Let's Talk Annotations

I’ll add to Chris’ comment that some annotations have several fields associated to them, eg the Alive/Dead has several mentioned at https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/lets-talk-annotations/627/190

@tiwane Is there a comprehensive list (or can one be made) for all automatic annotation population by fields? Perhaps a wiki that can be kept updated as new annotations and linkings between annotations and fields are established?


Please note that I have had problems with this method, and many observations that have not indexed when I’ve added the Life Stage fields. Lots of info on the following thread, have just linked to the one comment which sort of summarises the problem - https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/not-all-observations-uploading/4946/86

A plant showing up in a cultivated context without being planted there is “adventive”, neither wild nor cultivated. A garden plant showing up in an otherwise wild context is an “escape”, also neither wild nor cultivated.
Birders will also use “escape” for things like Muscovy Duck that is known to escaped from the local Bearbrook Farms even when seen in an otherwise wild context. Currently the only place for these categories is to be mentioned in Comments which is no use for searches. Annotations is, I submit, a good place for them.


Presuming both got there without intentional human intervention, these are considered “wild” on iNaturalist. More info here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#captive


bouteloua, I’m recommending more precision in observations. To botanists, adventive and escape are separated from wild, which is wild in a wild context. In particular, an escaped plant or bird is not a natural/wild organism.

“Adventive” is often used to mean “naturalized non-native”, at least in my region and in its flora. Yeah, a one-off / waif vs. a fully naturalized population isn’t distinguished in iNat’s broad definitions of “wild” vs. “not wild”. Establishing community consensus in these grey areas, especially as outside observers, is often difficult or impossible.

Some related topics, one which I see you’ve weighed in on: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/add-a-third-option-for-captive-cultivated-question-unknown-or-grey-area/7361 as well as this one which brainstormed building in more nuance https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/establishment-rating-for-plants/5736


I understand from talking on Discord with @bouteloua the flag I just added to have an annotation value fixed https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/493015 needs admin intervention to fix. @tiwane is this something you can fix? or if it’s not a problem, please explain why not.

Annotations for Tracks, Scats and Nests (or other catchall term encompassing burrows etc). These are broad terms that are nonetheless actually specific and easily understood and used by citizen scientists. They can be applied to nearly all Animal taxons, shouldn’t require much behind the scenes work differentiating those it doesn’t. It should also make them searchable and present in a collated manner on the organisms’ About page to enable easy photo comparison.

A Calls/Communication annotation should also be added. IMO you could also apply it broadly to pretty much all Animals.

Tracks/Scats/Nests/Calls would contribute enormously to the easily searchable ‘library’ of a species.


Is there a way to search which of your own observations are annotated? I would like to at least mark all of mine as Alive or Dead or Cannot Be Determined, but manually I keep forgetting what I’ve already annotated.


You can go to the identify page, set the filter for your observations, check all the quality grades, and set the Without Annotation field to Alive or Dead = Any

This will show you all your observations that don’t have Alive or Dead annotated.


You could also go to your profile to get your user ID from the URL (it will be the number after /people/ in the address bar) and then use https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?quality_grade=needs_id%2Cresearch%2Ccasual&user_id=123456&without_term_id=17 (but replace 123456 with your user ID)

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I was wondering if it would be possible to add extra customizable annotations to each observation. I was thinking specifically of cases in which polymorphism occurs in a species, that is not taxonomically relevant (these are usually shown to be explained by small genetic differences in a freely interbreeding population), but it would still be interesting to record observation displaying the morphs.

For example, the clouded yellow (Colias croceus) has two female morphs (white and orange): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/18397729 | https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41027394

Or the firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus), which has a wing length polymorphism (short and long): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/13701330

Since polymorphisms can be of different things (size, colour, body parts, etc.), the most likely way for this to function properly would be for these extra annotations to be customizable, or at least predefined in some way for each species (this could be defined by curators).


That sounds like a good case to create an observation field!


Hi melodi_96, hadn’t given proper notice to that field, that’s what I was looking for, thanks!

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To return to a discussion about adding more than one sex, life stage, or caste to an observation.

I do not want to discuss how an iNaturalist observation should be defined - which (1) everyone on this thread knows (2) is off topic and (3) we don’t necessarily disagree with.

I would like to discuss the annotations and if it is fair that our stubbornness to acknowledge that people will nearly always submit a mating pair or a nest containing several life stages/castes as a single observation will exclude us from recording these arguably doubly or triply valuable data (e.g. a mating pair would show that there is likely a male present, a female present, that they are adults and that they are reproducing). It has been brought up numerous times on this and other threads - how are we not addressing this?

I am also not disagreeing that a mating pair can be added as tag, project or observation field (despite the precedent being set by plants getting reproductive annotations) – but surely the sex and life stage can be added as annotations?

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You can’t add “male” or “female” without seeing one, because e.g. if there’s a nest with eggs there’re good chances one of the partners are dead, I found nests with chicks and only a male feeding them for a long time, I wouldn’t add a female there.
If they’re on the shot then it could be added that way, but I imagine a complicated situation with many observations of mating pairs or parents and offspring already being uploaded separately and that way be annotated as 1 individual (or set of similar ones).

Is it possible to add “Male and Female” or Alive and Dead if there are two organisms of the same species in the photo.

Not in the current system, because:



I’ve been running into this a bit lately as I’ve been annotating Lepidoptera. In the present “just one choice” setting, should I label these records as “Egg”, as “Adult/Female”, or just leave them blank ahead of some future change? (Since egg-laying is the activity I’d be inclined to label as Egg but have been holding off.)


That’s a good criteria.

Personally, I usually go to the gallery and see which annotation is under represented: In the example, if there were a lot of shots annotated as eggs, but not many annotated as adult female, I might annotate it adult female rather than egg. Ditto for birds’ nests that show both hatchlings and eggs together.