I am an amateur lichenologist with my own herbarium. I am currently using the iNaturalist observation IDs (which I assume is the number in the URL address of the observation) as a reference number for each collected lichen. I would like to ask if anyone can chime in if this makes sense — for example if iNat is planning to abandon these numbers for some reason, it would be difficult to trace back the observations from colllected specimens. Thanks!
I don’t know about the stability of iNat’s numbering system, but my gut feeling is that it might be better to use GBIF as the reference rather than iNat.
Research Grade observations from iNat get imported to GBIF (assuming they have the right permissions) and GIBF is a bit more accepted among the scientific community than iNat is.
I don’t know if there is a way to check if a specific iNat observation is on GBIF though.
I would recommend that you create your own sequential numbering system (which could then be cited in any publications) and reference the iNat observation ID as well.
I really don’t see how iNaturalist could lose these and continue to function, unless it ceases to exist, in which case the need for a reference is moot. I think using the observation numbers as a reference makes sense. It’s also suggested by this paper. While iNaturalist staff do sometimes emphasise that they don’t see the platform primarily as a repository for data, and prefer to focus on connecting people with nature, and therefore might not support something like this in the long term, I can’t see how they would replace these numbers and maintain things that already exist like links between observations through observation fields, nor imagine any rationale for doing so.
If you are recording the date and location plus this number with each lichen, I also can’t see much benefit in creating a second numbering system. GBIF would be an option, but the big disadvantage is that you won’t get an observation number straight away, because there is a time delay for observations to get exported there, and then only when they’ve become research grade.
I went to school with someone who did something like this for their herbarium specimens. This is their iNat profile. I couldn’t find an example on their page but you should reach out to them!
agreed, make a sequential numbering system. I have a spreadsheet which has inaturalist URLS, and all of my other collection information including my sequential numbers
I think this is correct. iNaturalist is intended to be a vehicle for getting people engaged in biodiversity discovery, and only secondarily serves as a data archive. All the data (with appropriate licensing, as selected by the user) is exported to GBIF, and GBIF is designed to serve as a data archive. Every individual observation in GBIF has a recommended citation, like this:
iNaturalist contributors, iNaturalist (2023). iNaturalist Research-grade Observations. iNaturalist.org. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/ab3s5x accessed via GBIF.org on 2023-05-23. https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/3333279450
If you want a more concise reference, you could use the final link (i.e., https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/3333279450 in this case).
There is a lag period between when an observation is submitted to iNaturalist, when it gets identified to research grade, and then again before that research grade observation gets exported to GBIF.
All of that applies for scientific publication. If this is just for your own record keeping, you could continue to use the iNaturalist ID numbers. But if you then publish those records in a paper, it would be preferable to look up the GBIF records to use in their place.
Well, my memory is that they did renumber a lot of nodes a few years ago, and it caused some havoc. So be warned that it is possible, however undesirable.
I have my own numbering system for my specimens. Now that I usually post on iNaturalist photos of the same plants that I collect, I add a line on each label that says, “iNaturalist observation #xxxxxxx.”
There’s nothing actually wrong with using only iNaturalist numbers, but you’ll probably have some collections that don’t get posted here, so I think it’s better to have your own personal collection number series in addition.
As others have said, still have all the relevant data needed and don’t rely on iNaturalist to house all the information, but I don’t see how it could hurt. If the links break someday in the future, at least all the relevant data is still with your specimen. If you do choose to reference the observation, you could also include a QR code to make it much faster access (maybe in addition to typing out the URL).
I thought only RG observations are exported to GBIF (?) That wouldn’t help me, since a lot of my observations remain unconfirmed due to the size of my field of interest and lack of experts with free time.
So as I understand, the only downside is (very unlikely) disconnect from iNaturalist system. I think I’ll just write a script to extract the iNat information to my system as a backup and that will solve it. I don’t see much benefits in creating my own numbering system right now.
Your conclusions seem reasonable, based on this response to a similar question:
I’ve put my corresponding observation #s on my specimens. As others in the thread have noted, these are likely to be stable. If for some reason iNat disappears, oh well! Not the first time something on a label has become outdated.
I’ve considered the URL record number in an iNat record the same as a catalogue number for a specimen in a physical museum, although I complained once in this forum (years ago) that the number isn’t shown within the record itself just on the URL line, which makes it hard to find on some platforms. Hopefully those numbers remain static as I’ve used them as a way to locate specific records of interest.
Agreed! I was surprised this isn’t a field somewhere else than the URL. So I wrote a little python script that lists me observations that have “collected: yes” field filled in, so I at least have a concise list from a specific date. Planning to expand it for automatic label generation on a small label printer
It’s probably my training in a museum environment. If there is not a permanent catalogue number clearly attached to a specimen/record, that’s a problem.
To be clear, both connecting people to nature and generating scientifically usable data are the goals of iNaturalist. When we say iNat’s not a repository for data, we mean that it’s not a dumping ground for old collections. It’s a community that generates data, so when we get offers from people to post hundreds or thousands of collection sitings or photos, we recommend GBIF as the better option because we want users who are actively contributing to iNat. I hope that makes sense.
Aside from your actual question, it sounds like you have a very avid interest in botany! That being the case, having your own numbering system is, while not a requirement, kind of a standard practice among collectors. Particularly if you collect duplicates (i.e., a single ‘collection’, but deposited in multiple herbaria). Vouchers like this are often cited as J. Gruska #317, where the combination of your name and collection number serves as an ‘analog’ DOI. That can be a helpful thing as your collection and associated research grows.
Another benefit of using a personal numbering system is it gives you a running total of all of your collections. Some of my colleagues have collection numbers in the 10,000s and above now. I wish I had been so diligent in tracking my work.
Not having kept careful track of my collections, my system uses the year followed by the number of a collection within a year. So for example, today I collected specimens TWS 23-014 and TWS 23-015.
Yes, this is similar to what I do. The voucher code I use for my specimens has my initials, the collection date, then a consecutive number for each collection I made that day. If I collected three specimens today, they’d be JJS-20230524-1, JJS-20230524-2, and JJS-20230524-3. (I find this easier than a collection-wide consecutive number, as that would require me to remember what number I was up to when labelling in the field.) I keep the iNat ID for each in a separate column, for the specimens I’ve posted as iNat observations.
Also, I add my own voucher code to the observation field “Personal voucher number”. For example, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/150552245
Only if you do a good job of applying collection numbers all in order! One year I skipped 1000 numbers somehow. And if I get out on a trip without knowing the last collection number I used I skip ahead what I hope is a few hundred, to avoid duplicate collection numbers. My collection numbers probably exceed the number of collections by 2000 or more now. Most of you would do a better job! Fortunately, my collection numbers still work in that they (usually) identify a single specimen, which can be reference unambiguously and can connect the specimen to whatever additional data I may have written down that doesn’t show up on the label.