different approach to identifying her observations. And you might find a different process works best for you.

*I have seen a few comments in various threads about mis-identifications on iNat potentially confusing people using iNat photos to help in identification. Although I do consult the computer vision to give me a direction to research, I don’t rely on it. And I really don’t do more than take a cursory look at the photos submitted by other iNat users for a species. I use them to either discard a species suggestion or consider it. But I don’t use the photos for help in id-ing. I have found too many mistakes. I go almost immediately to other sources I find more reliable and helpful.


Sounds very similar to me! Thank you for the interesting thoughts. Right, I suppose I will end up finding a best practice that works for me after trying a few different workflows over time.

The default for which observations are shown in the photos for a taxon has changed. It used to show everything. Now it shows only the Research Grade by default and there’s a dropdown to change to see Any grade.

You might be hearing from people who grew discouraged before that change was made. I too was very frustrated by it. I didn’t see any notice of the change. I just notice that sometimes the taxon page showed a count of observations in my area but there were “no observations in this area” when I ask to see them. It turns out, the “missing” observations were not RG and I had to ask to see them.

I’m so grateful for the change, now that I know.

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I have run across observations that have reached RG and shown in the gallery for that species that contained multiple organisms in the same observation. The other photos for other organisms were shown in the gallery for the first photo that had reached RG.

I, myself, took multiple shots of the same plant while trying to identify one gall on it. Some shots of the plant had photos of another gall made by a different species. I asked the people helping me if I should delete that photo since it might be confusing if it showed up in the gallery for the first gall. The answer I got from a curator was: “As long as there is evidence of the (same) organism in every photo (and there is) it’s fine. Only the handful of photos that show up when you click on the taxon page for a particular species are meant to be useful for identification, and even then, iNaturalist’s main goal isn’t to be an identification guide. Just a collection of records.”

There have been numerous discussions in the last week where people are reporting RG obs that are incorrect.

And even if they don’t show a photo in the gallery if it hasn’t reached RG, they will still list that species as ‘found nearby’, if there have been observations identified as that species, even if they aren’t RG and there is compelling reason to believe those are all misidentified. (I have a specific situation that I hope to address this winter for my state but it just seems to wordy to explain it here).

So, I will continue to go to the sites I’ve found that give me specific details to look at, esp when determining between similarly looking species, and lots of photos that show details that are important. Or consult printed guides. Something might have changed very recently but I ran across too many problematic iNat photos early this year when I first started my Big Year. I could easily dismiss clearly ‘wrong’ images. What images were ‘wrong’ that I couldn’t detect with my novice skills?

But I own that as my opinion and my approach.

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I see that’s how it works. Does anyone know why you identifying your own observation, even when it is corroborated by others, doesn’t count as an identification on one’s profile? Why isn’t an identification an identification? Then why is it different for the leaderboard?

I identify my observations usually and have gotten corroboration with more than half of my uploads, but my profile shows zero identifications. I’m too few to be on any leaderboard, so it seems like I’ve done nothing. It’s not a big deal but if the site worked differently, it could be more motivating and work out better for the site.

ID counts are indicators for engagement with others, they are not a measure of expertise.


I can see that. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of expertise, but rather in contribution to the community. Identifying your own is engaging with others in a way because you add to the pool of identifications, and identification requires multiple people in agreement. So, by acknowledging a contributor’s observation but not their identification, is that limitation necessary or helpful? An added layer of nuance might be helpful.

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That does seem a bit tortured, but i think i can see what you mean in a “I’m helping everybody else by feeding myself” sort of way.

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Yeah, sort of. But clearly trying to id your own observation does help others notice and confirm it. The person who was actually where the photo was taken and saw the organism may know other details not listed in the observation that help identify.

Again, I’m primarily looking at the community and how the site could work better. My contributions will be small here. But people learn each time they attempt to identify something, even if it’s wrong. And the site can work in a game-like way to encourage people with different interests to contribute in different ways and measure progress with statistics. Having better data on identifying your own observations might be a way to help iNaturalist grow faster and for people to participate more fully. Maybe a minor thing, but over time, maybe a significant thing.

It’s not just “feeding yourself”, it’s adding to the pool of taxa that are out there. If there are only a handful of people who can identify the organism to species - or if they’re things that have to be identified by having the specimen, so no one could reasonably identify it for sure from a photo - then the poster is going to be the only one who can identify it. Or alternately, they put the ID on and then someone who doesn’t actually know the species agrees with it and gets credit as the identifier.

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