Include obscured observations in species lists for place-based projects


There is a good discussion of this problem going on in the bug reports sections, but it was suggested that someone should move it to feature requests, and since I am currently having this problem, I’m doing so. If someone else has asked for this feature, I’m sorry that I haven’t found it.

Specifically, I’m hoping that there be some simple way to make obscured observations taken within the polygon that defines a place show up on lists for that place, even if we don’t want them on the public map.

My present example: I and a group of other local naturalists are using iNaturalist to document the biodiversity of a large piece of State owned land (currently at risk of sale and development) in Sonoma County, CA. Our project page is here:

We’ve been finding iNaturalist an extremely useful tool for this, but have been running into two problems. Both relate to the geoprivacy of threatened taxa.

First, and most importantly, we are documenting the diversity of this place in the hopes that this information will be part of the conversation about future uses of this land, but observations of threatened and endangered species don’t show up on the project page, or on this property, because they are automatically obscured. For example, this observation:
Documenting the protected species on a property only to have them not show up on the relevant list for that property strikes at what I see as a core function of iNaturalist.

Second, we can’t know what vulnerable species were previously documented on this land by others. Foothill Yellow-legged frogs, for example, have been documented in that general area, but we don’t know if these observations are from this property or not. There may be other threatened species previously documented from this property on iNaturalist, but we can’t find out. Again, what seems like a core function (at least for place-based conservation applications) is compromised.

I therefore request the feature that obscured observations show up on project lists even if they don’t show up on the map of that property.

The obvious problem with this request is that poachers could find out if a protected organism is in a particular place by creating continuously smaller places with associated projects, and eventually narrow down to exactly where the organisms are. My proposed solution to this problem (and maybe there is a better one) is to set a reasonable lower limit to the area where this feature would function. Knowing that there is a California Giant Salamander larva or California Freshwater Shrimp hiding somewhere within the area of this project is not going to be much use to any poachers.

Another possible solution, which would solve the first problem but not the second, would be to allow the contribution of obscured observations to place-based projects, which as far as I can tell is not currently possible.

Please let me know if what I’m asking or why isn’t clear. Thank you.


New project cannot be tagged for observations

This conversation: under the General heading covers the same territory much more thoroughly.

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I will restate what I said in the other thread. I do not support this, there is no ‘thumbs down’ option. There should be no functionality that allows a user to create a project (or via any other means, such as checklists, guides etc) that supersedes the auto-obscuring or my decision as to who I trust with seeing those locations.

If users feel they need this they should use a traditional project, and if needed seek permission from users adding records to see the true locations.



Thank you. Can you please clarify for me what you mean by “use a traditional project?” I’ve used iNaturalist a lot over the last month, but basically not at all before that, and I don’t know what sort of project is traditional or how you would use it to address this problem.

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INaturalist supports 2 kinds of projects.

Newer or collection projects automatically collect all records in the criteria assigned to the project, but do not allow project admins to see actual locations and apply the obscured sighting exclusions discussed in the other thread. Basically these are saved searches with a fancy UI. Users do not have to join the project, they don’t have to add the records etc.

There are also older projects. In these records must be manually added to the project. Project admins of these are allowed to see the actual true locations, and the exclusions discussed do not apply. If you create a project for provincial park X and i see something that is obscured inside the park ,regardless of where the obscuring buffer falls, you can get it in the project and see the actual location.

Users themselves control if they allow their records to be added or if the true location is revealed. If I trust you, I grant you permission to see them. You can not get them without my approval. Users can also globally say if they will allow their records to get added to projects, or only do it themselves. It grants folks who need the data the ability to get it, assuming the user who adds the record grants them permission



That is very helpful, thank you! It only solves half my problem, but the glass is now half full. I still have the issue that I can’t know whom to contact to ask that they contribute their observations because I don’t know which observations are relevant.

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I still think the broader issue here is that most things with any sort of conservation status are being obscured, even when there’s no conceivable poaching risk for most of them. if it were only a handful of species in a large preserve it wouldn’t matter that much. You could figure out in other ways that the species were there and then use the range maps to see the obscured locations to get a feel for the general area. Not ideal but… for some species the obscuring truly is needed.



I don’t manage any older style projects anymore, so don’t remember all the details and nitty gritty, but there are tools and searches that let you get a list of observations that should qualify for a project that are not currently in it. That gets you a list of who to contact, especially as few users are only adding obscured species, most will also be adding common stuff.

