Lack of Annotations?

Hi! I’m brand new to the website (and the hobby!), only having joined yesterday.

One thing i’ve noticed is that it seems like most observations that are identified don’t get annotated as well? I feel like it would help researchers a lot to do the annotations of at least alive/dead. Ex. I live in Philadelphia, and it may help to know what squirrel and oppossum observations are alive or dead to know which roads may be more likely to pose hazards for those creatures.

Personally, I try to at least annotate if an animal is alive or dead, and that I saw the organism itself (I haven’t found any non-organism traces of an organism yet!).


this is true. the observation creation workflow doesn’t handle annotations well (at least in my opinion). so i think that’s one of the roots of the problem.

but there are identifiers who do go through and make a lot of annotations. that’s one thing that you can do to help improve the data in the system, if you are so inclined.


I’m super guilty of this. I observe solely on the iOS app and there’s not a way to annotate on there. I can do it on Safari or the site on another device, but not to sound uber lazy or anything, it’s not really part of my established system and it would slow me down a lot during that established system.

Selfish, I know. If it was on the app, I’d do it. It just feels clunky when I’ve tried doing it in the past so I don’t really do it at all anymore.


Here’s a tutorial for using the Identify page to add a lot of annotations.

Definitely not! It’s definitely more inconvenient if you’re mostly using the iOS app.


I don’t think it’s selfish or lazy! Everyone is going to use iNat in a different way or value different aspects of it, and that’s ok.

Welcome to iNat @BrythonLexi! I’m also from the Philly area.

As far as annotations go, my own opinion/experience is that the alive/dead annotation probably isn’t the most useful to researchers/data quality. In the papers I’ve seen, annotations are used infrequently (part of this is probably because they are also “harder” to access datawise). I think that most people treat a “default” (non-annotated) observation as alive, which is usually reasonable. I think it can be useful to annotate as “Dead” (so people can find/filter dead observations if they wish), but I hardly ever annotate as alive because I don’t see the value in it.

I think there is a lot of value in annotating life stages, especially for phenology. And annotating as other than organism (like track, feather, bone) is probably quite useful for IDers as there are good communities of IDers who will search for those.

And all of that isn’t to discourage anyone from annotating if they want to! I just wouldn’t necessarily do it if the primary motivation is to improve data quality. One thing that a lot of new iNatters enjoy and learn from is picking a specific group to ID (usually one that has some taxa in their geographic area) and learning that and also providing broad IDs on Unknowns or other high level IDs (Animals, Plants, etc.)

Some previous threads on how beginners can get involved are here:
though I’m sure that there are more.


FWIW, if you add the “Roadkill” observation field to an observation and choose “yes” the observation will automatically be annotated as “dead”.


Welcome welcome!

I haven’t seen how to annotate on the Android app but maybe I need to update the app. After uploading via the app. I usually go to the desktop site to put in or add to notes and utilize Observation fields. You are right though that I rarely use Annotations.

When I do:

  • I do toggle Dead if an organism was dead but never Alive if alive.

  • I toggle Feather because there are bird people who search and identify based on feathers or whatever non-organism if it is not an organism but you are right, I almost never toggle Organism if the observation is of the organism itself.

  • Sometimes I toggle Egg or Nymph, etc. but never Adult.

You likely will find as you move through iNaturalist that you develop your own workflow and that it likely will change with the seasons, your interests, energy levels, new knowledge acquired (and knowledge forgotten), and any number of variables. As it does so, I hope you continue to enjoy your new hobby. (I am completely amateur and think it’s a wonderful hobby.) I am glad you found your way here!


Life stage annotations in insects are pretty lacking as well - I’ve been working on the 296,662 pages of Lepidoptera observations to sort the adults from the caterpillars, but it might take a while!


It’s unfortunate they aren’t used more. I make an effort to add A LOT of annotations myself. When I’m identifying observations, I add all the annotations I can to every observation that I review, not only the ones I can actually identify. I would estimate its somewhere around 1 observation for every 100-200 observations I review that someone else has actually added annotations before me.

I think it would help a lot if the option to add your annotations was part of the uploading process. Having to upload and then go back to each observation and add annotations is inconvenient and also just hides the function and I think many people aren’t even aware of it.

Any amount of annotations that anyone can take the time to add contributes to improving the data. So whenever you’re able to do so, thank you!


Hi @BrythonLexi ! Welcome! I am fairly new (been here about a month) as well and want to thank you for asking this question, because I noticed this as well. I try to add flowering/fruiting phenology annotations because I noticed that some of those help when you click a plant and click View More and I also started adding Alive/Dead and Organism just because it satisfies my box-checking brain. It sounds like everyone contributes to the data in different ways so it just may end up helping later to add those annotations if you have the motivation.


I like to move the Unknown mountain, so add only limited annotations.
But I have learnt to annotate my own observations.
1 Dead, hoping that can be filtered / blurred one day.
2 Fruiting, because I use that to filter for useful ish photos.
3 Caterpillars - I know that is useful.
4 For the very few plants where Male or Female is actually meaningful.
PS 5 feathers for those projects. And Tracks ditto.

But I see no point in ticking all the available annotations for every obs.


Look, just develop a fungi obsession and then you won’t have to worry about annotations


I usually make annotations where I can determine the sex of the animal, I have made lots of those. I also usually annotate a dead animal. Occasionally I annotate juvenile animals. I don’t annotate regular adult animals without sex determinations.


nearly 9 million observations :see_no_evil:


since it’s already been declared “not lazy” to be one of those people who observe via the mobile app and therefore can’t add annotations at upload, and I am one of those people – I’d go a step further and suggest that I view adding annotations more as the task of identifiers or anyone who gives observations a second view. unless I’ve received a notification about a past record of mine, or it was one I made a note of needing to identify to a finer scale because no one else would do it initially, I as a rule do not return to my observations and therefore do not make further annotations on my own sightings. I’ve tried to do so in the past, but my upload quantities are just too large (while others may upload even more than I do), and there’s just not enough time in my day to revisit every one (at least not if I want to get other things done). but I do add annotations to others’ observations when I can, if I’m the one identifying, and I view that as the most sustainable method.


I feel annotations are important so in theory I add them to all my observations – in theory. Actually, I am at least a few thousand observations behind right now. Maybe I’ll catch up in the winter. (Maybe not.)


Several people have mentioned why observations may not be annotated these days but it might also be worth pointing out that iNaturalist didn’t always offer the option of adding annotations. Many older users likely have a large number of observations without annotations for that reason. Rather than go through and add annotations to all of my older observations, I usually add relevant annotations when there’s some activity on an older observation.


Thanks for a link. I did 10… that makes a big difference, right? :D


It would be great if they could add the annotations in the app (iOS and Android), sometimes I forget to go on my desktop and add these. I don’t think it is lazy at all, we just can’t do it on the apps. I wonder if they will add it to any updates they do (do the programmers read these?)


Great idea @bccricket and welcome to the iNaturalist forum!