Link observations

So this has almost certainly already been discussed, I remember some discussion, but I can’t find it so here goes :-)

I, like many people, do some of my iNatting in regular places - I have a land legacy preserve I have photomonitored some years. I visit several times a year, and there are some plants I photograph regularly, so have sequences of the same plant or the same type of plant over time. There is no way I could ID many of them when they are little sprouts just emerging, but by flower time, I know who they are. I’d love to link the sequence of photos together to show the progression. I don’t want to put them on the same observation, since they obviously aren’t the same observation.

So a few requirements:

  1. be able to link observations together with a saved link (prob obvious but worth saying)
  2. be able to note what life stage they are in in each pic (prob use the annotations?)
  3. be able to link more than 2 obs together (so not just one field containing 1 other ID)
  4. be able to link multiple obs together with an order indicator (I may have seen a specimen in flower before I saw the sprout, but would want to order them by development stage - this would be especially amazing in insects with many stages!)
  5. be able to annotate to show that the obs are all of the same individual organism (which allows for examples of the same species but not the same individual to be linked)
  6. be able to display all the linked obs on the screen at once in order (or not) (grid, or list, or batch edit list…)
  7. be able to create the linkages at any time, not just when the obs are being created (again prob obvious…)
  8. be able to link an obs to more than one linked group
  9. be able to have the linked group reviewed and tagged by the experts who could verify that the group reflects one species and the order is correct, where appropriate (i.e., RG)
  10. be able to comment on or discuss the linked group as a whole
  11. not to require that all linked obs be of the same species - e.g., be able to link the predator and prey in an interaction (if they are both in the same pic now, & the pic is posted to 2 obs to get both organisms into iNat, the connection is lost (as far as I know), altho those would technically be one obs, but one still can’t get both IDs on the same obs)
  12. be able to label the kind of link (growth stages of an organism, predator/prey, parents/chicks)
  13. perhaps have some upper limit to the number of obs in a group? At some point I suppose it might start looking like a list or a project, but really not the same intent
  14. be able to do many more things that other inventive people on iNat can think up :-)

Of course, all of it should be machine-readable, searchable, etc., otherwise there isn’t much point.

Just some stray thoughts on a Friday afternoon while desperately trying to avoid work lol.


Until this feature is ready, you might wish to give each observation you want to link a tag like: “sequence of observations ID 001” you will then get the full sequence by searching for this tag within your own observations. And others can do the same.
You can share the link of the search … this is for example a series of observations of different plants that i made in a small Botanical Garden …

this does some of what you are looking for:

To link observations I originally created the field “Associated observation” (, where you entered the URL of another observation that was associated in some specified way with the current one. And you would do the same on the other observation, pointing back to the first.

But this can’t work for groups as you can’t have multiple copies of the same field in one observation (ie you can’t point to multiple other observations in this way).

So I created the field Observation group ( With this one you give the same value to all the observations you want to group together. Most commonly I just use the observation number of the first observation in the group. But you can use any unique ID (needs to be unique from other people using the field too). Then to see all the grouped observations you click on the field name on one of the observations and select “observations with the same field and value”. And you can copy and paste the resulting URL to show other people the set.

Eg here is a set of observations of a small community of lichen ‘fruits’ over a couple of years (I was wondering how long they took to mature):

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And getting back to the question at hand :-) … I would love to see the types of linking described.
For (1) above, one immediate thing that would assist in linking different observations is have a observation field “type” called “link” (at the moment there are ‘text’, ‘numeric’, ‘date’, ‘time’, ‘dna’, and ‘taxon’ field types). The values that could be entered would only be the observation number of another observation and it would automatically turn it into a link.

(4) If the observations are all of the same specimen then chronological order will automatically be in ‘developmental’ sequence. But I expect there are many other orderings that people might want.

In some ways mini projects could accommodate a lot of these ideas : it links them all together = (1), links more than 2 obs = (3), display all linked obs together = (6), can add projects at any time = (7), add multiple projects = (8), can use a projects comments section to discuss the group = (10), don’t have to all be the same species =(11). Perhaps project infrastructure could be used as a basis …


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@tony_wills thanks much! I’ll play around with projects as u suggest and see what comes of it.

To give people somewhere they can comments about the group of photos, add a journal post to the project inviting people to add comments there.

I just started using “observation group” and it’s working pretty slick. I wish there was a way for it to automatically show the linked observations somewhere prominent though. The “observation field” section isn’t very prominent and is “below the fold.” I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to realize that the observation field labels were clickable and that it brought up options to search on that field. To me they just looked like plain text! So for my linked observations I copied and pasted the search string to show all the linked observations into the observation notes for each of the linked ones. This should greatly help in getting eggs, larva, and pupa photos as research grade.

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that addition of the copied url into the description is what I often do too… nice sets, btw!

I have a project for what you’re describing.
Would love to have a feature like this. By the way, here is a somewhat related post about linking observations with interactions:
Maybe a way to incorporate both these ideas in the same system?