Long-Term Observation of a Pond Water Community: Casual or Not?

If somebody were to collect some pond water in a jar, and leave it sealed (often called a jarrarium) in their house, then observe an organism within that jar a period of time later, would that observation be casual or not? Does it now count as domestic? The location would have to be where the water was collected, but would the time be the time collected or the time observed? I don’t know if there’s any precedent for this on iNat. The closest approximation I can think of is rearing an insect.


I wouldn’t put that as domestic, I think it’s fine to leave it as research grade


I would say:
Location set to where the jar water was collected
Date/Time set to time of Observation, as normal
Observation set as Research Grade


I do this all the time. I use the location of where I got the sample from and the date as when I collected the sample, then add a field for recording when I actually took the photo. Some people might feel this is not the correct way to do things, but it makes keeping track of which observations were found in the same sample much easier and reflects what was there at the time of collection. It is possible (though I think extremely unlikely) that all the species of whatever is in the jarrarium would have completely left the pond by the time you get around to observing it.

I used to set things as captive/cultivated if I only got around to looking at them a month or more after collecting the sample. I don’t do this anymore since those fields were designed with pets, zoos and gardens in mind and don’t apply well to this situation. I would say it may be useful to do that if you are looking at things that change their phenology significantly from when you found them in the pond, such as if you open the jar to find a whole bunch of insects flying around in the middle of winter when the pond is frozen and the insects would only be naturally present as eggs.


Just get date/time of actual samples collecting and it’s fine, the only problem is with life stages annotations, they could be wrong for time you got them.


I’m going to suggest a contrary view here. Once you have isolated the sample from its original environment, you have likely altered the mix and timing of the organisms that survive and develop. To me it would be misleading to tie such observations back to the original wild location, and certainly to the original collection date.

This would be akin to potting a plant from the wild (not something I advocate by any means!), bringing it indoors, and then ascribing its subsequent growth and phenology to the original location and date.

I think observations like this have to be considered captive, at least after passage of a few days.


I think captive too… If you photograph the “organism” in it’s original situation and make an observation it is wild, and then after a period of time since collection you photograph it I would mark it captive. You can link the two together with urls in comments or fields such as “Similar observation set”.


Compare that to a similar situation, where you might “catch a fish” and put it in a goldfish bowl, and then an algae grows on the side of the bowl. The algae is incidental and would likely be considered wild, even some time after the capture of the fish!

This “incidental” situation is similar to having house plants in pots, and then having weeds pop up in the soil in the pot.

This shows really well how some of the grey area situations can be interpreted both ways, depending on the intentions of the capturer/cultivator, and of course that intention is not always clear in the observation!


I’d like to know what you think of this situation;

I often collect water samples while out on a hike (from lakes/streams/puddles) and then look at them through the microscope in my lab during the week (usually within a few days) before disposing of them.

I’ve marked these with the time/date ‘of capture’ (when i took the sample), and noted in the observation that it was imaged with a microscope in lab a few days later.

What do you think of that?


In this situation you haven’t altered anything by your will, it just happened that something didn’t survive, as many things could happen while you do photos in the wild, all that can actually change on new photos is a life stage, death doesn’t matter, we have huge collections and they’re not marked caprive because person decided that those animals or plants have to die.
They’re captive if you make photos and post them with the time you did them and location of your house or lab, 'cause so many things are photographed only when you’re at home, only when you have miscroscope or any other mechanisms you need for id and making all those observations casual just because you can’t id it by “wild” photos alone would be a great loss of observations we have now.
UPD. If it’s a real jararium and not just stored jar, they’re captive and the whole thing is kinda pointless.


I know that was to Jim, but I’ll chip in anyway :)

That is short term collection, and the contents aren’t likely to alter significantly from the original collection date. As long as you are marking them with the date and place of collection, I would call those wild.

