Is it good to go through "Unknown" observations that need an ID and at least do a general classification?

I have been doing iNat since June of 2020. There seem to be a lot of observations that need an ID.

I have been going to the Explore page and filtering for observations marked “Unknown”. A lot of them seem to be mushrooms. So, I suggest the general category of “Fungi Including Lichens (Mushrooms)”. I am doing this because I know of a couple of users here who look for fungi to identify. So, if they search and filter for this general “Fungi”, they will see it.

I have also wondered if doing this for insects, birds, etc. I know that I have filtered specifically for birds and insects. I know birds pretty well in this area. And, I know other users here who look for specific groups like this.


It might be worth reading this post:

I think that should answer a lot of your questions and also put you in touch with many of the other “unknown” identifiers.


Welcome to the club :)


Yes, this definitely helps!


Yes, it helps. In fact, it is so helpful (and common) that iNat staff included it in the help/FAQ:


Thanks, MaLisa, for that link to the other thread.

I have seen that iNat is used by all sorts of people from people who know little to nothing about nature to people who have developed a certain amount of expertise on their own, to serious students, to people doing scientific research. It seems like it was created for all of those people (from reading the About page). So, one should expect a wide variety of identification attempts. I am not looking down my nose at anyone here just because I can ID a lot of birds. I am easily humbled when I try to ID something in other categories like fungi, insects and plants.

I seem to be comparing iNat a lot to eBird because I have been used to that website for a number of years. iNat is different because there aren’t any reviewers like eBird. The eBird reviewers try to make checklists valid. That is, they try to get to know the birders entering lists and try to determine if the entries are valid. This is especially true for rare species. It is an almost impossible job. Some bad data/inaccurate sightings are bound to get into the database.

Here at iNat there doesn’t seem to be any oversight. For example, I have seen scat droppings that have been labeled “gray fox” in Northeast Ohio with no explanation or comments. That’s an extremely rare and elusive species for this area. But, on the other hand, I am sure that researchers who try to use the data here at iNat understand that this can occur. I’ll bet that is why the Ohio Dragonfly Survey only accepts observations with photos. (At least, that was the case last year.) I would bet that researchers have learned to work with the data here and they can sift through it and get something that they can work with.


On eBird, a regional reviewer may only get a few records a day they need to look at, and they fall within a single family of life.

Close to 100,000 records a day are added to iNat (which while fewer data points than eBird, swamps the number of eBird daily records that require reviewer analysis).

There simply are not the resources available to double and triple check every identification entered. There are users who ‘adopt’ species they know are prone to misidentification and try and monitor and as needed clean those up. But the volume of species and records is too high for every incorrect, or even possibly incorrect thing to get looked at.


Having spoken with some of the eBird reviewers, I understand that they are overwhelmed at times. I am not being critical of iNat or eBird or the reviewers.


Yes, that’s why iNat requires a second opinion and community consensus at the species level for an observation to become Research Grade. Only RG observations are shared with scientific partners like GBIF. Lots of things still get to RG erroneously, so any researcher using iNat data should be aware of that uncertainty (and double-check IDs if they can), but it’s a valuable first filter.


Totally. I’m usually marking unknown plants as Plantae or angiosperms.
Unknown birds = Aves or passeriformes.
I do it often not only because it bugs me, but it might retain more users if you answer them in anyway quick enough.


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