Is there an observation field in use to flag observations with drawings/sketches?

I’ve been unsuccessfully looking through the iNat observation fields for “drawing” or “sketch” or “illustration” to tag an observation with a sketch rather than a photo (

I have a hazy memory of having used such a field before. How are people flagging the observations where the evidence is a drawing rather than a photo? I can jump in and make a new field but I don’t want to contribute to the problem of lots of similarly named fields with the same function.


there is a project i added mine to, but not a field i know of. And it seems like i am one of only a few people using the project. if you want to make it a field, can you log it in that field index wiki i made?


I’m not sure where this came up previously (i was influenced by something somewhere!), but I’ve used a vote for “no evidence of organism” in the DQA of obs. I also explain / link in comments to: which clearly states (unless I’m way off) that evidence doesn’t include sketches or illustrations. I’d love to hear if this is correct or if I should adjust my behavior…

this in particular is the wording I’m referring to: “Your observation photos represent evidence of your own experience, not just illustrations of something like what you saw.” I see no distinction between a blurry photo that the community can’t agree on IDs for versus a sketch of a titmouse that none of us can verify. Am I missing something or misunderstanding the issue being raised?


From the Curator Guide:

An additional note regarding drawings: drawings are ok because, like photos, they can show visual evidence of the individual organism observed. If you don’t think the drawing was of the observed organism (e.g. it’s just a drawing of the species, not of an individual), talk to the observer and ask them to clarify what their drawing depicts… If you cannot identify the organism from the drawing, treat it like a blurry photo and vote that the community cannot improve the ID.


Okay, thanks for that clarification, @bouteloua. My vote(s) can be overridden then I hope? Since I imagine most non-curators wouldn’t be looking in the curator guide for general help questions (and it is my understanding that you don’t have to be a curator to help make IDs) I would strongly suggest better wording that specifies when a drawing is okay that is easily accessible to the general user population.

Can you help me understand why that is permissible, but sharing a photo that isn’t considered high enough quality isn’t? Unless, I’m totally missing something, I don’t understand why I wouldn’t just replace my photo with a drawing of what I saw then. How come in other places on the site (and recently here in discussions of species interactions) it seems to be of extremely high importance that photo verification is provided? How can a person tracing a field guide illustration provide the community with confidence enough to know that the person a) saw it and didn’t see something similar or b) observe anything in the field at all? I know I have a ton to learn but as a lay-reader, those two statements (the help and the curator guide) seem to be somewhat in opposition to each other or at least require a more advanced/ nuanced understanding of intent and thus make trying to be more involved by making IDs seem a bigger, more frustrating challenge. In light of the stated need for more volunteers making IDs this might be one of several things staff considers as part of user communication/engagement.


There’s nothing wrong with sharing low quality images. I have plenty of “passenger in a moving car” observations. But, if the organism I was observing can’t be IDed beyond “bird”, that’s fine. It’s still evidence of an organism.

If someone is just tracing a field guide illustration, that wouldn’t be evidence on its own that they saw the organism in the field. Drawings are definitely a grey area, and I would say engage the user before marking anything in the DQA.

As identifiers, we are always placing some trust in the observer that they are actually uploading evidence of the actual organism they saw then and there. There’s nothing technically that stops the observer from changing the observed date/place and using one of their photos or sound files from a different date/place.


okay. thanks again. There does seem to be a lot of subjectivity in how IDers operate as far as taking into account user comments/ descriptions though and interpreting the “evidence.” I still stand by suggestions about thinking about clearer wording in the help section that better mirrors the guidance to curators. If I misunderstood and was brave enough to share my experience…I imagine there are a few others who might also misinterpret or be otherwise confused. Now I feel badly that I’ve possibly negatively affected other users’ experiences with no way to easily track and amend my mistakes.


i mostly just wanted to agree with cassi here but… despite what some users seem to believe, there is no rule against blurry or ‘unpretty’ photos. If nothing can be identified beyond ‘plants’ then it will be a ‘plants’ observation with ‘no further ID needed’ marked. However lots of people, myself included, can gather a lot of biodiversity data fast using ‘ugly’ photos and for many of us, the data, rather than the photo quality, is the most important thing.

Likewise with sketches. Someone could trace a sketch but people also take photos directly of field guides or steal from wiki websites, etc. In all cases they tend to get caught.

Not a big deal if you flagged things that were sketches, as this isn’t very clear and needs to be more so. it could use standardization and a better explanation available to everyone. But given the history of naturalists throughout the history of science, and indeed the importance of art as a means of communication throughout pretty much all cultures, excluding field sketches and illustrations would be a huge mistake in my opinion.


Several years in, I’ve made plenty of mistakes :) and you’re right it could be clarified more on the main FAQ page.

I do think it would be helpful if we could search observations based on the values in the Data Quality Assessment section. That would be one way to find some that might have been marked in err.

I’m not able to find a field either… if we did want to create one, and I think it would be useful, what would be the best name/format? Illustration: yes ?


thanks. Just to clarify: I know that blurry photos are not against the rules. What I don’t understand (though I am operating on an assumption here) is how a sketch could reach RG (maybe it can’t?) but a blurry photo with someone describing field marks or other relevant ID info in the description can not.

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The latter should be able to reach research grade, at least as long as someone else finds it who knows the diagnostic features. Are there cases where that isn’t happening or people are flagging those as not identifiable?

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I started a “What is evidence?” thread, if we want to move parts of this discussion there.


Thanks everyone. I’ve gone ahead and made the observation field “Illustration” with the values “no”, “yes”, and “photo and illustration”. Its description is “This observation contains a drawing/sketch/illustration of the individual organism observed.”

I hadn’t expected to open a can of worms about what is evidence. Interesting stuff. I’ll head over to the new thread now.


Thanks for creating a field for drawing/sketches.

<New user named “John James Audubon” uploads pictures he created.>

User: “Sorry. That isn’t good enough.” :)

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lol… it took 240+ years for Banks and Solanders observations to get published in the form of Banks’ Florilegium:
and I believe the majority of the illustrations in that were rendered from line engravings made of works by artist(s) working from the sketches of those that were on the voyage, so technically not even directly observed by the artist!
They are stunning, though…


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