Is it allowed to post gastropods observed by someone else?

Hi, I have a question (or problem, we will see…). I’ve got some gastropod shells from someone else, living in USA. I payed for them, so they are mine. I have precise data (date of the observation and origin/location). All shells were found empty, no protected species. I’m going to take pictures of them in near future. Is it allowed to post these pictures in iNaturalist.org? I can mention the name of the observer (“leg.: …”), of course.
I don’t know much about North American terrestrial snails, so I would appreciate any help in confirming my determination suggestions.
Thanks a lot for your time and trouble, kind regards: wolf

Welcome to the forum.

Yes, this is completely fine :)

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Hi Wolf! Welcome.

I did want to explain that iNaturalist is primarily intended for nature observations that you yourself make, in other words, organisms that you come across. That would be far more suitable than submitting images of organisms or remains of organisms that were purchased by you from someone else who lives in another country, then shipped to you, and then finally photographed by you.

iNaturalist is for recording nature firsthand; it’s not really intended as a free identification service for collectors.

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As you weren’t the one who observed them in place the only choice is to post them as casual observations.

iNat is also collecting data for GBIF. For GBIF its rather less relevant, whether you are documenting a existing collection (observed by you! collected by somebody else.) with proper data, or whether you run wild to find your stuff.
I would think that documentations of existing collections might be very welcome here, and should NOT be marked casual, if uploaded with proper collection data. Let"s see what the iNat staff has to say.

@susanhewitt you are certainly one of the most active snail shell identifiers here. Think of the potential gain of biogeographical knowledge that could come with collectors and collections.

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This applies to any taxon. I think its perfectly OK to do so, as long as you get permission from the original photographer and give them credit. iNat only recognizes who has uploaded the observation and not who took the photo. However, if you don’t ask about location and date then I’m afraid its gonna have to be a casual observation.

he said he will take the photos himself @robotpie so no copyright issue involved here.

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oh yes indeed, that’s correct. i have misread.

See staff responses to similar questions here and here.

In short, this type of observation is allowed, but is not really the kind of observation that iNat likes to encourage.

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This is not necessarily the case in this particular situation, but let me just say this:

As someone who has worked for many years in several different museums, with collections, and knowing several collectors who do purchase “specimen shells”, I want to say that when shell collectors pay to get material, a lot of the time one cannot be sure that the data accompanying the shells is correct or accurate.

A lot of shell dealers, if they have some nice shells on hand without any data, for example shells from an old collection, they will make up some reasonable-sounding data to accompany the shells, and that way they are able to sell the shells for a good price. There is definitely a financial motive to making up or finessing data so it seems complete. Specimen shells (shells in good condition with apparently detailed collecting data) sell for a great deal more than the exact same shells with no data or almost no data. Shells with no data or very little data are often almost worthless.

This is why I tend to be skeptical about the data accompanying purchased shells.

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GBIF also collecting data of what YOU saw and iNat is for your observations only, so no, shipped stuff is not an observation in the wild.

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As a museum curator I definitely agree. However, I might also add that sometimes this is the only way to get the deep-water specimens. A lot of the rarer species are inaccessible to divers personally collecting by hand and are only known from either scientific expeditions of deep-water fishermen. Any specimens from expeditions are instantly going to museums so individuals are left purchasing shells directly from fisherman or through a dealer. But the fact that these are rare also makes them much more susceptible to data fabrication so that sort of brings us back to where we started. Maybe these aren’t the kind of observations iNat is specifically looking for, but I think it would be cool to get some of the rarer species. Then again that doesn’t really sound applicable here because these are North American land snails.

Personally I think purchasing takes all the fun out of collecting and it gives you no field experience, but there are benefits as well. Another issue is gifts: “I found this shell on the beach and thought of you.” Data is usually much more accurate in these instances, but the debate of using those for observations still applies. I don’t think it’s a problem, and I know of at least one inherited collection that has provided a lot of good observations to iNat.

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My landlord has cleaned the house front. Including some potter wasp nesting sites. This means I am uploading a spider collection made by some anonymous potter wasps right now. ;). Hope to not run into problems with you @melodi_96 ;) Have a great day!

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Well, you know it’s not the same, they got there natural way, so I don’t think anyone would have any questions about those spiders. I think it’s quite similar to the question about shells that got drifted by the ocean for long distances, though wasps work with much smaller territories.

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I’m an Open Biodiversity Data Ambassador with GBIF, and I want to note that this would be a perfectly suitable observation for GBIF (concerns about data quality raised by @susanhewitt aside). If you are in possession of a collection that documents species occurrence with any basis of record (including human observation, literature documentation of observation, fossil specimen, preserved specimen, etc https://gbif.github.io/gbif-api/apidocs/org/gbif/api/vocabulary/BasisOfRecord.html), that is suitable for GBIF. It does NOT have to be something you yourself have seen/observed/documents. For example, I am currently working to digitize the notebooks, specimens, and photographs of a prominent naturalist from the mid-1900s, and I will eventually be submitting those to GBIF. This is perfectly allowable and encouraged, because GBIF is for biodiversity data of pretty much any kind and supports a variety of use cases. But that doesn’t mean it is encouraged or the best use case of iNaturalist (and, for example, I’m not uploading this naturalist’s photographs to iNaturalist).

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The comment was inspired by previous comments, there’s no 100% sure of data being right, and in most cases where it is known you know the person who collected them and they can upload it to iNat by themselves. Posting such things on iNat is like seriously saying you’ve traveled around the world while actually you were at home all the time. Also allowingthis may enourage making up data, e.g. if I have lots of bought shells, nothing stops me from creating random dates and saying those were shipped to me. Without it there’s less chance such behaviour can happen without noticing.

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Yes sorry. I’m not disagreeing with you that this does not belong on iNaturalist, just disagreeing that this does not belong on GBIF. GBIF and iNat have different purposes is what I was trying to highlight.

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Sure, it was my fault of how I wrote my thoughts.

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Hi,
thanks a lot for all of your posts and opinions. I’m sorry that you had to put so much time and effort into my question.
Thanks again, have a nice time, kind regards: wolf

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if we tell collectors they should rather not post their collections with the collection data they have, what keeps them from posting pictures of their collection with recent made up data, so that it looks as if they were traveling the world? Just saying.

  • And yes, i understand that people who believe that humankind is not part of nature, see a collection b wasps and by a human collector as two different things. I myself fail to see any major differences mainly because i see that humankind is part of nature.