OP refers to “Long-Term Pond Water Community”, which to me implies they are advancing that community beyond the state it was in when it was first collected. Even if there was no actual change observed, I would still class that as captive, as they are deliberately cultivating the community to see what it becomes.

There are some youtube videos of “Life in Jars” where they time lapse such closed ecosystems… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OG5jyRGhLg


Similarly, after a relative brought her potted plumeria indoors during the winter, I noticed some slime molds growing in the soil. Like the weeds in your example, I didn’t mark the molds captive/casual. :)


Life in jars is very much the inspiration of this thread.

However, I still wonder about the captivity of the jar. If nothing is added into the jar since its collection, then everything in the jar must also have been present at collection. The diversity of the jar can only go down, nothing new can show up. It’s like a goldfish’s algae, or a potted plant’s weed, except there’s no goldfish or potted plant to begin with.


And nothing present can leave… The very definition of captive! However, I’m thinking of it more in terms of “cultivated”. If I have a section of land, weeds can grow but herbivores can come in and eat them. If I fence it off and perhaps even enclose it completely with plastic film to eliminate the intrusion of those herbivores, and specifically to observe what happens over a period of time, then I am actively cultivating that space.


I agree with

If you are referring to preserved specimens, those are (usually) representative of the organism at the time and place of live collection, so I have no problem calling those wild (assuming the original live organism was not already captive).

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In any case it’s probably fair to clarify in the observation description what the context of the observation is. For how to deal with it otherwise, I can see either

  • date, time, and location of collection, and mark wild (the argument for this is that all these organisms were necessarily present when you took the sample)


  • Location of collection but date and time of when the organism was photographed, and mark captive (the argument for this is that the organisms have developed and may be behaving differently in your container than they would be in the wild)

I think I favour the former but I have mixed feelings. I disagree with a mix of these where you use the location of collection but the date and time of photographing, and still mark as wild. Because at the date and time when you photograph it (days or weeks later), the organism is definitely captive and is being affected, and by using that date and time you’re indicating that the organism was in the sampling location at that date and time.


But the quantities can change in the jar in ways they wouldn’t in the pond, right?

Eg. The jar doesn’t get refreshed/refilled via rain or runoff, and probably has less water circulation/currents/movement from wind or animals not captured in the jar to disrupt the sediment or the growth of algae.

So at best, it’s only guaranteed to be a snapshot of the pond (wild) for a brief amount of time shortly after it was collected, and the longer it remains after that, the less it resembles the pond and the more it becomes a captive environment?


But iNat doesn’t have any sort of function for measuring the abundance of species, just their presence. Sure, the environment will change over time, but that just means it’ll be easier or harder to find certain taxa in the jar. They’ll still be there (or dead), abundance doesn’t change that


One could say the same things about animals placed in a zoo. Depending on the jar, eggs in the original collection could have subsequently hatched, earlier larval stages could have reached later stages, etc., at different times or with different success than they would have in situ. All not reflective of the original date and place.


The species you find in the jar should be recorded as wild in the pond on the day you took the sample. But you need to make clear that the life stage you photograph maybe weeks later may not be what was in the pond on the date of collection. If a creature appears in the jar at a later date, you probably don’t know if you collected it as an egg, a pupa or some other inconspicuous life stage.

I think the discussion is muddling two things, the authenticity of the photo and the record. Photographers can be very picky about whether a photo was really taken in the wild, and rightly so if you are putting it in an exhibition of wildlife. But for iNaturalist purposes, the photo is to allow verification of your sighting and it doesn’t affect the record whether the photo is taken in the field or later at home.


As I’ve said before, I personally think the important thing is that all the information matches. To me this means that a photo that shows an organism with the same appearance as on the collection date is ok to be marked wild with the date and location of collection. We can discuss what “same appearance” means, but I think minimally something that changed from egg to larva, or larva to adult has changed significantly in appearance. If the organism has changed in appearance since collection (or it is unknown whether the organism has changed in appearance), I would mark that photo captive with the new date and location.