Incremental counter in a custom field


I observe and collect small invertebrates preserved in tubes with alcohol.

I want to attribute a unique identificator to my observations, without having to use the very long 8-digit unique observation number (which can lead to errors when writing them down on the tube).

I would like to use a smaller number, a unique incremental key.
That could be for example the number of my own observation count (from 1 to xxxxx), (with optionally a prefix). This number will then be attributed to tube containing the bug(s).
Is there a way to do that through a field (searchable), or is there a shortcut to generate that ?

(I prefer doing it that way instead of manually attributing a number to the tube prior to entering the data, because I find it hard to keep an up-to-data manual counter without duplicates).

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If you want to use a field you can create your own so it would be easier then to serch through.

You could use tags:

Or create a specific observation field here: (scroll to bottom).


it’s also possible to just add your id in the description, which is searchable. i’m not aware of anything in the system that will provide an automatically incremented id, though, other than the observation ID itself.

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I would like an automatic incremental key, without entering it by hand(to avoid duplicates).
the user’s observation count could be one, but I don’t know if it is possible to get it

is there a way to ‘compute’ one (script?), something like GET(number_observation(user)) and fill a user field with that?

you can download your observations in a CSV file and then sort by observed date or observation id, then add a sequence number in your spreadsheet based on row number. you could also create a custom ID based on observation date + time + a sequence. for example, you could do 2 numbers for year + 1 number / letter for month (1-9, then A-C) + 1 letter for hour (A-X) + 1 number / letter for sequence (0-9, then A-Z). there are lots of ways to approach that.

yes, but you’d have to do some custom coding, leveraging the iNaturalist API.

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Thank you for your input
I’m looking for an incremental counter with reduced number of digits. Let’s wait for another answer.

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In short - no this is not possible. All tags and observation fields must be manually entered (or programmatically via the API), and there is no way to embed scripts or programming shorthand


I’d also suggest exporting a CSV, using the date-observed field (and/or a single observation field like “ospeleo’s research observations”) to filter, and pasting the resulting observation IDs into a master spreadsheet where you associate each with a unique ID (e.g. row number). You should still validate as you go but I think it’s probably safest if you keep the task in your own hands, you know?

I use 2ml and 5ml tubes for storage, and although the tubes themselves have a labelling area that will take a pigment based ink and is large enough to take the whole number if the pen tip is fine enough, I too find it awkward to write the large number. I settled on temporary numbers that go on the lids, to be later augmented with “in tube labels” printed with laser printer. My temporary numbers now are a letter for the site/visit, with 2 digit number after eg C24. I seldom collect more than 100 specimens per site, but could do 3 digits if I did. I try to get photo in situ, then photo the tube number it gets put into. When uploading the obs, I get the number from the tube photo and put that on the observation as a tag. Once the observation is IDd etc I enter the details into a spreadsheet setup with the labels, and when the sheet is filled I print and cut out the labels. Then I just go through and insert each label into the appropriately numbered tube. Sometimes I delete the temporary tag number from the observation, but other times not. I also started putting a tag to indicate that it was in my pinned storage, or for alcohol stored specimens I would put the actual storage box, eg “blue box”

An example:

It does pay to test the printing to make sure it holds up in alcohol… notice that the hand written label is wearing off, and in this case I was using the whole iNat number, broken into two parts. I don’t really see the need to the numbers being sequential, but I do find it helpful to have them in increasing order, so that each number corresponds roughly to a chronological progression. The great thing about this is I can pick up any tube in that blue box, go to any observation in iNaturalist (even not my own) and just replace the iNat number at the end with the number on the tube, and I have access to the current status of ID on that, as well as any conversation that has occurred on it… it literally becomes the field notebook and collection record all in one place!

This is how the labels look in the spreadsheet, and I double check for new or changed IDs before printing. The temporary label number gets cut off when inserting into the tube…


Thank you.

@kiwifergus, that is exactly how tubes are currently processed on our side. We have 20,000 tubes.
The person who is noting the unique id said that the 8-digit obervation id would be prone to errors while writing it down, so I was looking for a shorter number.
I think I’ll have to convince him to change and adapt to inaturalist.

@aisti: currently, the samples are taken in the field, without internet access, entered in an Access database, without species identification, or sorting. So they are “safe”.
But they will need to be re-entered in inaturalist for identification when they are sorted with the binoculars.

thanks all, I think I have the answer to this question.


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