IDing: agreement at genus level or higher

First of all: sorry if this has been discussed before. I searched but couldn’t find anything, but that may well be because there are so many possible search terms.

When I ID I usually improve or correct previous IDs or I agree on species level to push the observation to research grade. I usually don’t agree on genus level or higher. Probably because I don’t feel I add anything.

Is there a community consensus about a best practice for this?

Should I agree with a genus if the best ID so far was that genus?
Should I agree with a genus if the only ID so far was to species level?

Does that depend on the likelihood of later, more precise IDs? (One might be able to guess that likelihood based on taxon and observation age.)

I know that doing such agreements is not against any rules, so that is not my question. It’s more about the (pretty minimal) additional effort being worth it or not.

I do sometimes. Sometimes because I hope it will be identified to species and I want to know what it is, sometimes because the observer is new to iNaturalist and I might like some interaction with their observation, sometimes because I know it’s impossible to identify to species level. In the last case I’ll also answer “Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?” with “No, it’s as good as it can be” which will make it research grade.

I wouldn’t as I don’t think it adds any much value, and I’m better off doing something else.


One thought here, frequently I run into ID’s where it is quite likely that the person with the species level ID didn’t know that there are multiple look-a-likes, so I will put a (usually non-disagreeing) Subgenus or Genus ID and point out the possibility of the look-a-likes. Like Bombus vosnesenskii/caliginosus in the west or Bombus vagans/sandersoni in the east. I’ve had people do that for me, and I greatly appreciate it when I learn about new important ID marks that I should be looking for, in particular with my own observations.


If you’ve already put in the mental work/time to ID it to genus, I would go ahead and confirm it there. It does show observers that people care about and are looking at their observation.

And it provides more information to the system for one click (as opposed to marking “reviewed” which also takes a click or keystroke).

One other consideration may be that IDing to genus might then notify you of other activity on the observation. So if you don’t want that, don’t ID. But it can be helpful for me as an IDer as I can see if others make subsequent wrong IDs or someone can ID to species and I can learn from that.


Hi. How does that “make it research grade”? Is it marked as such in iNaturalist? I’m asking because I submit a number of things that can’t be identified to species level based on photos, and they never seem to get marked as research grade even with confirmations.


It’s in the programming of the database that a community consensus lower than family (for example, two IDs at genus) plus a vote for “Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved? No, it’s as good as it can be” marks the observation as research grade. The feature is a bit obscure and must be done on the website, not the app. I’m assuming your observations in question are missing the voting step.


I’m not the person to confirm this, but I’ve seen it claimed by others that:

One additional ID on an observation will place the images in the observation into the pool of images used to train the computer vision algorithm. This could be especially useful for infrequently-observed taxa. The computer vision algorithm ignores images from observations without at least 2 (agreeing?) IDs.

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If it looks interesting, but I cannot add any value to the ID, I will click Follow this obs or fave the obs - to follow any future discussion around ID.

I prefer to wade thru the Ks of obs still needing ID. Or where I can add value to a higher ID.

Thanks all for your thoughts and opinions.

I will often make an agreeing ID at genus level if the only ID is the initial one / from the Computer Vision. I mostly ID spiders, and in many cases genus is the best we can do from photos. I think that most people who submit observations appreciate at least one ID - it’s nice to know that someone has looked at your photos and you aren’t posting into a black hole, especially for taxa without many people reviewing them.


Why can a genus become research grade?

An observation at genus level can become RG if the community ID (at least two IDs) agrees at genus, and someone checks the “It’s as good as it can be” DQA box. This is mostly used by experts who determine the ID can’t be improved beyond genus - usually when there are multiple similar species in a given area, and the photos provided don’t show enough detail to distinguish between them… Which is especially common with cryptic arthropods, where you may need microscope photos of genitalia or other fine details to separate similar species.


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