Is there a way to see all observation fields?

Sometimes I start to add an observation field, and then have to remove it because the fillable form adds more information that tells me it isn’t relevant after all. For example, say I start to add the field “Tree ID.” It looks like it would mean the identification of the tree. But no, once that option is selected, only then can I see that it means “unique identifier of the tree.”

I’m not sure what the user who added this observation field had in mind – possibly the tree is a tagged individual as part of a long-term study? – but I’m pretty sure the “unique identifier” doesn’t mean the identification to species.

There are lots of fields like this. Another example is “Behavior: Mating.” By itself, you’d think it could be used for any animals observed mating. Only when you select it does the form ask you, “Are any of the bugs present mating?”

Well, that’s fine if the animals observed mating are insects; but if you saw mating lizards, it is a waste of time to choose this field, only then see that it is specifically for insects, “cancel,” then type “mating” again to get to a different option.

It sure would be convenient to have a tab open that shows me all the hidden information about observation field before I choose them. That way, I can choose the right one the first time without trial and error. Is there an easy way to find this?

Not sure if this counts as an “easy way” to get the information, but the observation_fields page ( lists all the fields and is searchable by keyword and sortable either by date created or by field name. Clicking on a field name switches to a full description of the field.


Observation fields can be created by any users so there are lots of duplicate, poorly named, and mystery fields. Many were created to capture data for a specific project so they don’t really apply to most other observations. Annotations are supposed to simplify things a bit but they’ve only been created for a very small number of traits so far.

Yes, actually that is quite easy – and unlike other search URLs here, I don’t need to discover the numbers for places or taxa. Let’s hear it for easy-to-remember URLs!

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