Informing new users to mark as captive/cultivated

Recently in the “feature request” forum it has been proposed the introduction of a pop-up system in order to allow users to make a better choice on the wild/non-wild status of what they are going to post:

Now, I ask if it would be possible to increase the communication towards both potential new users and those who already have joined iNat for a proper use of the site.
Maybe I am wrong and I do not know all the ways users become aware of iNat or how they are recruited, but I wonder if all new users could be enough informed or not on what can be posted in iNat and how to deal with, for example, non-wild organisms.
One example:
219 observations, mostly of cultivated plants, in 28 minutes. One observation every 7 seconds!

Waht if there were many of these users and if they would have been left posting with such regularity?


Similar (or worse) problem is for Tbilisi (Georgia, Caucasus). Over 8000 observation, major part are non-wild. I tried to notify, no reaction.Here:


I understand.
I think that if there is no reaction to a series of recommendations, the only solution is the suspension of the user(s) and the creator of the project.

In this case, it is pretty boring that an official institution would have created a project without caring of what is posted in its framework.

Incredible, few users have posted so many observations of cultivated plants and no one of those who have created the project have told them anything…


There is nothing wrong with posting cultivated plants. If nothing else it helps train the photo identification algorithm on such species.

The users should be informed that cultivated plants should be tagged as such, but should otherwise be left alone.

… i am rather certain that the way iNat deals with captive, cultivated observations has to change.

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Posting cultivated plants, but not checking the box, does not qualify a user for suspension. If you see this happening (a curator has suspended a user for this reason), please email


no, it is not conceivable that if users are not so kind and respectful to use properly the site, even after many recommendations, they should anyway left to go on doing what they want. It is supposed that they are old enough to understand how to behave in a community.

Yes, of course, but fixing thousands observations is very time demanding. So what to do if users behave this way?

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Please see the community guidelines. These are the best source for appropriate behaviour on iNaturalist:


Well what is proper site use? please read the link i posted above and then tell me what the primary goal of iNat is.

Sorry but I think that glmory and mreith did not read with attention what I have written. We cannot pretend that this is not an issue.
I also wonder if it is desirable if iNat would be a place where wild organisms are mapped or a place where users post freely what they want.

Sorry if I am a little bit polemic but why are you stayng here to lecture me of things that I know?

Every presentation I’ve seen about informing people about how to use iNaturalist has included information about how to mark organisms as captive/cultivated. It’s in the getting started guide, it’s in the Frequently Asked Questions, it’s in the video tutorials, it’s in the common responses for new users, and it’s been encouraged on social media many times, usually during large events like the City Nature Challenge.

Did you have a specific recommendation? Remember that the forum is not a place for just airing grievances/complaints, but to have constructive, productive discussions.

If you are starting to feel emotional about an issue, please take some time away before responding again.


I refined the topic title to match the subject of your post.

I share these concerns about the huge number of cultivated plants in particular, being treated as wild. It makes it very hard to use iNaturalist to assess plant ranges, for example, or to track whether or not certain species have become established in the wild.

I like and generally support this effort, but I also think that there is a much more obvious solution here, which would be to add an “unspecified / unsure” option, and then make the field default to this.

This is important both because it would completely fix the problem, i.e. no data = no bad data and more conscientious users could specify organisms as wild if they want.

But it’s also important because there are some cases where I’m not sure whether or not an organism is wild. For example, the border of a park and a forest…I don’t always know which trees are planted and which aren’t. In my own ecological restoration projects, I can’t always keep track of which plants were volunteers from wind-blown or bird-dropped seeds vs. ones I planted or put down seeds of.

And since most of the observations I have reported here are from these semi-wild areas on the margins of human habitation, these “unsure” observations are quite common.


This topic is specifically about increasing communication and informing users about marking the existing captive/cultivated box.

Tangential discussions about changes to the existing categories or ways the data are displayed throughout the site will be moved.


I do not know whether it will work, but maybe adding an explanation as to how „bad“ data (showing cultivated plants/domesticated animals) goes into international databases (GBIF) and later also find their way into Wikipedia damage reputation of inaturalist might help? Moral stimulus is important. And specifically – maybe such info should be placed somewhere very visible and strongly accentuated in the info for the creation of new projects? I have a feeling that a considerable part of these non-wild OBs come from overzealous project members, especially school projects. And maybe add a special infoline (kind of NB) for school projects? I see another danger of this increasing flood of non-wild OBs – the experts might get bored finally by a hopeless fight to stem the flood and just leave. Meanwhile, if I am not mistaken, there was a recent thread of how to enlist more expert identifiers?

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Well from my limited experience in Haiti, I can tell that the accuracy of the identifying algorithm increases, with the number of (non-tagged) cultivated plant observations. Also the compare feature works much better with many (non-tagged) cultivated plant observations. The accuracy and usefulness of both ID systems on iNat started to decrease (for Haitian observations), when some people went on a tagging rush and tagged many observations in Haiti as captive-cultivated.

I personally rather prefer useful ID systems (in order to keep new members and identifiers motivated and efficient) over a partly blind ID system and many wrong IDs. - This is one of the reasons why I think that the way iNat deals with captive-cultivated observations has to change. The other reason is, that i totally understand that users want to have their observations identified (who doenst?). So why should they add information (tag as captive cultivated) that decreases the chance of getting an ID?

I think that captive-cultivated observations (at least of plants) have to be included into the ID support systems and that they need their own “appreciation badge” similar to the research grade sign. This would motivate people to add additional information (mark as captive cultivated). Telling users what they should do … and motivating them to do something else, just doesnt fit together.


Your concerns are also understandable, but separate research grade for non-wild organisms will not solve the problem of people not marking them as non-wild and will not stop the wrong data reaching GBIF and further. Do you have solution for that? I started to be concerned, when to my amazement I read in Wikipedia that certain ornamental lily species was described as naturalised in Lithuania. Which could not happen because the species in question is not able to overwinter. I started to check more and found that, e.g., Sansevieria is naturalised in northern Germany, and so on. I tracked the data sources –no surprise – everything ended in inaturalist. Cultivated plants (some of them indoors only) not tagged as non-wild and given ID by some kind soul.


I am not here on iNat to solve wikipedia of GBIF errors (i sometimes do from within wikipedia - but try in GBIF … :D that will rarely work). I therefore think it barely makes any sense to discuss errors on other platforms here.

As for iNat i am asking myself, why are people not tagging their observations as captive-cultivated? And the obvious answer is: Because they get punished every time they do, with delayed ID support etc… Telling them they should do something and at the same time punishing them for sticking to this rule, has a very obvious outcome. People will be motivated to ignore this specific rule.

Once we solved this conflict of interest that iNat currently puts on its users, then we can improve the situation by hinting to the rules. But in the current situation this simply will not help.