Let's Talk Annotations

I would love to get a ‘none observed’ option for reproductive material on plants. Yeah, I know it’s hard to tell sometimes from a photo, and some should be left blank. But there are lots of cases such as seedlings, bare trees, etc, where it is clear there are no flowers or fruits present, and it would be nice to be able to track that too. And for that matter, in some photos one can’t tell if an animal is living or dead, either.
Leaf phenology would be neat too, but maybe it is too niche. I do have a project to track foliage color changes for a variety of reasons, too. Maybe dead/dormant could be wrapped into that for plants.In many cases with perennials that are brown at the surface there’s no way to tell in the off season if they are dormant or dead. Of course it’s different for annuals…


6 posts were split to a new topic: Annotating animals as alive

The more popular fields were noted above, but here are a few others to consider mapping to the annotation:

Dead On Road (DOR)
Dead 3050

Alive (AOR), Dead (DOR), or Injured (IOR)
1300 dead / 300 alive:

110 dead / 980 alive

Alive or Dead?
260 dead / 600 alive

dead or alive?
340 dead / 120 alive

55 dead / 160 alive


Then I would say you should choose Cannot Be Determined or leave it blank.

Personally I’d choose Alive unless it had a ghastly clearly fatal injury.

As far as I know it’s not a deliberate change. I’m fine with keeping it at the bottom, but I’m not convinced it would make a significant difference.


Observation is using the Field "ACTIVITY" for Mammals/Animals these annotations and i would love if they were present 1:1

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I would apreciate a field Appearance with these values for Birds


Perhaps this is off topic, but while we are talking annotations, it would be fantastic if we could add photo-level annotations, so that, for example, the flower in one image and the fruit in another image can each be annotated separately. I have a feeling this has been discussed before, but if it has become a feature request I haven’t managed to find it.


I prefer one annotation which describes both the observation with or without a photo…image

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This is definitely something we plan on exploring, but notifications are currently the priority at the moment.


Heya, it seemed like there were enough responses on the topic of annotating alive organisms to merit its own topic, so I moved those posts here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/annotating-animals-as-alive/8453


Any progress on this? I think it should be a live update like the other annotations as a lot of projects still use this (and similar) fields.


I was out taking photos of winter seedheads today, and I agree that there’s too much ambiguity in declaring aboveground vegetation “dead.” Senescent stems and leaves with live seeds look “dead,” but it’s a normal dormant stage, like a butterfly pupa. I’m not seeing what purpose it would serve to lump these in with actually dead plants.


Anual plants die each year, it is the definition for anual plants! The seeds are another different individual, and the parent plant is dead.

The pupa metaphore I think that is incorrect and missleading, a pupa is a stage of a living individual that is also metabolically very very active, and is an instair to get to adult form. If you want to make a metaphore for anual plants maybe the best one is a dead mother spider (or other animal) with their eggs close to it; so you could focus your observation on the mother or the eggs, that are two clearly different individuals.

If the observation is made for the paternal dead plant then the answer is that the plant is dead. Marking dead anual plants could be very helpful for climatic and ecological research; answering questions like when the anual plants start to die each year, and how this compare to past years. Also some anual plants individuals might die without a chance to make seeds before dying.
If you make an observation showing seeds that seam to be alive, then you might say that the plant is alive, but then could be useful to add a “seed” or “seed stage” annotation or something like that.

I get that this could be confusing for some geophytes, because they look like there are dead in some seasons, but the individuals are still alive underground, and also there are some other questions like when an anual plant might be consider dead, so not sure if the value that we might get from the alive-dead annotation would be worth the complex determination.


We botanists are well aware of the difference between dead annuals, dead perennials, and dormant perennials (though distinguishing the latter two can sometimes be difficult). However, this is a citizen science project. There’s no point in using categories that will be misclassified a high percentage of the time.


That is what I was trying to say with this:

Maybe I explained myself a little badly, sorry for that.


There are also a few projects where I think all observations could safely be marked dead. The first three that come to mind have over 10K observations together.

Edit: I forgot the roadkill projects, that’s easily another 15K+, e.g.


Seeing the last comment I just realized something. I think that all observations that have sounds on it should be marked as alive, I am right? Could you think any example of an observation with a sound for a “Dead” or “Cannot Be Determined” option?


A rabbit or bullfrog screaming while being predated. Although the animal is technically still alive at that point. (Unpleasant and probably not something I’d personally care to post on iNat.)


I do not think that there are much of this example on iNat, I was thinking more like a major source of observations with sound on it. Also as you have said the animal is technically still alive, so depending on the situation it may survive, so it should really be consider dead?

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What organism sounds are posted to iNat that are identifiable to species? Songs or other vocalizations of birds, frogs, some insects (e.g., cicadas). Some mammals (e.g., coyote and wolf; cetaceans; primates). Some marine fish vocalize. But all very much alive.