iNaturalist ID as herbarium reference?

Yes, well, that’s why I restart my numbers every year now :) (with a year prefix to make them unique)


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.



Thanks, that’s helpful.

I must have chosen the wrong copyright.
Mine are not going thru, and I intended them to.


It may take some time for the link to GBIF to appear on iNat after the observation has been published on GBIF, but your observation is on GBIF :-) :

You can search for an occurence on GBIF by its iNat ID using the “catalog number” field (while also filtering on the iNaturalist Research-grade Observations dataset) :

Using the “recorded by” field you can also get a view of all your occurences :


Had to go back even further. This from 2021 is working as intended :grin: with GBIF logo

Maybe some observations never get updated with their link to GBIF, I opened some of your occurrences on GBIF and you have some recent ones with their link like this one from april :slightly_smiling_face: :

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It’s important to note that herbaria are not just for documenting the distribution of known species. They are also an important source of tissue for DNA analysis, and critical resources for morphological and anatomical studies that lead to taxonomic revisions. They are also used to document the history and distribution of herbivorous plants, fungal pathogens, and potentially even microbiomes. None of this will be possible with images.

I agree that photographs are a great compliment to herbarium collections, and for some purposes they are superior. But they cannot substitute for the many ways that we use physical herbarium specimens.


A good traditional label is a must for a herbarium. But an iNaturalist link can be a great resource to show the photographs of the living plant. For example, many flowers loose thir true colours when drying. Certain sign like angles of sepals in roses get harder to see when being pressed.

I actually append links to my iNaturalist observations in the few herbarium speciman I did, e.g. I just put there the link that includes the number in print or just using my pen.

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