iNat or iNot: A quiz to check understanding of captive/cultivated

One of the frequent issues educators at all levels encounter is how to help their learners (including adult learners) understand what is captive and cultivated. In preparation for the upcoming City Nature Challenge I am coordinating, I have drafted a quiz in Google Slides.

I would like feedback on the accuracy of my explanations and if I am missing a big category where people get confused. I can add one or two more iNat/iNot questions before this becomes too unwieldy.

I understand that the possibilities for what can be featured in such a quiz are numerous especially when you figure in regional differences. While I would love to accommodate all contingencies, it’s way more than what I can include in one show. If you would like to edit or adapt this presentation, I encourage you to make a copy from the edit view or start anew even. I have licensed this with a creative commons international 4.0 attribution license so feel free to share, adapt, mix, and reuse with attribution.

One last thing: one of the downsides of using Google Slides is that the quiz does not keep a running score or even a final score unless you adapt this into a Google Classroom or Google Form quiz. Since my audience is mainly community learners, it makes the most sense for me to keep this in Google slides for general access. If you add this to a quiz platform, please share! I’d love to see it.


This is great. Makes the distinction clearly, with humor and engaging graphics. I love the iNat vs iNot! It might be nice to include the category of escaped garden plants that become naturalized, but that’s possibly a little more subtle than required. .


nice! I will share this with our Chicagoland region City Nature Challenge organizers :)

might revise that last one to be [anything intentionally planted in] a container or pot since a dandelion who self-seeded into my outdoor pot would be wild


I like it. My one caveat is that sometimes wild plants are in pots – I’ve seen people submit observations of interesting weeds coming up in planters. Maybe you could soften the language and say plants in pots are usually cultivated, and should be avoided.


Nice! On the bird feeder one, it might be good to change the wording to emphasize that even though there was human agency in putting out the bird feeder, the wild birds still chose to go to it on their own. If someone caught wild birds and put them in an enclosure with a feeder, they’d still be iNot even though they weren’t bred by humans


I agree, just because an organism is in a pot doesn’t mean it’s cultivated. Often times, a stray seed will find itself into a pot, even though it wasn’t originally planted there. For example, here’s an observation of mine that that grew from a pot and was listed as captive despite escaping cultivation:


I like it!
You might want to correct the one slide though… Those are chives (Allium schoenoprasum), not garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). Note the purple flowers, not white ones (among other differences).


I’m not sure if it’s necessary to tell people not to post captive/cultivated organisms. Not only do many people REALLY want to post them for some reason, but there are also researchers who want that data. In fact, I had an unfortunate conversation with a researcher who intentionally mislabels his observations to keep the data quality at research grade, for some reason. He never got back to me on why he does this. He’s studying new invasions to the country and wants data on possible introduction methods.

So, I always implore people to please use the captive/cultivated button, but I don’t suggest that they shouldn’t post cultivated observations at all.


I was quite happy to see the advice to not post captive/cultivated organisms.

For some reason, most people who post Captive / Cultivated plants input them with no ID nor any DQA. These are often newcomers with insufficient onboarding training, which isn’t really provided by iNat anyway. So, it’s not their fault really.

But they make a mountain of work for IDers.

As I am not a biologist nor self-taught expert, I mainly identify Unknowns sorting them into broad categories for others with more expertise.

I find it very tedious to ID all those landscape plants newcomers post. There are so many of them!


I wonder if it may be useful to recruit local gardeners to join iNat so they can help sort these things out.


This is really good. I agree there’s a little bit of tweaking needed to communicate why an educator doesn’t want their charges postings captives. I think the danger is they get confused when they do in fact see captive/cultivated organisms on iNat. I suggest the following alternative wordings:

“Flora and fauna that are captive and/or cultivated may be cool, but they are not what iNaturalist is really about. (It is not completely disallowed, but but if for some reason you did want to post a captive/cultivated organism it must be marked using the ‘captive/cultivated’ checkbox)”

You may not want to include the parenthetical sentence depending on your exact intentions.

I would then add one word to the last sentence: “should not normally be posted”

I like the examples you have chosen, you have wisely steered clear of the grey areas.


That’s a thought but a lot of people posting cultivated plants without IDs and without indicating them as cultivated undoubtedly are gardeners. Growing some plants or considering one’s self a gardener doesn’t necessarily confer any particular expertise at identifying plants, even common ones, strange as that may seem. That said, expertise at plant identification can, of course, come from a gardening background. It comes down to plant ID skill, gained by whatever means. :woman_shrugging:t4:

It’s terrific; I will share with students who are learning to use iNaturalist, to avoid having them add our campus landscape plants.


So amazing! Thank you!

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I find it very tedious, too. But I see it as an on-boarding problem. The feature itself is actually useful. An extreme solution would be to default all plants to cultivated, and make you click wild to change it. It’s a radical solution, but you could put in a feature where users who are paying attention can customize their defaults and deactivate that feature. Certainly, for plants, the DQA would be more accurate by defaulting to cultivated. I think I see more cultivated plants in the “Needs ID” category than wild ones.

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which part of the world are you IDing in that this is the case? For Australia certainly there are a lot of cultivated things that pop up, but the % of cultivated plants vs wild in Needs ID is probably 1 to 100, or even more extreme, so a 50/50 split tilted to cultivated seems astonishing to me

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Five km radius around most colleges and universities in the USA: gigantic overrepresentation of cultivated plants, only a tiny fraction of which are marked as such in the DQA. You can even sometimes tell where the classroom is on campus based on the same weeping ornamental pear getting observed 50+ times. I did an informal survey a year or so ago, drawing circles around several state colleges around the USA, and found about a 1:1:1 ratio of clearly cultivated : probably cultivated, but possibly escaped, I guess : clearly wild. This was not including all properly “marked as captive” observations.

There are lots of “duress” student-users who are required to post some number of observations for their organismal biology 101 class or whatever. The problem really gets bad when their classmates have an incentive to vote these observations into research grade - maybe also for a grade.

It’s refreshing to hear that Australia doesn’t seem to have this problem!


if using such a small + specific location search filter, then a similar problem (but not as extreme) would also definitely exist for Australia. I assumed this was at a greater scale

I have 2 identifiers on my list who come from horticulture (helps with that is a variety / cultivar of …)
@arboretum_amy (USA) and @gaertnerneuwirth (Germany)
PS please be considerate if you @mention them - only where they can help resolve a discussion (not the student project swathe)

And there are all the iNatters in the home garden project

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NO, thank you. You may be better served by - Mark as Reviewed, Next.
I’m learning to do that for the tedious swathe.

‘Most’ of the plants I see are wild.
The cultivated are obvious.

And there is a very broad grey area NOT well served by iNat.
Rewilding project?
Garden escapee?
Is THIS one planted, or a volunteer?

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