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:
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.
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.
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 Not the first time something on a label has become outdated.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
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.
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.
Nor it its setup ideal for that. That is one thing that really confuses me about the forum: indications that a lot of people think of iNat as some kind of universal repository of all biodiversity data. Where does that idea come from?
I think it’s understandable. It’s a a popular platform, the data aspect and utility of said data are emphasized more than the community part of iNat when it comes to publicity, and people want their data to be useful so they think iNat is a good way to do that and get it out there.
I think that in this era tools like iNat could be evaluated to work as a substitute for “traditional herbaria”.
If a species is well photographically documented, has a plausible identification made by a local expert/expert of that taxon and has precise coordinates, the observation can be also more informative than a specimen. This might not be true for every species since some could still require to be physically studied by experts. Anyway, for other species, photographs are much more informative than dried specimens (e.g. orchids, Orobanche s.l.).
So, yes, iNat can, at least, be something that represents an integration for traditional sampling.
I feel like ethically if you are killing a potentially uncommon plant to produce a dried specimen you should also try to maximize the scientific value, which includes taking pictures of it in situ and while it was alive to preserve as much about it as possible. Posting those pictures on a site like inat also allows for present or future peer review of IDs. It also makes it easier for a researcher to look at a broad sample of specimens all at once to catalog features, and makes it possible to do so quickly without the climate impact of traveling or shipping.
The disadvantages of purely having photos for posterity are that any you forget to snap are gone forever, the photos don’t preserve DNA or tissue samples, and don’t readily allow for microscopy. Photos in the field may not have a good scale to make precise measurements possible, and would usually lack an objective color reference scale in the field lighting (though they do capture the original colors, without any changes due to drying).
Creating keys based on herbarium specimens may cause the keys to excessively rely on microscopic features or root features that aren’t readily observable in the field, while failing to even describe potentially much better features that don’t survive pressing well. This may make it harder for amateurs and experts alike to learn to ID the species in the field (or on inat) from the key.
Creating some photo-only records also allows for the potential of ‘vouchering’ dozens of high-quality records from a population in a single trip, to better understand the diversity of phenotypes in a given area, removing the pressure to pick a single ‘representative’ individual. Or, you could collect high-quality photo records for a bunch of specimens in a population and collect and press only one physical specimen as a reference.
If an Observation has been exported/imported to GBIF, in the Data Quality Assessment section at the bottom of the Observation, there will be a GBIF icon at the bottom right which is linked to the corresponding record in GBIF. In the GBIF record, the Occurence ID and References link back to the iNat Observation.