Is it ok to upload pictures of shells if I don't know where they're from?

I have a lot of shells in my collection, mainly sea shells, that i’ve been given as gifts or that I’ve bought over the years and I’d like to upload them onto iNat to get them identified. But I have no clue where most of them are originally from. I don’t want to put up a bunch of casual observations because I can’t put a location for them, so would it just be better not to upload them at all?

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If you don’t know the location/date when it was originally found, than it has to be casual. So it’s up to you.

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It depends. Do you at least know if they were collected on the East/West coast etc? If so, that’ll help narrow down species in the general regions. If not, you could just set a broad location encompassing the US, closest to where you think they might’ve been collected. Though this won’t really help with identifying based on location and might mess with data, so maybe not recommended. If they’re casual but obviously not captive they could still serve some purpose. There’s absolutely no harm in uploading them!

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You can upload, but yes they’ll have to be casual. I’ll add that this means they’ll likely never get IDed to species, in part because IDing without location is difficult to impossible for mollusks and in part because casual observations are not regularly viewed. But you could probably still get at least family IDs on everything if that’s acceptable.

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I think it would be worth having them up as casual - they still give information about the appearance of species. To help with getting them ID’d it might be worth messaging one of the top mollusc identifiers and asking if they’d be willing to go through them for you.

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I don’t see a good reason to upload them with no location and as most weren’t found by you it’s the same as observing them from a local shop.

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I agree with Marina. You are asking about uploading images of random shells in your possession, all of which could be from anywhere at all in the world, and many of which were bought and sold as part of the international shell trade.

You want to do this just because you would like to try to get the shells ID’ed. In my opinion, even though this is not terrible, this is not really a very constructive use of iNaturalist.

The international shell trade is exploitative and obviously damaging to an important natural resource (populations of live mollusks), and it is also exploitative to those people in less developed countries who try to manage to make a living from collecting live shells and then selling them to dealers for a pittance, often damaging local marine habitat in the process. Almost every shell bought and sold in the international shell trade was live-collected.

iNaturalist is supposed to be mainly for evidence of organisms that you yourself have encountered spontaneously in the wild. The idea is to encourage people to relate to nature more.

Shells that other people have given you, and shells that you have bought somewhere may be as random, or actually perhaps even more random, than shells you could find right now for sale in a shell shop or an interior decorating shop.

And as Thomas Everest says, knowing whereabouts a shell was originally living/was originally found is information that is often essential when one is trying to ID a shell.

And therefore, unless all the shells you have are extremely distinctive, it may not be possible to identify them to anything more than family level, if that.

And if you do upload some of these shells without any accompanying data (data lacking would be where, when, and by whom the shell was first found), please make sure you express your sincere thanks to anyone on iNat who tries to ID them.

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I have nothing more to add beyond what has already been said. Just Welcome to the Forum!

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Perhaps it depends a little on just how many there are too. You might want to just select ones you think are particularly interesting, or a few that are representative of the others.

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Well, I’m not sure that’s really so.
From the iNat FAQ:

An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.

however, a quick Google search search showed lots of sites for seashell identification. A friend of mine had some success with a reddit site that identifies bones and other biofacts

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How? Without location even a mollusc person like Susan Hewitt is not ‘happy’ to ID a random shell from somewhere. A formal collection like a museum specimen with an informed species ID and location where it was collected - that can be useful to train the CV.

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iNat will automatically make them ‘casual’ as in lacking data = Missing Location.
Or it is like the obs I tripped over for saltwater clams. In Ohio?

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Likely the correct way is to use current day and place and then mark as captive. And I agree with @teellbee that adding a bunch of casual observations will never be a great way to use iNat, it can sometimes be useful, but not great.

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This would be my recommendation as well. Facebook groups or other groups to help with the ID’s rather than iNaturalist.

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What about shells that I know exactly where they come from but I don’t have any dates?

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You can post them without dates, with place they likely will be ided if you tag an expert.

Just as a side note, if you ever want to use the computer vision to help with ID but don’t want to post a casual observation, you can drag the photo into the batch uploader, check out the CV’s ID, and then delete without completing the observation. No harm done, and the ID you get from the CV can help you find the right place to look in a field guide for more information. (Of course, as always, the CV ID may or may not be accurate!)

[The post I deleted was just me making the mistake of replying to the wrong post. Oops.]

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I agree with @marina_gorbunova and @susanhewitt - iNat’s not a good place to upload photos of those shells. But definitely post photos of shells you find while beachcombing!

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Why not just use Google Lens for ID which won’t upset location stats etc on iNat?

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or for that matter you could use the Seek app.

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