Is it possible to keep observations in a traditional project hidden from all non-project members?

Hello all,

I’ve been using iNaturalist for a while but am new to using it as an educator. I have set up a traditional project for an undergraduate-level botany course that my students will be using for one of their assignments. I will be grading students on the quality of their observations and correct identification to species. I’m restricting access to the project (invite only) to students in the course, but I’m now realizing that other (non-project) users will be able to see my student’s observations and (potentially) provide identifications for them. Is it possible to keep their observations hidden to non-project iNaturalist users until the assignment is due, and then I can check all their ID’s and “publish” them for all users to see?

Any insight or solutions to this problem would be much appreciated!


I don’t think there are hidden private projects, no.


I doubt there’s a way to make an observation truly private, but you could maybe grade the students on the quality of their original identification. Even if they change it later, the history of the observation’s identifications are saved by iNaturalist.

Additionally, you could have the students say in the description something along the lines of “please don’t identify until [x date], this is for a school assignment”. This wouldn’t be a foolproof way to solve this, as some people might not read the descriptions, but it would cut down on the number of others’ identifications.


In a project or not, there is no way to make records private, they are visible to and interactable with to all users.


I reversed this, so to speak, in my course. For example I instructed my students to make an observation in lycopodiopsida. I give them the broader classification and then they work to find a member of that broader classification.

I should note that this term the course is fully online with students working on three different islands out here in the Western Pacific.

In lieu of a project I track the students’ observations using a custom URL. This ensures I also see problematic observations.


I like this reverse approach. There is no way to block others from identifying student observations, or to prevent students using computer vision or other tools to “cheat” on IDs. But telling them to find and document x number of species in a certain plant family, for example, puts the task of identifying things on them before they photograph and upload something.

E.g. I could envision during the lab week covering bryophytes, ask the students to go out and find at least two different bryophyte species. During the week covering seedless vascular plants, find and document two examples of those etc. Maybe make it a requirement that they get a picture showing the spore-producing structures or other characteristics that are diagnostic for identification later. I think that might be a better learning experience for an undergraduate level course and gets around the problem of cheating on IDs.


Reminder that there is an open feature request for a “draft mode” that always could do with more votes.

In that conversation I argued that it would help making student assignments more structured, even if the teacher wasn’t able to review individual observations before they’re published.


Wow, thanks everyone for your insight! This is truly an awesome community :grinning:

My current plan is to do what @thatcactusgirl recommended and mark student’s based on their first identification (basically they get one shot to get it right). That way there’s some pressure for them to confirm their identifications using other resources (field guides, keys, etc) while allowing their observations to contribute to citizen science and benefit from the broader community.

I also really like the other creative recommendations that you all have, and I will definitely be trying similar ideas in future iterations of this course.

Thanks again everyone!


I don’t know much about grading and education, but if a student puts up an ‘unknown’ identification, it might be worth seeing how they interact with other people. Asking questions should be encouraged as it is the way we all learn best. Anyway, just a thought - good luck with it all!


Hear hear. That’s a good reason in itself for them to experience the Community ID process, whatever their initial ID. They wil learn that their observation may bring them

Correct ID of something they didnt know
Confirmation of a good guess
Correction of an uncertain guess, perhaps with reasons…often ones one hadnt considered before (eg distribution, plant habit, time of year…endless)
A shared experience of interest related to the subject
Help with iNat generally

And thus learn to confidently communicate with a world of amateur and professional enthusiasts and experts, not worry if they are wrong, defend their own disagreement confidently and courteously, assess the quality of identifications offered, calling on other members of the community for support when needed, and handle the very occasional dismissive comment or other negative feedback, justified or unjustified.

Thats my experience, anyway:) but I am not a teacher, and that may be too much to learn within the duration of the assignment