Those tools may not guarantee 100 percent, again I don’t remember exactly how they work, but they find almost every thing, especially if your project covers any decent sized chunk of land.



What should be obscured is a totally different discussion, I agree. Trust me, us Canadians know this better than anyone right now. But I am trying to stay within the boundaries of what happens when something is obscured, either automatically or by my choice.

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fair enough, i guess i just feel like it’s integral to the question… i think chosen obscuring by users is a whole other issue too

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Thank you again, most helpful. I don’t understand this though: “there are tools and searches that let you get a list of observations that should qualify for a project that are not currently in it.” If those tools let me find out which observations are within my polygon but not listed as such, isn’t that giving away the same information that this whole system is trying to obscure? Also, where do I find these tools?



That’s why I added the note about a decent chunk of geography. Your initial comment speaks of a large chunk of land, but your interpretation of large and mine may be different.

You can run queries to see all records that qualify, for example this query finds all my fungi records from Ontario not currently in the mushrooms of Ontario project.✓&q=&search_on=&quality_grade=any&reviewed=&geoprivacy=&identifications=any&captive=&iconic_taxa[]=Fungi&place_id=6883&swlat=&swlng=&nelat=&nelng=&taxon_name=&taxon_id=&day=&month=&year=&[]=&d1=&d2=&created_on=&site=&tdate=&list_id=&filters_open=true&view=map

There should also be a link available on the project home page visible to the project admins that says something like find suitable observations.

Unless all you want are obscured species, even if your project is 200 square meters, if someone adds something common, you will know it is there and then you can approach them to join the project or add their records and then if they grant permission, you will pick up the obscured stuff because they have given the permission.

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Okay, I see the tool you are talking about, and searching, it doesn’t give me any observations that I don’t already include in the project, not even my own obscured observations from that area. And you are right, my large area is large in the sense that knowing that a salamander or snail is present doesn’t help you find it, but not large in the sense of Ontario. It is a piece of land roughly the size of our local state parks, but small enough that obscured observations simply don’t qualify. So I still don’t know whom to contact to request inclusion, but I greatly appreciate your patience in explaining all of this to me.

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Now you have confused me. The project in your link is a new style collection project. The find suitable records tool only exists in the old style project. There is no need for such a tool in the new project, they automatically collect and include all qualifying records not excluded by the obscuring rules. Or have you cloned it and also have an old style project version now as well.



Yes, exactly. On your advice I started a supplementary “traditional project” and used the included search tools.



If you go to your area on the Explore page, look at a portion of the map you are interested in and click on “Redo search in Map” you’ll see all observations that have public coordinates in the area. Here’s a search for Rana boylii in the area around your place:

You can contact those observers and ask them if any of their observations were made at the developmental center.

There’s a Managing Projects page that has a lot of information about projects:



@tiwane, thank you. I’ve now contacted the 11 observers behind all 18 of those observations, and read the “Managing Projects” page. I hate spamming people, even 11 people, but if that is the only way, it is the only way. The problem is that there are at least dozens of obscured species that could be there, and I have no way to determine what’s there, so I’ve also written to every observer with more than 15 observations at the Developmental Center to ask that they contribute any obscured observations from the site. I feel like such a nudge.

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One feature that could make this a lot easier, and would be consistent with @cmcheatle’s caution, would be to allow people to write one note contacting everyone who has obscured observations within the area of a project they manage. The sender would not see the list of obscured observations, or the list of observers being contacted, but the observers would receive a request to contribute their observation to the project, and could decide to do so or not. I just contacted about 25 people, and I’m guessing that about three of them actually have obscured observations there, but with the current setup that’s the only way to do it.



It would be nice if when you’re making an observation in a traditional project area asking you if you’d like to add your observation to the project.

Many observations are made by people visiting areas and they rarely have a reason to specifically search out and join a local traditional project, indeed, they are often unaware of projects in the areas they’re visiting.

A prompt saying something like, “Your observation falls into the boundary of Project XXZY, would you like to add your observation to this project? Y/N” would make things much easier for both project managers and for observers.



Maybe I’m not understanding, but couldn’t people still use large, overlapping places to determine the true location?

(@dlevitis sorry to belabor the topic if you already considered this one resolved–I’m going through some feature requests and bug reports to follow up/provide solutions/close when possible.)

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