Is there value in confirming a genus when an observation is already Research Grade?

If an observation is already Research Grade and I can only confirm the genus, I often include my ID to the genus level. I figure that, should someone doubt the validity of the species for whatever reason, they can at least be sure that it is that specific genus and narrow down their search to the genus itself. Is this in any way detrimental?


I don’t think it is detrimental, though I might wonder if it was an expression of doubt in the species ID.


Not long ago, there was a bit of a to-do over prolific IDers deleting their accounts, and all their IDs disappear. In some cases, this caused observations to revert back to broader IDs. If genus is narrower than the initial ID, it will help to counteract this possibility.


This is fine! Some people include a little clarifying comment like ‘supporting’ or ‘best I can do’. There are a variety of other reasons one might do it. For example:
‘I’m 60% sure the species is wrong but don’t want to commit to that definitively’
‘I only mean this as a preemptive vote against XYZ lookalike in another genus’
‘I have reviewed the current species ID and agree that it is not any specific different species in the current taxonomy used on inaturalist, but I myself would prefer a different taxonomy’
‘I can only ID to genus but want to review and follow the observation with one click’
‘I don’t want this observation’s community ID to get knocked back further than necessary if someone deletes their account’
‘I agree that the primary intended focus of this observation is in that genus, and not another thing also in the pictures in a different genus’
‘I’m adding this genus-level ID because it just feels right for some reason’


I’d put this in the category of “can’t hurt, might help,” especially if someone later deletes their account. However, doing this can send an ambiguous message, as @wildskyflower indicates. I don’t normally do it except for students I’m trying to help, but that’s mostly a matter of time when I’m trying to do identifications quickly.


I do genus IDs on finer IDed observations regularly for the following reason

“I am sure it cannot be IDed further than genus with our current knowledge, but I am sick of the backlash of disagreeing in this specific genus, so I just leave it as is and mark it officially as ‘already seen and evaluated by me’ so I do not get bothered with it again”


I’m generally more gung-ho about guessing on my own observations; too often I’ll ID something and the person agrees with me without question when looking at their profile makes it clear its not a species theyre probably familiar with.

So unless I’m extremely sure I’ll generally put it at genus. I can always come back later and add a species ID if i feel its appropriate, but I just dont want to potentiallh mislead anyone


A bit off topic here, but connected - do you know by any chance if there is any information collected about why people leave Inaturalist? That could be a source of information to work on and improve Inaturalist possibly?


To pre-empt misunderstanding after a few ‘bad’ experiences, even with long term users of iNat - who resent being ‘disagreed’ with
I include a comment Not disagreeing with your species (or whatever, as it fits each obs)

If there are already a bunch of genus IDs, you can follow or fave instead.


I think people have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the ID system works (and for some it makes sense, because so many people just… don’t ID anything)

Because when you give a genus-level agreement for something at species level, you have the option of forcing it back to genus (can this be IDed from the picture?) and the options are ‘I’m not sure but it’s definitely (higher level ID)’ or ‘No, but its (higher id)’ The first is not a disagreement, the second is and will bump it to the higher classification. But if someone doesn’t ID, they wouldn’t know that XD


It’s generally a good idea. Most RG observations only have maybe two or three ids. Now if you’re the 19th person to add an id [link removed by moderators, as the forum is not a place to call out specific users or negative examples] there’s probably no point.


I do add genus-level confirming IDs for various reasons along the lines that @wildskyflower outlines. I have sometimes run into observers who assume that I’m disagreeing with their more-specific ID, so I typically add the text: “Not disagreeing with finer identifications”.


Just a reminder that the forum is not a place for linking to specific examples in a negative light. Fine to talk in broader terms.

I think some of this is a holdover from how iNat used to work, where ancestor IDs were treated as implicit disagreements, and some older users are unaware that that’s no longer the case.

Also, explicit disagreements are not labeled as such in the current mobile apps, which has caused some flare-ups recently. I asked our devs to include them in the upcoming new mobile app to hopefully prevent some of these misunderstandings.

@challenguate what you’re doing is fine, but I think as @rupertclayton says, it might be good to specify your intent in a comment.


So, I should pick “no” when I know it’s not what it’s been IDed to, but I’m not exactly sure what it is and have to pick a higher level of taxonomy? I always find that wording so confusing.


Basically, yes. (screenshot to make it make sense XD.) Pretend this isn’t my own already RG observation for this example.

So if I sure this wasn’t Actaea racemosa, or if there’s not enough information provided in the picture to separate it from another species in the genus, I would hit the orange (lower) button and it would put it back at genus (after typing in my genus level suggestion, of course.)

If I’m sure its in genus Actaea, but I personally am not confident enough at IDing this group to be confident on a species level ID, I would hit the green button and it would add my genus-level ID without bumping the ID back up to genus level, it would stay listed as Actaea racemosa


And if you hit that hard disagreement button - iNat holds that as disagreement with all subsequent IDs.


There is evidently no systematic soliciting of feedback from users when they delete their accounts. See the staff comment here:


If it’s your own observation, you can do what you like, and there are definitely arguments for why it might make sense to add a non-disagreeing ID that is higher than the community ID but reflects your own level of confidence.

For other people’s observations – my personal general rule of thumb is that I don’t add an ID unless it helps the community ID in some way or adds some informational value. There are lots of cases where I’m not presently skilled enough to assess whether the species is correct. If the observation already has two species IDs, with at least one by a user who has a track record of being reliable, and all I can contribute is a confirmation of the genus (because of my personal lack of knowledge/skill rather than the ID being particularly difficult per se), I don’t really see how this is useful to anyone. If someone in the future has a reason to doubt whether the species is correct, in most cases they are going to be suggesting a specific alternative, so an additional genus ID isn’t necessarily going to matter a lot in such a case. There is no shortage of other observations where my ID would make a difference, so – in general – I find it a better use of my time to focus on these instead.

There are situations where I do add a genus ID to an observation that already has a species ID, but it is typically meant to convey something fairly specific – i.e., that the species ID should be considered critically or there is some difficulty connected with the taxon in question that needs to be taken into account. (For example, there are two species of black carpenter bees in Germany which can only be distinguished from photos under certain circumstances. One species is widespread, the other is established in a certain area in the SW but expanding its range due to climate change. In areas where only the more common species is expected, I typically don’t disagree with an ID for the species it most likely is, but I won’t confirm the ID beyond subgenus.)

So a genus ID is often actually a “soft” disagree. It’s a relatively common practice in some taxa – e.g. many arthropod groups that are difficult or impossible to ID from photos. I try to comment about why I am adding a higher-level ID when I do this, but not all users do. What this means is that a genus ID may be interpreted as questioning the existing species ID (because it is often used to do this), even if this is not your intent.


I do not agree actually… or maybe it is a matter of the specific IDer-bubble one interacts with? In my bubble it just means “I agree to genus but cannot agree to species - for whatever reason”

The reason might be indeed, because other species are hard to exclude or maybe even directly questioning the suggested ID. But very often the reason just is that one is just not comfortable enough in a certain region to exclude the possibility that there are similar species. I use it often like in the latter case and I know several others that do the same… and I know if they gave a genus ID that they can just not go further then this for now


I think that if you intend confirmation at the genus level to convey some particularly idea (such as, that species ID is questionable because we have two similar species here), you should make a comment. Explain what you mean. The genus confirmation could mean anything or nothing more than “I feel like clicking the button.” Use your words.